Tapwave closes doors

Palm OS PDA maker Tapwave Inc. has shut down, according to an announcement posted to their Web site. “We are sorry to inform you that the Zodiac business was discontinued and service and support are no longer available as of July 25th 2005,” said the statement.

Tapwave was the manufacturer of the Zodiac — the first Palm PDA designed specifically for gamers. The device featured a wide screen, analog thumbstick with rumble support, stylus, touch-sensitive screen and graphics acceleration based on an ATI mobile graphics chip.

Gaming and multimedia playback was the centerpiece of the Tapwave Zodiac and developers released a number of games and media applications that were optimized specifically to take advantage of the Zodiac’s hardware. But the Tapwave Zodiac could also operate most software designed for Palm OS 5.x, making it a full-featured PDA as well. Although the Zodiac lacked Mac support out of the box, Mark/Space stepped up with support through its Missing Sync software utility.

Two SDIO card slots let users buy software and store data on flash media, and USB connectivity and Bluetooth support provided the ability to load software, videos, music and other content from a Mac or PC. Tapwave spawned two Zodiac models: the original Zodiac had 32MB of built-in RAM; the Zodiac 2 was physically identical except for its black chassis, and included 128MB RAM.

Tapwave was behind the eight ball from the start, unfortunately, competing against handheld gaming giant Nintendo and, later, Sony, which in late 2004 introduced its PlayStation Portable (PSP). The Tapwave Zodiac made its debut at a time when the industry began to transition away from conventional PDAs to “smartphone” devices that combine the capabilities of a PDA with a cell phone.

Trouble at Tapwave first surfaced this past April when Tapwave’s senior vice president of marketing, Byron Connell, indicated in interviews that the company was de-emphasizing its own branded hardware business in favor of co-branding the Zodiac technology platform with other manufacturing partners. Now it appears the company has closed its doors all together.

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