Palm, which practically invented the smartphone, is in a rut: its products have hardly improved in years, competitors like Research In Motion and Apple are stealing potential customers in droves, and its stock is in the toilet.
Today’s WSJ ($) takes a broad look at the company’s plan to fix itself, including hiring former Apple design engineering guru Jon Rubinstein, trimming excess fat, and developing a new, Linux-based mobile operating system. Presumably, Rubinstein will be able to direct Palm’s hardware engineers to design a sexy gadget. And Palm’s new OS should address some of its stability issues, and frankly, can’t be worse than its current one. But that won’t be enough…
If Palm wants to make a real splash and compete with Apple, it needs to go after the same creative, design-obsessed, early adopter-types that cried foul when Steve Jobs first told them they couldn’t write software for the iPhone — and then spent the next week rebuilding their Web sites for the iPhone’s Web browser anyway. Many of those people already belong to a massive, thriving developer community that hasn’t had a fair chance to crack into mobile: Adobe Flash designers.
Flash is big on the Web: it’s on almost every computer, is powering the Web video boom, and is huge with Web animators, casual game makers, and advertisers. Yet Adobe has done a terrible job so far getting its software on mobile phones, especially in the States. Flash is an easy-to-develop, powerful platform with good looks and built-in video support. It probably wouldn’t take much work for people to port their existing Flash apps to the mobile screen — and a Palm Web browser with Flash support would be something that neither Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, nor Google’s Android has at this point.
By linking with Adobe, Palm would probably alienate its existing community of Palm OS developers, but let’s face it — that’s cutting bait at this point. If Palm and Adobe could work together on a stunning user interface and offer the massive community of Flash developers wide-open access to a solid phone platform on good-looking devices, it could be a huge hit.
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