Monday, May 31, 2010

Palm's Loss Is Google Android's Gain

The recent sale of Palm to HP was a disappointment to many Palm fans who rightly are concerned over the future development of webOS and smartphones.  Now, Palm's webOS UI designer, Matias Duarte has defected to Google. In his new post, he will be Director of User Experience for Android.  

There's no question that webOs and Palm smartphones are brilliant in design.  It's a shame that Palm's marketing strategy resulted in insufficient sales to keep the company independent.  The new webOs was late to market followed by Palm's exclusive distribution deal with Sprint which did not exactly help with market penetration, whereas a deal with one of the other major cellular networks (Verizon or AT&T), may have achieved a very different result today.  Indeed, the lack of a GSM version of the device precluded Palm sales worldwide for almost a year, and that in itself may be the single reason for Palm's demise as an independent company.  That said, with the departure of Duarte, where does that leave Palm (HP) for the future?  Probably stifled  innovation in the house of HP.  While HP may well have many talented designers, Duarte was and is the vision, and that is hard to replace.

The Future For Android
Duarte will team up with Andy Rubin (together they built Danger Sidekick in the earlier part of the decade), so the future for Android looks promising.  We have yet to see a cohesive strategy for Android - it seems everyday there is a new Android smartphone on the market, making it a confusing choice for consumers.  The Android user experience has yet to catch up with webOs and the iPhone in terms of usability and aesthetics, but with Duarte on board things are likely to change for the better.  The big question still remains: why did HP let him walk out the door? 

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