Damn, in all the portable gaming mania over the Nintendo DS, the PlayStation Portable, the Gizmondo, and yes, even the N-Gage, we'd all but forgotten but the Zodiac, Tapwave's game-centric Palm handheld. We already knew that Tapwave was starting to shift its focus away from gaming and more towards multimedia, but as it turns out what they've got planned is a smidge more complicated than that. As Senior VP of Marketing Byron Connell puts it, Tapwave is going to,
transition from offering Tapwave branded retail products to developing new co-branded products for OEM partners (i.e., other leading consumer electronic companies). These partners will be introducing future multimedia products based on both the Zodiac technology platform and Tapwave's next generation technologies.
Translation: they're probably not going to be selling products under their own brand name for much longer. Instead
it sounds like they're going to be licensing their technology to other companies and/or letting other companies slap
their own brand name on future versions of the Zodiac, versions that will be more mediacentric than what's currently
available. We hesistate to say that that the company is in retreat, but they're almost certainly doing this out of
desperation (if they were doing that well, would they abandon the Tapwave and Zodiac brand names?).
Not that we blame them for changing their strategy or anything. The gaming biz is brutal, there's a reason why there are tons of different digital audio and personal video players out there and comparatively so few portable gaming devices. Unlike with music and video content, which is readily available (and often free), with portable gaming you need the support of game developers if you want to get anywhere, and it's even hard for a big company like Nokia to get tons of developers behind them. Refocusing the company on multimedia is probably something Tapwave should have done a long time ago, but it's hard to see how they're going to do multimedia any better than anyone else that's already out there. Maybe their one advantage would have been that their handhelds run on the Palm OS, but it looks like palmOne is going to beat them to the punch with the LifeDrive later this month.