Once upon a time, Palm OS was the pre-eminent mobile computing platform. Synonymous with professional gadgetry, Palm had a range of devices to match most budgets and an impressive network of software developers, large and small, constantly releasing new titles for every imaginable use. Then, amid strong competition from Microsoft’s Pocket PC and Windows Mobile platforms, as well as a confusing series of buy-outs, mergers and de-mergers, Palm seemed to have lost its way. News, two years ago, that PalmOne would be releasing Windows Mobile compatible handsets seemed to confirm the inevitable: palm’s operating system was dead.
But there’s life in the old dog yet. The recently released Treo 680 has received strong reviews despite using an operating system which hasn’t changed significantly in years. Palm has a broad customer base and a huge back catalogue of compatible software which is arguably unrivalled by even Microsoft’s strong presence in the market. The release of Palm handhelds featuring version 6 of the operating system (named ‘Cobalt’) may still be some time away but the OS – and its family of independent shareware developers – seems to be doing just fine.