When you're a dark horse smartphone vendor that's betting the farm on a cutting-edge developer platform, hiring one director of developer relations apparently isn't enough. Last week, Mozilla Labs alums Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith announced that they would jointly assume the role at Palm -- not a moment too soon, it appears, because Palm WebOS developers must surely have questions. Chief among them: Why should developers keep writing apps for a smartphone platform that has just been blackballed by the largest mobile carrier in America?
Verizon Wireless was widely expected to be the second carrier to offer the well-received Palm Pre handset once Palm's exclusive deal with Sprint expired, but insiders say those hopes are now dashed. Low sales are at least partly to blame: According to reports, the Pre has yet to move 1 million units at Sprint since its launch in early June. More troubling for Palm, however, must be the rumors that Verizon ultimately chose to pass on the Pre because WebOS didn't jibe well with the carrier's own developer plans.
[ While Verizon tries to genericize mobile platforms, Apple may have handed over the mobile business market to the BlackBerry, suggests InfoWorld's Bill Snyder. ]
Palm's model for success is Apple. It's banking that WebOS will be compelling enough to keep customers buying Palm-branded handsets. But Verizon has little use for that; it would prefer a smartphone market that more closely resembles the mainstream PC market. In Verizon's vision of the future, handsets are commodities, applications are uniform across all devices, and customers have a single source for all their software. Yep, you guessed it: Verizon's model for success is Microsoft. And if Verizon can bring its vision to reality, it could change the face of mobility as we know it -- and leave players like Palm in the dust.
The Big Brother of wireless?
In a blog post last Friday, Palm's Galbraith wrote of what he saw as a revolution in hardware, with pocket-sized smartphones gradually replacing yesterday's desktop PCs. At the same time, he said, he was dismayed that not every vendor agrees with his ideal of an open developer platform.