Sunday, March 1, 1998

Macintosh support and Outlook ideas


It's a big month for the Mac in PalmPower. A reader has some critical comments about PalmPilot support for the Macintosh. Plus, another reader shares some interesting ideas for using Outlook with the PalmPilot.

Macintosh frustrations and caviar dreams

I'm a PalmPilot fanatic, with a Wintel laptop at work and a Macintosh laptop at home. And it's great that Palm has supplied host software for both Windows and MacOS. A big part of the value of the PalmPilot is that it is a connected organizer: it can share information with the applications on your computer. But the sad fact that the PalmPilot is a whole lot less connected to Macintoshes than to Wintel machines.

The Windows desktop software is version 2.1, while the Mac desktop is stuck at version 1.0. The Windows software supports the Expense app and email, while the Mac software does not.

Palm Computing provides tools for software developers to synchronize their Windows applications with the PalmPilot, but not the corresponding tools for Mac apps. As a result, on Windows a good dozen Personal Information Managers (PIMs) can HotSync data with the PalmPilot, and developers are swarming to provide other apps with data synchronization. Over on the Macintosh, only one application can HotSync data with the PalmPilot, and that only by disabling the standard desktop software, losing the Memo Pad.

Even within the narrow bounds of what both the Macintosh and Windows desktop software supports, the Macintosh software is extraordinarily sluggish and unreliable. I routinely get timeout errors when performing a HotSync between the Macintosh desktop with my PalmPilot, while the Windows desktop synchronizes with no problem. When I attempt to enter several appointment into the Mac Calendar function, the software gets slower and slower until adding a single appointment takes over a minute. At this point I have to quit the desktop and re-start it. And even launching the Mac desktop application takes forever.

There is some good news: last month, Palm released a utility to update the Mac connection software. This is good, but it's still just a drop in the bucket.