Nokia and palm both were leaders in the smartphone segment of the mobile phone market. This leadership is not about market share, it is about innovation which we have seen brought forward by several newcomers to the smartphone market recently. Arguably the most innovative step made since 2003 was the iPhone, not in features but in bringing a completely new front to the smartphone battle. The iPhone lacks a plethora of features and is even branded as a simple dumbphone by some, however no one can deny that the iPhone was a remarkable step in bringing the former niche touchscreen segment to normal mobile phone users. The touchscreen devices prior to 2007 were mostly seen as unwieldy, nerdy and quite complicated to the average user, the iPhone changed that. what does the iPhone have to do with palm and nokia? Well the biggest chat in the blogosphere over the last two and a half years was about how the iPhone was bringing trouble to the original pioneers of the smartphone.
Lack of innovation have been the deciding factor in the weak position of the two pioneers today. Palm os was well designed for the business class and performed well allowing them to grab a relatively large share of the then niche smartphone market. Palm os functioned well with both touch and keyboard, however the attempted hybrid structure only performs well with business subjects as normal consumers will find the lack of gestures completely rather unintuitive. Nokia on the other hand fielded a full keyboard controlled user interface from start, and although Symbian OS was fully capable of running a touch driven UI, they never put much into it. The only pre-2008 nokia smartphone to feature a touchscreen was the then sophisticated nokia 7710. The 7710 featured the application framework Hildon, derived (the same ui used in the n900, n800 etc) series 80 UI ont op of Symbian OS 7.1 . The phone was held back so much by Nokia that it was eventually canceled. Nokia refused to work with any other touch based phone since, telling reporters in 2006 that there weren’t any plans in the immediate future to develop touch based phones, thus they missed the touchscreen train.
The two pioneers today are facing severe competition with the smaller of the two, palm, all but crushed under the sheer weight of the competition. There are a bunch of reasons why Nokia is still in a leading position while palm has almost completely fallen. Palm is a relatively small company operating in a limited demographic, USA. Almost all of palms devices were made for the American market, with little if any existing outside the western hemisphere. This small sphere of influence have made palm very vulnerable in the case of an attack on their home front, and that is exactly what happened. America became the birthing place of both the iPhone and Google’s android OS, with both literally sucking the life giving customers away from palm. A renewed RIM also played a significant role in palms subsequent demise with smartphone lines such as the blackberry pearl and curve. Palm then faltered even more with the cancellation of the Foleo smartphone and the lack of updates for palms previous smartphones. The aging palm was simply too small and weak to hold off emerging powers such as Apple and Google who were several times its size.
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