As many people who know me know, I've been a Palm OS affictionado for years. Starting with the Palm III back in 1998, I've used 8 different Palm OS devices personally, 5 of them Palm, Inc.-branded.
So it is therefore with much sadness that I now say "Palm, go to hell, preferably bankrupt".
A little history
In a past life, I was a journalist covering the IT sector. Specifically, I was variously a Contributing Writer, Palm OS Editor, and News Editor for infoSync World, in its heyday the world's largest handled and wireless news website. (I have no idea if that's still true.) My job was to cover the Palm OS market, the US cell phone market, Palm OS software reviews, and related news sectors. That meant I got to see dozens of devices -- good, bad, and moronically stupid -- from Palm as well as many other companies. The mobile market was still wild and wooly, with lots of experimentation. Even though it was getting long in the tooth, though, the venerable Palm OS still did things no other mobile platform did (like, work properly or be fast and responsive), and Palm itself took great care to pay attention to little details that no other platform or manfacturer did. That gave them a large, devout following, myself included, of both users and developers that held on and supported Palm even as it seemed to stand still somewhere around 2002 for the better part of a decade (even if they griped a lot while doing so).
For a while I even developed Palm OS software professionally. (Ah, my days of C...) I never went as far as fan-boy status, at least I don't think I did, but I was a fervent Palm OS supporter and defender, both personally and professionally. I was, perhaps, one of the last major IT journalists to write Palm off as a lost cause.
Enter the iPhone
I left that market at the end of 2004 to move back into web development, and Palm continued to sit still. Then along came the game changer of the iPhone. We all know that story by now. Limited feature set, lots of sizzle and sexy, The Steve's Reality Distortion Field, sales faster than anyone could count, etc. And, of course, let us not forget a total and complete lockdown on the development platform: At first not allowing anything but semi-web apps, and then allowing more applications but maintaining an iron grip on what software is allowed on "their" device through the Apple App Store.
It was a smart business move, of course. Sell people a device that they thought they owned, lock the software down so tight that you still control it, and then become the sole pipe through which 3rd parties can access that customer base so that you can not only take a cut but exert absolute control over what sofware you deign to allow people to install on "their" device. And with absolute control, you can ensure that no one competes with you or your blessed partners, and you can impose your definition of obscene on the everyone else.
Quite simply, there is a reason why I categorically refuse to buy an iPhone. Actually there are many, but a product that is designed from the ground up to bind me to the whim of the manufacturer even after the sale is at the top of the list. It's worse than software DRM.
Et tu, Palm?
All, including not including any mechanism for storing data on your own computer, only on selected "in the cloud" services, which, of course, means that you are entirely at the whim of those 3rd party services for your data and cannot do otherwise. All, including blocking competing software from their App Catalog. All, including a secret location tracking feature that spies on users. All, including suing people for selling their phones. All, including bricking phones that don't have service with the exclusive carrer. Even Apple never went that far.
Congratulations, Palm. You've surpassed the iPhone after all... in all the wrong ways. If I wanted a company to lease my hardware to me and lie about selling it to me, and deign to permit me to use something I paid for, and to charge me for access to my own information, and to do things behind my back that cripple my experience, I'd just get an iPhone. Or talk to my cable company. I had hoped you were better than that, but I guess not.
Palm, I am not going to wish you the best. I am going to wish you a quick and expedient financial death, which is precisely what you deserve. Such behavior deserves nothing less. I seriously, seriously considered getting a Palm Pre once GSM versions were available (as I refuse to get locked into a CDMA carrier), but apparently you don't even want me to do that. So I won't.
What does that leave? Well, Android is no panacea of openness, but so far it's at least far better behaved than either Palm or Apple. It's open source, even if there are still issues with hardware encryption keys. There are still some usability issues in the stock applications, but I can live with that in return for fewer chains.
I don't trust Google with its vast petabyte databases of information about everyone in the world either, mind you, but at least for now if I buy an Android-based device it is my device. I can't say that about any other modern mobile platform. Which is, in its own way, equal parts sad and pathetic.
So whoever wants to replace my Treo 680, give me an Android device with a good vertical keyboard (not a sideways keyboard like the T-Mobile G1), 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, and a properly open platform. You've got a waiting customer.
You treat me with respect and I'll give you money. Since when did this become a foreign concept to American business?