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Palm Programming: The Developer's Guide by Julie McKeehan, Neil Rhodes

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What’s in a Name—Is It a Pilot or a Palm?

We have to take a moment here to talk about both the name of this book, Palm Programming: The Developer’s Guide, and about Palm devices in general. If you are a loyal Palm user, then you probably call it a Pilot. So does virtually everyone else on the planet, except the company that makes them— 3Com. The producers of these dandy devices want you to think of Palm not as a device, but as a platform, the Palm Computing platform. They do this, reasonably enough, so that you realize that all the following devices use the same operating system, even though different companies make and sell them:

  • Pilot 1000, Pilot 5000

  • PalmPilot Professional

  • PalmPilot Personal

  • Palm III

  • IBM WorkPad

  • Symbol SPT 1500

Why 3Com went from the use of Pilot to Palm can be summed up in one word—lawsuit. Lawyers for the French Pilot Pen company contacted lawyers at 3Com and said, “Hey, Pilot is our name; stop using it.” So 3Com did. Now, while we could spend hours talking about the questionable wisdom of letting a pen company tell a computer company to throw away a wildly popular, highly recognized trade name, that doesn’t change our problem. People call them Pilots; the company calls them Palm devices.

As if the situation weren’t interesting enough, add the entrance of the lumbering giant, Microsoft. Noticing the success Palm Computing was having with its popular devices, Microsoft’s leaders said, “Hey, we’re going to make some, too, and we’re going to call them PalmPCs.” While Microsoft eventually backed off from the name PalmPC to palm-sized computers, the damage had already been done—the Palm name had been compromised. Now we have to worry that people will not know whether we are talking about a PalmPilot device or a Windows CE-based palm device in this book. It’s enough to make a writer cry.

So here’s our problem: we want to make the folks at Palm Computing happy, and we want to make sure readers know what we are talking about in the book from just looking at the title. Our compromise solution was Palm Programming. We wrote this book to last a long time, and we are betting our title on 3Com’s ability to move consumer attachment from the word Pilot to the word Palm.

At the time we went to press, the dust hadn’t settled yet; it wasn’t clear whether 3Com would be successful in wresting the Palm name away from Microsoft. If they are, the book has the right name, and you picked up Palm Programming for the right reasons. If Microsoft wins—not an unbelievable possibility, however unhappy the concept makes us—then you may have picked up this book thinking it would help you with the Microsoft Windows CE programming of palm-sized devices. Sorry for the confusion.

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