|Handspring CE in the future?|
1) Has anyone heard a rumor about HAND buying PALM?
2) He explicitly states he doesn't recommend the PocketPC.
3) The PALM/HAND relationship definately doesn't mean that HAND will stick with the PALM O/S if a better O/S appears in the market.
August 26, 2000
Founder and Chairman of Handspring
August 22, 2000
Note: During this event, Jeff Hawkins' participation was entered into the online arena via a typist. In the transcript, separation of sentences with ellipses ('...') is due to the real-time succession of the speaker's comments. Nothing has been omitted.
Paul Kapustka: Hi, and welcome to the Redherring.com's fifth Live Q&A session! I'm Paul Kapustka, Redherring.com's Technology editor.
As those of you who attended our events with Jim Breyer, Naveen Jain, and Ann Winblad know, our Q&A series allows Herring readers to interact with top tech industry players and personalities.
Today's guest is widely recognized as the father of the first successful handheld computer, the Palm Pilot, Jeff Hawkins.
After creating Palm's original models with co-founder Donna Dubinsky, Mr. Hawkins saw the company through a wild ride of acquisitions that included stops at US Robotics and then 3Com.
Now, he's an entrepreneur again, heading up Handspring Inc., whose innovations are pushing the Palm platform even farther into the future.
Please submit your questions to Jeff Hawkins by shift-clicking the picture of anyone on the stage, and entering your question in the box at bottom. Shift-click again to stop submitting.
Also, note that Jeff Hawkins' words are entered into the system via a typist. So if he appears to misspell something -- it ain't him.
Remember please submit your questions to Jeff by shift-clicking the picture of anyone on the stage, and entering your question in the box at bottom. Shift-click again to stop submitting.
Hello Jeff, care to say a few preliminary words? What's on your mind these days?
Jeff Hawkins: We're just continuing to build the handheld computing market. Handspring is a very young company, and so mostly we're focusing on building Handspring the company, developing the market, and designing future products.
Paul Kapustka: Jeff: Do you think that the Palm OS will remain dominant in the handheld space, or will other platforms arise?
Jeff Hawkins: Palm OS will continue to do very well and for the moment, we have no plans to use any other operating system, but over time I expect to see other successful platforms to emerge.
Paul Kapustka: From Wardini: What impact if any will new OLED display technology have on portable computers? When could it feasibly happen?
Jeff Hawkins: Displays are one of the most difficult technologies we have to deal with. There are several promising technologies that are being created. None of them are imminent. That is in the next 6 to 12 months, but I do believe that there will be some major advances in display technologies over the next several years.
Paul Kapustka: Here's one from miradu2000: When will the new handheld from Handspring come out?
Jeff Hawkins: Which new handheld? Haha! We have lots of new products under development, but nothing has been announced.
Paul Kapustka: miradu2000: What new features are you thinking of?
Jeff Hawkins: I can't give specifics, but a major theme going forward will be the integration of wireless radios into handheld computers.
Paul Kapustka: From an audience member: Jeff, do you believe that the form factor of future handhelds will change significantly, or have we hit on a good universal shape with the "small pad" shape?
Jeff Hawkins: I think the current form factor will continue on for a long time, but I do see new form factors that are very different being successful as well.
Paul Kapustka: Another audience question from Greg 2: I'd like Jeff to comment on the recent DRAM problems. I've been told that HAND will replace the effected Visors. PALM seems to feel the patch is adequate.
Jeff Hawkins: The DRAM problems do not affect most people and they should go to our website if they want details about how we are handling it.
Paul Kapustka: My own question: Jeff, when does your licensing agreement with Palm end? Is it possible that Handspring could offer devices with different operating systems? (I think you talked a little about this).
Jeff Hawkins: Our license extends for another three years with a two year over hang. So basically, five years. We have no plans to do another operating system today, but we might if it makes sense.
Paul Kapustka: Here's a good one from Mr. Tangerine: How does Handspring anticipate overcoming the lack of a industry standard expansion slot?
Jeff Hawkins: Oh boy that's a tough one, a long one. We think that standards are created by great products. None of the existing expansion slot technologies met our needs so we think Springboard will be successful because of the great applications people are creating for it. We've had no difficulty getting people signed up to create Springboard modules. We've had 5000 developers sign up for the Springboard Developer Program
Paul Kapustka: From Trinition: One question, two words: "Color Visor?"
Jeff Hawkins: One word answer, sure!
Paul Kapustka: OK, When?
Jeff Hawkins: Don't ask me when.
Paul Kapustka: From Jory: Please comment on linux-based pda's.
Jeff Hawkins: Linux today is not a good fit for handheld devices, but we think the open source model of Linux makes sense and we are looking at technologies similar to Linux.
Paul Kapustka: This one from our friends over at Marcus:VisorCentral.com:When we interviewed you at Internet World last year you hoped there would be "Several hundreds [springboard modules] - and a lot of them will be software titles" within a year. Today there are only about 20 modules available. Any clues when we'll see more?
Jeff Hawkins: Most Springboard modules are hardware modules and any of them that contain radios or other communications hardware take a long time to build. There are several major modules that are close to shipping, but have not been announced yet. There are a few software titles which are doing well, but where we seem to have the most interest is in communication modules.
Paul Kapustka: From Sachin1: What do you think are the biggest challenges for Handspring in the coming 2-3 years? What keeps you awake at night?
Jeff Hawkins: Our biggest challenge is growing a company very fast. We've been around for less than two years and have substantial revenue already. It's hard building companies quickly. Practically everything keeps me awake at night! Competitors, new technology, business problems, you name it! I worry all the time.
Paul Kapustka: Do you see Palm as a competitor or partner? Is it a tough relationship?
Jeff Hawkins: It's a great relationship. We are a partner of theirs because we license their software, but we also compete with them. Many companies have relationships like this it is not new. And it seems to be working fairly well.
Paul Kapustka: From Prune Whip: Does multimedia fit into your vision for the palm platform? If so, when will the currently dated platform see a revision?
Jeff Hawkins: Already we are seeing some multi-media applications on the Palm platform, first with audio. Over time multi-media will become more and more important. But I think it will be three to five years before it is common to have multi-media applications delivered wirelessly.
Paul Kapustka: From PalmDude: How do you see your companies future with a Giant such as Sony entering into the market?
Jeff Hawkins: People used to ask me that question "How am I going to compete with Microsoft?" Now they ask, how am I going to compete with Sony or Nokia? Handspring can be successful by designing better products and executing better. We've done it before, we can do it again.
Paul Kapustka: Well, let's talk about competing with Microsoft. Are they getting better?
Jeff Hawkins: They are getting better, but we still don't see them being successful with their current products, but we continue to worry about them. In the future, if they had a really great offering, Handspring could build a product using Wince. But for today, we have no plans for that.
Paul Kapustka: Here's one about communications from Bill B: Jeff, What is the status on a cell-phone (or POTS for that matter) springboard module.
Jeff Hawkins: If, by POTS, you mean wired telephones there are several wireline modems available today. However, the Springboard slot was really designed for wireless communications. And you will see a cell phone module available before the end of the year.
Paul Kapustka: Here's an industry-specific question from gdefehr: What role do you see for palm computing in the medical industry?
Jeff Hawkins: There are hundreds of applications designed for the medical industry for Palm products. And several Springboard modules being designed specifically for the medical industry. It's not an area that we focus on, but rely on third party companies to create solutions. We see handhelds having a big role in medicine going forward.
Paul Kapustka: An integration question from Guest 2594: Will Palm OS ever have seamless integration with Microsoft Word, Excel, etc?
Jeff Hawkins: That's really a question for Palm. At Handspring, we aren't creating applications to display spreadsheets and word files.
Paul Kapustka: Looking waaaaay into the future is skyhopper: What will the handheld be like in 50 years? (I work for a futurist!)
Jeff Hawkins: I haven't a clue about 50 years! But, 20 years I would say that almost everyone will own a handheld device with high speed wireless access for both voice and data communications. And the most surprising thing I would predict is that the wireless service will be essentially free.
Paul Kapustka: Just a note to our audience members, we'll try to get to as many questions as we can (but can't do 'em all!). Thanks. Now, for Jeff. Jeff, why hasn't Handspring been as severely affected by component shortages?
Jeff Hawkins: We are seeing short supplies of many components. But we have faired better than most. One reason is, we don't use flash memory, which is the most affected components. Another reason is we maintain very close relationships with our vendors and have forecasted our needs accurately.
Paul Kapustka: Here's a form-factor question from Guest 2594: Will Handspring ever come out with a Palm V type form factor?
Jeff Hawkins: We will make products in all shapes or sizes we haven't announced anything like the Palm V, but as I said, we will come out with products of all shapes and sizes.
Paul Kapustka: From davef8: Will new devices be compatible with current springboard modules?
Jeff Hawkins: We will continue to make products with the Springboard slot and intend to maintain compatibility. That's not a guarantee that all Handspring products for all time will have a Springboard slot.
Paul Kapustka: From TerryN: Is Handspring interested in Bluetooth?
Jeff Hawkins: Bluetooth is a new technology and hasn't been proven in the market place. Our first use of Bluetooth is in Springboard modules. A couple of which have been demonstrated already. In the future, if Bluetooth becomes very important, we will integrate it into our products. But for now it's too early to do that.
Paul Kapustka: From HughH1: What advice would you give someone who is new to handhelds? How should they weigh Palm vs. Handspring vs. PocketPC?
Jeff Hawkins: I wouldn't recommend a PocketPC product, but both Handspring and Palm's products are very good if you're looking for an introductory product, I would definitely recommend the Handspring Visor.
Paul Kapustka: How about an online discount for Red Herring chat group participants? From Warren Opheim: When do you anticipate wireless connectivity in Canada?
Jeff Hawkins: Hahaha! If I could I would, but you're asking the wrong person. Well, within the next nine months, you should see some sort of wireless connectivity in Canada. And the cell phone module I mentioned earlier, will also work there by the end of the year.
Paul Kapustka: Marcus: Handspring recently licensed CDMA technology from Qualcomm. Which wireless technology do you think works best for handheld computers?
Jeff Hawkins: Unfortunately, there isn't one technology that works best. We see different radio technologies being used in different locations around the world. One of the advantages of the Springboard slot is that we don't have to build a new computer for each one of those different technologies.
Paul Kapustka: Roteki: In a year from now when the next big thing in PDA'S comes along will Handspring be able to keep up. Will Handspring owners be able to upgrade their Visors to the latest technologies?
Jeff Hawkins: Springboard modules that you own today will work in future Handspring products and Springboard modules that are created in the future will work in old Handspring products.
Paul Kapustka: mstern: What makes handspring special - why would I choose to develop for the HS platform rather than Palm directly?
Jeff Hawkins: If you're writing software, any application that runs on a Palm product will run on a Handspring product. If you're creating a hardware expansion module, nobody has anything equivalent to Springboard, but remember, our products are 100% Palm OS compatible
Paul Kapustka: Jeff, we're getting a bunch of questions about Palm and Handsprings' stock prices. Does stock price drive any of your product decisions?
Jeff Hawkins: No. We believe that if you build great products and loyal customers, the stock price will take care of itself.
Paul Kapustka: Hey Jeff -- About your own habits in using your own handheld. What's your favorite less-well-known application?
Jeff Hawkins: Tide Tool. I'm a sailor, and it's a really incredible application!
Paul Kapustka: Trinition: Jeff, what PDA'S do you own (just in case there is more than the obvious answer)?
Jeff Hawkins: Well. I own one of everything. But I use a Visor Deluxe everyday.
Paul Kapustka: From John Fontaine: Anything to say about rumors of Handspring buying Palm?
Jeff Hawkins: There's no truth to that rumor.
Paul Kapustka: Here's one from roteki: With all the news about Napster and copyrighted music lately, are you planning on creating any future digital music players that incorporate digital protection?
Jeff Hawkins: We have several companies building MP3 music players that go in the Springboard slot. I have one in my Visor today. That is unannounced. We will leave it up to those companies to decide if they want to use secure file protection.
Paul Kapustka: From Omid: What are the main features of a truly revolutionary technology in your opinion?
Jeff Hawkins: Revolutionary technologies are able to reach a much larger segment of world population. One of my hopes for Handspring is to create communication and computing products that can be used by billions of people. The benefits of that are revolutionary.
Paul Kapustka: Well, a big thanks to Jeff Hawkins for spending time with us today, and thanks for all the audience questions! For the Red Herring, this is Paul Kapustka saying come back and see us at our next event.
Jeff Hawkins: Thank you for having me and to everyone for coming and for Cyndi typing.