Palm unleashes its smallest smartphone: should we be excited?

Yesterday, Palm announced the launch of its smallest  smartphone ever, the Centro. It runs the latest version of Palm's operating system but -

Yesterday, Palm announced the launch of its smallest  smartphone ever, the Centro. It runs the latest version of Palm's operating system but - as you can see from the picture - isn't exactly a style icon. It's GPRS, with a 1.6MP camera and just 64MB of memory. So why should anyone care?

Well, because Palm means something to ageing gadgeteers life myself. Back in the dying days of the 20th Century, Around 2 years Bi (Before iPod) I began my journey into Geekdom by buying myself a Palm V. It was years ahead of its time: deliciously thin, beautifully clad in brushed metal, gloriously simple to use, and controlled by a touchscreen. In short, it felt like a pocket version of my other object of technolust at the time, the bondi blue Apple iMac.

Both Apple and Palm were head-to-head with Microsoft at the time: Apple was struggling, Palm was in the lead. But over the intervening years, the fortunes of Palm and Apple couldn't have been more contrasting.

Once a struggling underdog, Apple is now a global superbrand nonchenantly throwing out mass-market classics every six months.

Palm, on the other hand, is in the dumps. First it bought the excellent BeOS operating system - once rumoured to be Apple's next-gen OS of choice - and spectacularly failed to do anything with it. Then it sold off its software development arm, before buying back again.

It watched the PDA market die, launched a string of slightly disappointing smartphones, and even - horror of horror - began producing smartphones running the OS of its deadly rival, Windows Mobile.

And then it decided that what the world needed was a ultraportable laptop that ran PalmOS. The world shrugged.

In the light of these failures, the arrival of the under-specced Centro is a return to form. It's running PalmOS, for a start - which is possibly still the best way to keep track of your contacts and calendar. It has a touchscreen, a keyboard and some decent browsing software - and it's available for just 199 SIM-free. I'll let you know if it's any good when I get my hands on one.

 

Top 10 smartphones