Palm Inc. launched last month its second Treo smart-phone running the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system, dubbed Treo 700wx, and industry observers say this new product could cause traditional enterprise Palm OS users to jump ship to Microsoft’s more familiar platform.
Although there isn’t a huge proportion of Palm OS users running enterprise applications on their devices, those who do can now have the Windows Mobile platform as a viable alternative, said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research in London, Ont.
Now that Palm is offering enterprises a choice between two mobile operating platforms, IT managers have the opportunity to standardize on a single platform, added Eddie Chan, research analyst for mobile and personal computing technology at IDC Canada in Toronto.
“IT managers would want to simplify as much as possible. The Windows Mobile platform is fairly intuitive, as well as Palm, but [decisions can be based on] the look and feel of the Windows environment and the applications,” said Chan.
Windows’ huge installed base can also drive adoption of Windows Mobile-based Treo devices. While Palm has done “quite well” with the Treo product line — historically, it’s been second to Research in Motion in market share — the Windows Mobile platform gives it greater market opportunity, the analyst explained.
“[Palm] has done quite well with just the Palm platform, but obviously when you look in terms of corporations and their installed base of Windows environment — whether client or server — it definitely makes for a greater reach for them,” said Chan.
The fact that the latest Palm OS v.5.4 has not been upgraded for a number of years has not been helping things for the operating system, at least in the enterprise market, said Info-Tech’s Levy. “The Palm OS has basically reached a dead end and the Treos that run on a Palm OS will not be upgraded for the foreseeable future.”
PalmSource, maker of the Palm OS, was acquired last year by Japanese mobile platform developer ACCESS Co. Ltd. While PalmSource, and now ACCESS, have been working for years to come up with a follow-up to the Palm OS 5, “they are still nowhere close to actually delivering a workable product,” he said.
“Increasingly, users who have been using Palm OS-based devices to run enterprise applications are now looking very strongly at Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0-powered devices and thinking that it’s time to make the jump,” said Levy. He added that Palm Inc. “cannot plan a mobile device roadmap based on an operating system that is obsolete and whose replacement does not exist.”
The new Palm 700wx smart phone is the second Treo device that runs on the Windows Mobile platform; the first, Treo 700w, was launched in September 2005.
Treo 700wx is now available through Bell Canada’s high-speed mobile network (1xEv-DO). It features several “out-of-the-box” enhancements from its predecessor, including increased RAM capacity from 32MB to 64MB.
The Treo 700wx can also be used as an EV-DO external USB modem for laptops to access high-speed cellular network for connectivity.
The device also has an integrated Communications Manager feature which allows users to better manage their connectivity. This product was sold separately with the previous Treo 700w, said Levy.
“The opportunity for growth is clear, with 130 million worldwide (Microsoft) Exchange users,” said Michael Moskowitz, vice-president, Americas International, Palm, Inc. This opportunity will be enabled by the direct push e-mail capability that comes integrated with the Treo 700wx, which allows the device to directly connect with Exchange 2003 for real-time e-mail updates, he added.
A significant aspect of the Treo’s direct push technology is the ability to directly access the Exchange Server without the need for a middleware component to access e-mail, explained Phil Sorgen, president of Microsoft Canada.
“Many of our competitors require middleware, other software or hardware, either in their Office environment or in their network mobile operator’s environment, to provide that capability,” Sorgen said. That is a competitive advantage, he added, because it reduces cost and complexity by directly linking the device and the Exchange environment.
At the launching of the new Windows-based Treo, Sorgen expressed optimism that the Windows Mobile 5 platform will continue to grow. During Microsoft’s 2006 fiscal year, Sorgen said the software giant shipped six million Windows Mobile-connected devices worldwide.
IDC’s Chan said that while Windows Mobile adoption worldwide has picked up, the North American market has “taken a little longer to ramp up.” He attributed this to limited availability of products running Windows Mobile OS.
“Canadian carriers have been a little slower in bringing these devices to market,” said Chan.