I do really like my Palm Treo (700p). It does almost everything I want, although not necessarily as well as later devices do. The web browser, for instance, can’t view pages without heavily adapting them, and I can’t see attachments or Flash. (Note to restaurateurs who insist on building their websites with Flash: hungry people out and about will not go to your restaurant unless you provide a text-based alternative they can see on their phones.) It also, as I long ago lamented, doesn’t have WiFi, which, after my recent trip to London where I had the use of a phone that did, is a conspicuous oversight.
But it does have certain advantages over other, even newer devices. The PalmOS, which has an API others can develop for, is a nice non-Microsoft alternative. The phone I recently got to use in the UK provided my first experience with Windows Mobile, and while it wasn’t awful, it wasn’t as smooth. I can pretty much drive my Treo without the stylus, but even with relatively small fingers that wasn’t always possible on this other phone. Also, unlike an iPhone, Palm supports cut and paste, and it, too, offers a fairly elegant and hardy hardware design not overly encumbered with extraneous buttons that can fail.
But nice as the Treos are, they are getting long in the tooth and iPhones and Androids and Blackberries are saturating the market Palm had once pioneered. The company is in desperate need to make a possibly last stand with a new product that is everything the old Palms were and more, and, by many accounts, the Pre is unveiled at CES this month may just be that.
But its launch announcement declares it to be tied to Sprint, whom is not at present my carrier in either the US or UK, and thus, despite the phone appearing to technically sate all my cell phone needs, it won’t. And were it to hit the market right now, I would likely not be a customer.
There is something very wrong with the cell phone industry when building better products won’t guarantee you business. While it may be true that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door, it will not be true if it is locked to a single exterminating service. For the sake of the cell phone industry and consumers, this situation needs to change.
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