There’s a Palm in my Nokia!

… And I couldn’t be happier!

Thanks to the magic of virtualization — and the thoughtful folks at Access who’ve released a free Palm (sorry “Garnet”) emulator for Nokia Nseries tablets — my vast library of Treo apps from days gone by can be pressed into service once again.

Downloading the Garnet Virtual Machine couldn’t be easier; I just pointed my tablet’s browser to the Access site and installed it directly from there. The only other necessary step was to dump some .PRC files onto my Nokia’s memory card and voilà — as you can see in the screen grab above, they get automagically loaded into the VM’s launcher.

And this is what the Garnet VM looks like. The Graffiti pad works just as you’d expect, and would make a nice option for stylus input outside the VM, in case anyone from Access was reading this and wanted to license Graffiti to Nokia, hint hint…

HotSyncing to a regular computer is even possible, though just as you’d expect Mac users are left out in the cold on this particular feature. Also, because there is no HotSync app in the VM there is also no place to input your Palm user name, and thus no way to authorize third-party apps and avoid the shareware nags in Astraware Games and the like. There doesn’t seem to be any appreciable performance hit, but there doesn’t seem to be any sound support, either.

Still, the ability to run Palm apps at all instantly makes my N770 tablet twice as useful. Now if I could just find that old copy of Dope Wars

Consumer Reports Jumps the Shark

(Inspiration for today’s post courtesy of the BlackBerry blog RIMarkable…)

Consumer Reports Cell Phones

Maybe it’s still worth the cover price if you’re in the market for a new washing machine or minivan, but a feature on mobile phones in this month’s Consumer Reports is making me wonder if the once highly-regarded magazine has become a relic of the 20th century.

In a page dedicated to smartphones, CR pegs Nokia’s flagship N95 — considered by folks who actually sell these things to be worthy of the title “best smartphone of the year” — at a shocking 15th place behind their top-rated JesusPhone!

Putting aside my personal bias for a moment, the real head-scratcher came when I read the “Quick Picks” sidebar next to the ratings chart. Here’s what they wrote (with my own cheeky comments added in parentheses):

Best choice for multimedia use:

  1. Apple iPhone

(I guess the N95’s ability to edit DVD-quality video in-camera doesn’t cut the mustard as a multimedia device?)

Best choices for office-type uses:

  1. Palm Treo 755p
  2. T-Mobile Wing
  3. MOTO Q music 9m

(Don’t office-types use BlackBerrys? Oh right, of course they don’t… Stupid me, they use Motorola music phones instead!)

Best choices for compacts:

  1. BlackBerry Pearl
  2. Palm Centro

(No HTC Touch? Gee, I guess it’s only available in Canada, Asia, Europe & the UK…)

If you’re looking for some quality offline smartphone-related reviews, two of the best magazines I’ve seen on the subject are published across the pond:

Mobile Choice used to be available in Canada but can now only be received via an expensive international subscription. It often leans towards feature phones but gives due props to the big guys as well.

PDA Essentials & GPS Advisor, in addition to being a mouthful, is also available on the magazine rack at your local Chapters outlet — at least the one at The Toronto Eaton Centre. It’s got a definite Windows Mobile bias and at $20 an issue ain’t cheap, but with each issue you get a CD of trial software and reviewers who at least know what the hell they’re talking about!

Requiem for Palm?

(Kudos to Ed Miller for inspiring today’s post…)

Treo 270

My almost decade-long pursuit of the perfect smartphone has been punctuated by three exemplary handsets — my current Nokia E61i, my much beloved Fido-branded hiptop and my first sidearm of note, the Handspring Treo 270 shown above. I even suffered through the VisorPhone, a proto-Treo also developed by Palm inventor Jeff Hawkins — but its cheap GSM radio made it all but unusable as a cellular phone.

Handspring of course is no more, having willfully returned to the Palm mothership back in 2003. And now Palm is in big trouble. Once an innovator, today Palm is at best a commodity supplier of Windows Mobile handsets, along with some others running the ancient Palm OS that the company no longer owns. Palm stock is currently in free fall, having plunged from $19.50 USD just before Halloween to a mere $5.52 as of this writing — so it’s hardly surprising to hear that an unknown number of Palm employees are getting pink slips for Christmas.

So where did Palm go wrong?

The short answer is that it has failed on all fronts to keep up with more nimble competitors. The Treo lost ground to the BlackBerry early on in the race for mobile email supremacy, and Palm’s huge catalog of legacy third-party apps ain’t so impressive once you realize that the operating system is incapable of multitasking — that is, the ability to run more than one program at the same time. It was the stuff of dreams when I started using my Treo in 2002, but an inexcusable absence five years later.

Becoming a licensee of Windows Mobile was another sign that the company had run out of ideas. Here too it didn’t stand a chance against HTC, who seem to be releasing a new WinMo handset every five minutes! And the must-have features of 2007, first WiFi and then GPS, still don’t come standard on any Treo, WinMo or otherwise…

The one-two punch that history may show as Palm’s killing blow came first from the Tech Blog Engadget, which (among other things) urged the company to abandon its Foleo smartphone companion, then from Asus, who trumped the Flop-eo with their own Eee PC.

By odd coincidence, I’ve had a renewed interest in my Nokia Internet Tablet since the company that bought the Palm OS released a free Palm emulator for it. I’m grateful that all those Palm software licenses I’ve purchased over the years aren’t going to waste, but I have to admit that poking around that old OS feels a lot like interacting with a museum exhibit…

If Palm dies, here’s what I’ll miss:

  1. Graffiti – the best handwriting recognition I’ve ever used, or at least the only one I ever trusted.
  2. Bejeweled – it may well have been the killer app of the Palm OS. I prefer the original 1.o version, without the cheesy music…
  3. Easter Eggs in third-party apps – I’ll always remember turning on my Treo moments after midnight on New Year’s Eve and being greeted by fireworks dancing across my screen, courtesy of a program I was using at the time called BigClock.

And not so much:

  1. HotSync – it was tolerable pre-Mac OS X, but SyncML simply blows it away.
  2. Though it did have the requisite charm strap, Treos could never be mistaken for a sexy Japanese keitai. My most embarrassing Treo moment was when a colleague asked me why I was talking to my calculator!
  3. Did I mention the lack of multitasking?

Sad Day

Gimme-Gimme.jpg

This afternoon I sold my colour Treo to close friend Ray Deonandan; the flip lid on his black and white model broke this morning. There was, admittedly, a moment of hesitation — after all, this thing was my faithful companion on trips to Australia, Bermuda, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. But then I remembered that it doesn’t have a built-in camera.

Buh-bye!

Fido

My mobile phone service has finally put me on their website; my shameless plug of their data service has been selected as this month’s Fido Tail.

Fido users in Vancouver should also take note: their landlines are now officially obsolete. I’ve gotta hand it to these guys. I didn’t really need to bring my laptop to Hong Kong, since everything it does can and has been done on my Palm and Fido-powered Treo.

“Except take photos”, you say? Well, just you wait