By December 21, 2008

State of Palm OS Software Sales Analyzed

1229703695.gifTamsPalm has posted an article linking to a couple of interesting stories over at the CreativeAlgorithms company blog. Justine Pratt, from one of the oldest Palm OS software houses still operating, talks about the possible reasons why Palm OS software sales have plummeted in 2008. Justine says that Palm OS sales dropped below sustainable levels at the end of 2007. The sales dropped even below levels in which support is justified, and some developers responded by offering existing titles for free with no support.

If you’ll recall, we reported on PDAmill Studios giving away all their past Palm titles for free after they stopped development for the Palm platform and their products were discontinued. Soon afterwards, Ellams Software made all of their Palm OS software completely free, but put a note at the top of the page requesting donations. At the moment, I get this message when attempting to go to the Ellams Software web site:

Ellams Software Web Site Is Currently Unavailable. Sorry

Also, back in Februaray of this year, I reported on an article by Michael Mace over at his blog Mobile Opportunity in which he talked about the decline of the mobile software industry. In Mace’s very interesting article, he stated:

The problem wasn’t just limited to Palm; the level of developer activity and creativity that we saw in the glory days of Palm OS hasn’t reappeared on any mobile platform since. In fact, as the market shifted from handhelds to smartphones, the situation for mobile app developers has become substantially worse.

In my article talking about Mace’s article, I mentioned about hearing that same day that PDA Performance was terminating all business operations in March. They made the very cool apps LineUp and Saguaro.

I just now looked at Michael Mace’s blog and read a recent article called “App stores and APIs: It’s the ecosystem, stupid”. Mace shows a chart called “One-year growth in registered developers” and the chart shows the growth shooting up to over 20,000 between 1998 to 1999. And Mace says:

If you’re like most people in Silicon Valley, you probably think that’s an Apple iPhone developer chart. But actually it’s Palm OS ten years ago, from 1998 to 1999.

Disturbing, isn’t it? The idea that a platform could take off like that and then crash and burn…makes you wonder if the same thing could happen to the platforms that are popular today.

Another article I reported on was “Is the Palm OS Dying? Should You Care?” by James A. Martin over at PC World. In the article, Martin said that when recently talking to an executive at a smart phone software developer, he asked why the company hadn’t released any new versions of its software for the Palm OS when it had released new versions for Windows Mobile Smartphones and RIM BlackBerrys. Martin said that the executive replied, matter-of-factly:

It’s a dying platform.

And back to Justine’s article, she said that some developers responded to the sales drop by looking to port quickly to newer platforms with greater potential. Justine goes on to suggest some possible reasons as to why Palm OS sales have plummeted in 2008.

Pratt talks about a Palm “Nova” Effect, mentioning that there hasn’t been any press about the progress and questions whether or not Garnet apps will work with the new Palm platform. Many Palm OS smartphone owners are probably wondering that very thing and have hesitated on buying any Garnet apps.

Pratt also talks about how Motricity combined Palm Gear with Pocket Gear and closed the Palm Gear site. She says:

Unfortunately, since much of the strength of Palm Gear was in the brand, closing Palm Gear gave the unexpected perception that “Palm software is no longer viable.” In addition, Motricity severely botched up the migration. Most customers couldn’t find or even purchase software for nearly a month, and during one of the hotter times to buy software—the holiday season. Recent layoffs at Motricity and putting its ESD properties up for sale may be an indicator of how overall sales for Motricity dropped. Many in the mobile community still do not understand why they couldn’t run an identical site under two brands—any CSS web developer worth their salt could have pulled this off. Closing Palm Gear gave a negative perception for Palm’s future to customers.

I can certainly see how many Palm Gear customers would think that Palm software wasn’t viable or available. Since Pocket Gear was known for selling software for Windows Mobile and Pocket PC’s, people could have thought that there was no Palm OS software in the new store since the “Palm Gear” name was gone.

Pratt also talks about Centro users in her article:

Palm released the first new piece of hardware in a long time when they released the Centro in late 2007. In many cases, when new devices are released (even iterations of the Treo), software sales jump. People buy software to outfit their new gadgets; software sales are good when Palm releases hardware. This time, however, was different. Some developers saw a short spike in sales, but most did not. Usually adding new users to a market expands the market, benefiting everyone. So what happened? Are Centro owners uneducated on the availability of software? Are the carriers scaring them away with warning messages when trying to add software? Or are the customers who buy a $99 priced smartphone too cheap to spend additional money to add software? Centro’s success should have caused increased software sales, but in reality it has not.

Very interesting. Also someone commented below Justine’s article and suggested that since early Palm OS phones didn’t include bundled software and the Centro comes with Documents to Go, Ptunes, IM client, Mail client, Web Browser and some free games and Google Maps, maybe many people didn’t have a need for additional third party programs. Could be.

You can read the full article, plus Justine’s other article “Summary of Palm OS Software Sales Poll”, about a poll conducted as to why Palm software sales were down drastically in 2007. Justine gives a synopsis and editorial of the poll results.

It could be that many Palm OS users have jumped the fence to Apple and bought an iPhone after seeing some of the apps running on the iPhone 3G. Some of those apps are mighty impressive, especially those that use the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer. During the Round Robin, one of the funnest things about the HTC Fuze for me was playing that marble game that uses the accelerometer. I would gladly buy a game like that for any of my Palm OS smartphones if they had built-in accelerometers. I’ve been looking for a similar game for my iPhone 3G.

I’m hoping that once Palm releases their upcoming platform, that we’ll see growth in Palm OS software sales. I hope that the new platform will have all kinds of cool graphics and that the hardware running on the new platform will support the types of games that we’re seeing on the iPhone and other smartphones.

[via Treocentral]

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Seasoned tech blogger. Host of the Tech Addicts podcast.
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