The theme of the recent Fierce Wireless interview with former Palm head Jon Rubinstein ( via Engadget) can be summed up in the Hebrew phrase “you’re right, but not convincing.” According to Rubinstein, Palm made a mistake in selling the company to HP, but the PalmOS team turned out to be right about their vision of how the smartphone market would evolve:
“[A] lot the stuff we were trying to do with Palm and a lot of things we told carriers they were wasting effort on has turned out to be true. … Forcing us to take our address book and expose it to them. The industry went away from them. I think we were also very prophetic about the growth of the smartphone market. I think that’s clearly been validated. If you go back at look at our original premise for a lot of the stuff we did at Palm when I got there, I think it’s all really played out as expected.
I don’t know why PalmOS didn’t succeed while other platforms did, but it’s clear (and perhaps obvious) that it takes more than just good technology and an accurate vision of the market to succeed in the smartphone business. I suspect this is a common fate of consumer businesses with an engineering mindset (Nokia falls into this category as well); they underestimate the importance of emotion and other “irrational” customer behavior in determining the success of a product line.