Palm webOS 1.3.1 Did NOT Restore iTunes Sync, but is That the Least of Their Worries?

iphone_batman_pre_serious

Sure, okay, since Palm has been faking iPod status to provide iTunes sync for a while now, and Apple has been updating iTunes to stop them every chance they get, when a new version of Palm's webOS comes out and it DOES NOT re-enable that sync, it's news. Right?

So, to be clear, neither the newly introduced Palm Pixi candybar or the just-updated Palm Pre can sync with iTunes 9.0.2 (though older versions of iTunes 9 might still work).

Meanwhile, PreCentral.net's own Derek Kessler has a <a href="http://www.precentral.net/editorial-why-im-palm-fan-and-not-fanatic up covering why iTunes sync is pretty much the last thing Palm should be worried about right now, given how much work they still have to do in other areas of webOS and their devices:

Here’s the problem: the standout part of the Pre is the webOS operating system, and even that has some glaring shortcomings. But I’ll start with the hardware, which simply put is unacceptably inferior.

He quite rightly rails against the lack of a native SDK, something iPhone users suffered through for a year. Of course, this gets the iPhone part of the blame:

But I’m afraid that Apple has also changed the mobile computing space for the worse on the features front. Apple made it acceptable to launch a phone without all the standard phone features intact.

Derek excuses Apple somewhat, the iPhone being their first foray into the smartphone space. He's not as forgiving with Palm, who've had decades of Pilot and Treo experience.

Given Palm's financial position and the limits of all human resources, I'll ask on their behalf what I asked on the iPhone's in 2007 - what feature that was implemented would you have had them not implement, so they could have implemented something else instead? Would you have waited 2 years for cut and paste so you could have a great music app at launch?

Give the full rant a read and let us know what you think!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 19 comments. Add yours.

SpiceRak2 says:

What are Pre owners that use iTunes doing now? I'd be ticked off. But, they probably saw this coming.

AfroCane says:

@ spiceRak2
they are now using windows media palyer

killakow says:

People still buy palm devices?!??

cardfan says:

You asked what feature not to be implemented so that others might be?
There's not one that comes to mind besides itunes sync. All the features & core apps need much polishing besides what they've received in minor updates so far.
There is SOMETHING though I wish Palm would have never wasted the time on. PIXI. One can only imagine where Palm might be at on WebOS if this device had never factored into the equation.
For part two of a one-two punch, i still feel Palm would've been better served waiting til early 2010. And even then going with a big screen form factor (landscape slider or slab) poised to release on verizon. And a Treo Pro for summer along with a Pre 2.
Palm could've concentrated solely on the Pre and webOS til then or even released a 16gb (or 32) version Pre for the holidays to play any pricing games. It's still a great device for the masses and an improved marketing campaign would have helped.
It's a simple case of Palm trying to do too much at once which leaves them looking mediocre when singling any one thing out. And not realizing what made the Centro so popular.
In Oct 2007, the landscape was totally different with only RIM, WM, and a high priced original iphone with no apps. Treos were bricks and tired looking. The Centro changed that up with a bit of style and carried the same processor as the Treo 755p, loaded with premium apps plus an IM app, more memory, and had a sharper screen due to keeping the same res as a Treo.
It should also be said that both android (with the G1) and iphone benefited from being able to incubate for awhile (so to speak) in one form factor. Palm, creating both cdma & gsm versions of two form factors with different chips and focusing on focusing on multiple carriers is just a lot to do..especially with a new OS.

kev says:

Well if they didn't update itunes then they're still able to sync. DUH!!!

katie says:

oh my!! i always get something new from itunes without which i cannot move a day.....

Earless puppy says:

Shame it has potiental but fell short

ZeTaBYTeS says:

The link "suffered through for a year" to the editorial is corrupted. It should be http://www.precentral.net/editorial-why-im-palm-fan-and-not-fanatic/

The Reptile says:

Cardfan is right on the money. Palm wasted valuable resources trying to be all things to all people by releasing the Pixi and releasing it on Sprint which already had the Pre. They should have focused on improving build quality and upgrading the OS faster than they have to this point. I guess Rube didn't learn quite enough from Jobs.
I also agree with the author of the article on the apps limitations on the Pre. Having limited space and not allowing more robust apps is something that Palm is going to have to overcome. I believe that the Droid while having more robust apps makes the same space limitations that the Pre does. As long as the industry continues to believe that the game is all about hardware specs (iDon't) and not usability/holistics they are going to continue to sell in small volumes and Apple is going to continue to lead, continuously improve their platform and sell at better margins than the competition.

Macboy74 says:

What the hell doe. This mean.....: Apple made it acceptable to launch a phone without all the standard phone features intact. The standard phone features are the best I've had. And AT&T is excellent in my part of the country. 3g everywhere.

kbduvall says:

I hope palm can turn it around. I'd probably never leave my iPhone but Web OS shows allotnof potential and the added competition would be great.

mystic says:

"But I’m afraid that Apple has also changed the mobile computing space for the worse on the features front. Apple made it acceptable to launch a phone without all the standard phone features intact."
I love this attempt to lay the blame for Palm's failings at Apple's door.

dev says:

@Macboy76
At a guess, it means that because Apple launched without things like cut-and-paste, but promised them later, that people are now used to having some features missing at launch.
What the quote fails to understand is that people did ding the iPhone at launch, and probably there was a non-trivial number of people who refused to buy it because of those missing features. However, the iPhone still sold like hotcakes because people, on balance, liked the features in the iPhone so much they did accepted those that were missing.
Palm's problem is twofold. 1) Unlike the original iPhone, the features in the Pre are not quite nifty/revolutionary enough to make people overlook what is missing. 2) The iPhone (and Android, etc) are out now, so WebOS has to reach a much higher bar. What was revolutionary in 2007 is not revolutionary in 2009, so you have got to be jaw-droppingly awesome for people to overlook features they can see on iPhones every day.
WebOS, for all its wonders (and I kind of like it), does not quite reach that bar, and, as Cardfan and TheReptile pointed out, things like the Pixi are distracting Palm from any hope of leapfogging the iPhone/Droid, something they desparately need to do in order to stay relevant.

Steve says:

Cardfan and The Reptile are right in that Palm at this point can't afford to do too many things, but I have an opposite view of what that thing should have been. I would have rather Palm gone with the Pixie and held off on the Pre.
The Pre came out positioned in the iPhone market (what consumers actually think despite McNamee's representations to the contrary) and launched with some hardware/quality issues (not acceptable), OS gaps (expected), and no apps store(?) just ahead of an 3rd gen iPhone followed by a slew of second gen (hdwr & sftwr) Android phones; All after the same market. With WebOS being the only differentiator (really cool), Pre has gotten lost in the space and, worse still, putting the Palm brand as an also-ran in the top end along with it. To my point, Pre is now $49.95 from Bell Canada vs $200 at US launch 6 months ago.
If the Pixie had launched instead of the Pre, Palm could have put WebOS out there with nearly the same "OS Wow" factor, in a lower priced space where competition is (still) less, and feature expectations not as high. Pixie's candy bar design is simpler/lest cost to engineer will turn out to be much higher in perceived quality than the Pre. The Pixie as a hot, low cost, Social Web phone on Sprint's lower cost data plans is a more differentiated choice for consumers than the Pre, which was positioned by the market (right or wrong) as a lesser alternative to the iPhone.
To support the cost of making both a phone and an OS, Palm really has to be very good at strategy and execution to stay in the game. With Pixie first, Palm would have made a splash with WebOS, made some money and had the time (and money) to get the Pre design, WebOS, App Store and Ad budget up to the level necessary to compete in the high-end phone space where Palm want the Pre to be. In that space it is go big and keep going bigger or go home. You need business scale to do that.

cardfan says:

@steve
I think that would've been suicide. Palm wouldn't have had any buzz hardly with a Pixi. Remember, the Pre won best product at CES and kept many excited til it debut. Noone would have gotten excited over this Pixi with no wifi, small screen, etc.
It launch on a Sprint that had nothing. It was never competing against the iphone no matter what because of this (and so much more..Apple is unique). That was the media's doing. All Pre had to do was penetrate a stale Sprint lineup and sell to existing users.
Then came the weird marketing. Low inventory. Misstep after misstep..with the Pixi as the biggest blunder.
This is just lousy execution, marketing, positioning, you name it from both Palm and Sprint. How to Screw up a Sure Thing by Palm & Sprint coming soon to a shelf near you.

Dave Beck says:

I agree with Steve.
Palm chose to compete directly with the iPhone, what idiots. The most successful phone in their line-up was the Centro. It was a simple build and a good form factor. A Centro/Pixi on acbS (any carrier but Sprint) would have been a better choice. They could have released the Pre later once WebOS was a bit tidier and there were at least a few apps in the store to help justify the higher price. As it was they had to drop the price since the Pre offers so much less than an iPhone (and now it appears also an Android phone).
But I guess it is about par for Palm who only got into the phone business by buying back the folks they let go to Handspring.

Steve says:

@Cardfan
Just a couple of follow-up comments since defending what Palm chose not to actually do is of limited value. First, I agree that Palm made other mis-steps besides which product to lead with. I give them a hall pass on the Sprint choice because that is a complicated decision with lots at play and I don't think they really had much of a choice in the end - you can only wish it was different. I have no idea what you are talking about regarding "weird marketing", neither does my therapist (-:
Regarding leading with the Pixie:
- iPhone competitor: I did not say Pre was a strong iPhone competitor, but that IS where the market positioned it based on product design, launch environment and consumer expectations.
- CES: Buzz came more from WebOS than hdwr design. Granted, Pre is sexier design (for some) than the candy bar Pixie, but that buzz got erased on day 2 Pre of launch when quality issues hit the news. Pixie would not have had that problem.
- Pixie specs/Market: Wifi: Should have been included but Palm stripped it to keep Pre as high end; they would not have had to do that if Pre came second. Screen: Pixie pointed at somewhat different consumer than Pre with lower price point/Plan cost, designer covers, etc. The small screen as a tradeoff for simple, thin design with better keyboard than Pre would have been OK for where Pixie was supposed to go. Oh yeah, less quality issues buzz would not have hurt sales either. The market for Pre or Pixie has to be new converts not current Sprint Centro retreads. Smartphone only 20% penetrated in cell phone market. New is where it is at. That said, holding on to easy Centro converts would also have been a good thing for Sprint flagging sales and Palm's small but loyal base.
- Availability: Pixie is a bit easier phone to make and cheeper gives you a shot a carrying more inventory with same $ invested. This "could" have helped Palm - no telling if the problem was cash or bad thinking on Palm's part. - I guess we will never know...