Palm + Microsoft = Frankenstein (David Pogue)

You thought the apocalypse was upon us when Apple switched to processor chips from Intel, which Mac fans had considered the Dark Side for more than 20 years?

Well, try this on for size: Palm’s new Treo 700W cellphone-organizer runs on software from Microsoft. Yes, that Microsoft, whose palmtop software was mocked by Palm employees as bloated and inefficient for years.

What’s next – a new radio show with Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken as co-hosts? The first question, in Palm’s case, is: why? The answer is: corporate sales.

For years, Palm has stood by, gnashing its teeth and losing market share, as corporate technology buyers lived and breathed the credo, “Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft.” So maybe, thought Palm, it could join that party by offering its much-admired Treo phone with Microsoft inside.

The second question is: how?

From the beginning, Palm’s and Microsoft’s design philosophies were miles apart. Microsoft lived for long lists of features, while Palm strove for simplicity. At one point, Palm actually employed a tap counter – a guy whose job it was to make sure no task required more than three taps on the touch screen. How on earth could these two approaches be reconciled? As it turned out, not very easily. The Treo 700W – $400, after rebate, with two-year Verizon commitment – is a Frankensteinian mishmash. Some of its features are so inspired and well executed that you can’t help grinning, while others are so clumsy that you smack your forehead.

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