There’s an old joke that says just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Sadly, that sentiment is probably a pretty accurate summary of the mood at PalmSource these days. After first losing Sony as a major licensee, now PalmSource could be facing the departure of its single-biggest licensee, PalmOne.
Nothing is certain yet, but the rumors of PalmOne’s decision to make a Treo running Windows Mobile won’t die. The latest rumors have Dell pressing PalmOne to make a Treo with a Microsoft engine so that Dell can turn around and sell it to their enterprise users. With wireless PDA’s like Dell’s Axim largely a stagnant-or disappearing-market, Dell would like nothing more than to offer its customers the best smartphone on the market, without having to hassle with the FCC or waste time developing one on their own. It makes sense for PalmOne as well, a company that needs to start actively courting the enterprise market-or risk losing even more ground to RIM. Dell would be a great partner for PalmOne to use to get into the enterprise space.
Most importantly, says Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney, is that this is what the market really wants: A device that looks and acts a lot like a Blackberry, but that runs the PocketPC/Windows Mobile engine. “Everybody sees the success that RIM is having,” says Dulaney, “but it’s a closed, proprietary system and folks want a viable alternative.” The Treo-arguably the best smartphone out there-is that alternative, so for once I think these rumors may actually carry some water. I fully expect to see a Palm-Microsoft device-it’s weird to even write that-sometime in the next few months. (Ed Note: We think Dell is trying to push Good as a RIM alternative and needs the Microsoft engine to make a compelling sell to its customers!)
Where that leaves PalmSource no one knows yet, but it’s probably no place good. They can talk about all the tiny Taiwanese new licensees they like, but until they start lining up some A-list licensees, the perception will rightly remain that the buzzards are circling.
(Guest post by Matt Maier, Business 2.0’s fearless wireless & gizmo correspondent and my fellow traveler into the wireless wonderland. Matt uses six phones at a time, talks on none, takes video clips on two and when he is slowing down he double fists fizzy and fancy caffeine drinks. )