Palm and the Mac : I love you ! Me neither

by Francois Joseph de Kermadec

I was visiting London last week when I decided it was time for me to replace my trusty old Palm Zire. Indeed, the lack of backlighting and the relatively low screen resolution made writing blogs and articles on the go increasingly difficult...

After giving a good look at the various handheld technologies out there, I replaced it with a Zire 71 : it has just the features I want, it's small and lightweight... In other words, I love it ! However, since I have added it to my gizmo repertoire, many of my Mac friends have asked me why I have decided to pick a Palm, right after their latest announcements...

Why ? Because I think that the love story between Palm and Mac users isn't about to end... I know what you are thinking but I can assure you I am not writing these lines under the influence of an Earl Grey overdose -- I love that, by the way !

Indeed, Mac users have long considered Palm as the handheld brand and still do. Some may argue that the Palm OS lacks an exciting interface but, in the end, it is very stable, even under heavy usage, easy to understand even if you don't want to take the time to do so and, best of all, the Graffiti input method features an unrivaled accuracy.

I certainly wouldn't want to invest in a Pocket PC to have the joy of worrying about viruses, trojan horses and crashes on the go ! No, I don't want to "press any key to continue" either and blue is not my favorite color...

My latest Palm purchase gave me this warm, fuzzy feeling I was accustomed to : what I had bought was useful and reliable ... except for one thing : the Palm-provided applications for my Mac.

The HotSync system written by the Palm engineers for Mac OS X is very stable and effective. So stable that even Apple relies on it to power part of its amazing iSync application.

However, the Palm Desktop that once used to be a useful application is now a pain to install and to use -- I have dropped it in favor of iSync, iCal and Address Book as soon as Apple announced them and never looked back. Worse, the installer provided is able to install HotSync perfectly but gets lost when you try to install Palm Desktop -- it works but displays error messages...

All the Mac users I know now rely on no-Palm solutions and use conduits that allow them to sync their Palms with their Apple applications. The system works beautifully and, in fact much better than if there was a special Palm software to receive the synced data.

After all, when we are not on our Palms, we organize our life in iCal, take notes in Stickies or TextEdit and use Address Book because of its integration with Mail... Keeping two devices in sync is already enough and we certainly don't want to worry about multiple applications on one of the devices too !

Therefore, when I am asked if I am surprised or angry at Palm for their latest decisions, I can only answer "No !". In fact, I am quite glad ! Let everyone focus on what he is excellent at : the PalmOne and PalmSource engineers will design the Palm OS and Palm handhelds and let Apple and third-party developers design the syncing solutions. As strange as it may sound, I think that our Palm experience will very soon be much better than the one enjoyed by PC users who will rely on Palm software to do the job -- and it already is for iSync users. Indeed, I'd much rather use a good third party application than a clunky manufacturer-provided one -- how many Mac users soon forgot about the software that came with their cameras after iPhoto was released ?

However, I am very sad. But I am sad for Palm. The Mac customer base is very loyal and can establish very strong links with a brand. The latest Palm moves have angered many Mac fans and the company has lost dozens of millions of potential customers around the globe. For any company, dozens of millions of units makes a very big difference and I am afraid that PalmOne cannot really afford such a loss. The few developers who have tried that in the past have soon gone back and re-opened their Mac development department quite quickly. In this industry, you cannot do without the Mac -- and you shouldn't do "without" anyone anyway !

I, for one, will enjoy my new Zire for the years to come and I am waiting for the new syncing features that will soon be offered to us : many companies have already announced that they are ready and I would be surprised if Apple hadn't a treat for us up its sleeve...

The latest news seem to indicate that Palm is already trying to ease things... In fact, the more I think about it, the more it looks like they simply realized that they couldn't compete with third-parties on the desktop front and were better off relying on more experienced developers to do that... That is probably the case, but that certainly is bad PR !

Until next time, dear Mac users, enjoy thinking different !

PS : I am sorry I slightly changed my blogging schedule this week. I was working on my new website,, and am pleased to announce that it is now online. As usual, I really do welcome your comments and feedback.

And you, how do you sync your Palm ?


2004-02-18 07:29:28
Finally Switched to iSync
For a long time I had one foot one each side of the river bank. I actually liked Palm Desktop 4.1, and though now I've switched to iCal, Address Book, and iSync, there are still some things I miss.

For one, with Palm Desktop, I could CTRL-click on the Dock icon and instantly see my day's appts, todos, and even add a new address entry. Still nothing that slick with the Apple apps.

Overall I like iCal and company, but I'm patiently waiting for Apple to elevate their game so I can have both total integration of my contact data in the platform, and the slick convenience of Palm Desktop.

2004-02-18 08:56:15
Just about to switch
I think developers need a good easy way to get at the iCal information. I know there are libraries out there that can read the calendar format, but something like the Address Book API would be good.

I'm sure Apple will come up with something like that sooner-or-later. Then things like ctrl-clicking dock icons to show todays events will be common.

2004-02-18 11:57:25
my simple wants
I have a palm Zire 21. small, simple, matches my iBook.

all I want for it is the ability to easily copy my text memos off the Palm so I can muck with them in TextEdit. Right now its easier for to just retype them then go through Palm Desktop.

2004-02-18 12:44:11
How about that ?
Hi !

You may want to have a look at this Palm app and conduit...

Please note that I am still testing this application and do not have "insider knowledge" about the way it works.


2004-02-19 09:13:50
I've just gotten a Zire 71, and am quite happy using it with this iBook (running Panther).

I'm using iCal, iSync, Address Book, and they all work well. I still have to use Palm Desktop for Memos and Hot Sync Manager for installing to the Palm. I quite expect Apple to expand their support for all of this in future versions of components and the OS.

My one firm quibble is work-flow related. Everytime I hotsync my pictures from the Zire's camera are dropped in ~/Pictures/Palm\ Photos/hotsyncuser/HandHeld/. I then have to manually import these into iPhoto, and then stuff the album up to dot Mac (and then adjust the style on homepage ..).

Apparently the Soly Clie drivers for Panther have iPhoto camera drivers ( ) but Palm does not ?

2004-02-19 09:25:02
AppleScript, perhaps ?
Hi !

I am currently facing the same issue and would like my synced pictures to be automatically added to iPhoto...

However, I am quite sure that an AppleScript attached to the HotSync Pictures folder could "wake up" when new pictures arrive and automatically import them into iPhoto...

I had a quick look into it and it looks possible...


2004-02-19 16:11:04
Wondering if you have done any development for Palm on your Mac? I did some basic things (using the excellent resource from, but have an app I want to program and my old Palm V just has a serial connection, so I am thinking of getting a newer Palm. Sounds like the Zire 21 might be just what I need--plus it probably looks good sittin next to my iBook and iPod.
2004-02-20 00:56:46
Hi !

Unfortunately, I do not develop Palm OS applications myself...


2004-02-20 05:53:56
Finally Switched to iSync
I am wondering if you guys actually USE your Palms throughout the day? I jumped on the iSync/ iCal bandwagon the minute it was released and just recently, last month, went back to the Palm desktop software. Syncs with the palm software take mere seconds, where I measured iSync's in tens of MINUTES! Extraordinarily painful is how I would describe the iSync experience.

Apple has to get their act together and tightly integrate the Palm with their suite of apps, else Jobs will have build his own Ive-designed Zire knock-off. granted it will be the best handheld ever know to man, and cost a fortune, but we had those once, and they were called Newtons!

2004-02-20 06:59:53
Finally Switched to iSync
Hi !

I do use my Palm with iSync and never experienced speed issues..

Usually, such problems are sometimes caused by a corrupted conduit or file on the Palm itself... You may want to post on the Apple Discussions where more iSync and Palm users will be able to help you locate the root of the issue.


2004-02-20 13:59:01
So lonely
I guess I'm in the minority. I like the Palm Desktop software and prefer it over iCal and Address book. I don't really like the way iCal displays unlimited events or the way the appointments are displayed. I like having everything I need in one conveninet application. Besides, what would I use for Memos and To Do Lists?
2004-02-20 17:52:06
in the minority as well
I guess I'm also in the minority. I like the Palm Desktop software and want to like iCal and Address book, but it just isn't there yet. I like having everything I need in one conveninet application, even if it is strangly familiar- recycled Clarisworks anyone? Besides, what would I use for Memos and To Do Lists...Documents To Go is clunky. What about catagories for addresses?! ok- so there are groups- not as handy as catagories. Apple has the basic elements- but has yet to pull it all together well. I'll be among the first to buy- if Apple produces a PDA... but until then you really cannot beat the Palm Desktop- far from steller, but the best solution thus far.
2004-02-25 18:08:47
Lyrics to Songs
Pianist Alfred Brendel performs "The BC ells of Geneva" by Hranz I. Diszt and J. K. Lam.
2004-02-25 18:08:49
Lyrics to Songs
Pianist Alfred Brendel performs "The BC ells of Geneva" by Hranz I. Diszt and J. K. Lam.