Now That TCL Have The Palm Brand, They Need To Show Their Mojo

Ah, Palm. Yeah, I'm "one of those," I lament the passing of the devices that encouraged me to stick with a personal, portable electronic device after an initial affair with a Windows CE device. I watched as Palm OS matured: I'd manage about a week of use from a pair of high capacity rechargeable batteries when I used my foldable keyboard and then fumbling around to replace them for a fresh set. I found the later generation devices to be less impressive: a day to a charge from all of my Palm OS 5 devices. But still usable! I was very fast with the original Graffiti language that Palm used, slightly slower with Graffiti 2, introduced after a court case: ah, Palm.

That's the kind of rose colored opinion that TCL, owners of the Alcatel OneTouch brand, are hoping to capture with the announcement that they have bought the Palm brand from HP and are intent on reinventing the business. TCL have already declared how Palm was "synonymous with innovation" and "now is the time to bring back this Pioneer spirit." They've already started reusing an old (newer, old) Palm handset name, the Pixi. Former Palm Chief Executive, Ed Colligan, thinks the idea is "hilarious." In a comment left on Facebook he said, "I think it's amazing these companies think they can buy a brand and stick some crappy products under it, and somehow they will get the benefit of the brand. The reason the brand was strong is we built compelling products that delighted our customers over 15 years. The word Palm is still a great name for mobile products, but they'll have to actually build great products and be a great company to instill brand value in it again. Good luck to them."

And he is right. I enjoyed my Palm devices because they suited my needs at the time. Unlike Nokia and Symbian, Palm retired the old operating system and developed Web OS, with a number of devices running Windows Mobile in the middle. Web OS' Synergy was a superb idea and the devices did the Gmail thing better than Android peers, although suffered from the same battery woes. With time, development, patience and cash, Web OS might have been up there with Android and iOS. Nokia have managed it with their stunning Android tablet. And again, that's the sort of throw back attitude that TCL has to deal with: the could-have, should-have. What they need to be doing is coming up with a great product that can do the Palm brand and product names credit. Unfortunately, sticking a "PIXI" badge on a mid-end Android device isn't that device. I'm not saying that Android is a bad home for Palm-inspired products; far from it. I can see the Web OS influence in Android devices today and it's a good thing. I don't necessarily want TCL to come up with a design skin, although that is one idea. No; embracing the little green Android; it's time to pull out some development stops. And so I'm going to end my post by saying that I am "cautiously optimistic" with TCL's acquisition of the Palm branding. TCL have also been linked with other businesses, too, such as HTC. If that deal were to happen, that might create something we can get behind.

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About the Author

David Steele

Senior Staff Writer
I grew up with 8-bit computers and moved into PDAs in my professional life, using a number of devices from early Windows CE clamshells and later. Today, my main devices are a Nexus 5X, a Sony Xperia Z Tablet and a coffee cup.