Back in August of 2005, Jeff Hawkins hinted at a secret business unit at Palm that no one knows about. That business unit has been focused on a new class of mobile computing device that is neither a PDA or a smartphone. Michael Mace recently spoke with Ed Colligan at Palm and he confirmed that this secret project would be revealed next year in 2007.
From Michael Mace's personal blog:
Ed Colligan, CEO of Palm, gave a talk this morning. Afterward I asked him if we'll see next year the secret project that Jeff Hawkins has been working on. "Yes," he said, and moved immediately to another question.
Very little information has been released publicly about the Hawkins project. I know a number of very bright people at Palm moved to work on it, more than a year ago. Hawkins himself has dropped cryptic hints about something that would start a new category of devices, alongside handhelds and smartphones. I know some developers have been shown pre-release versions of the product, and the reactions were mixed. But nobody's discussing what the device actually is.
Apparently we'll find out next year.
I'll be interested to see it because I believe there's still a huge opportunity for new sorts of mobile devices. The mobile market is heavily segmented, so much so that mobile phones can't and won't eat everything. Other than Palm and Apple, though, there aren't a lot of companies that are both willing to experiment in new categories of mobile hardware and capable of creating full hardware-software solutions, as opposed to just tossing a hunk of hardware out there.
I'll post more about Colligan's talk later.
Here are the relevant excerpts from the previous PalmZone.net article, Jeff Hawkins Hints at Secret Palm Business Unit (8/6/05). These quotes are from Jeff Hawkins in an interview with the Portland Business Journal.
There is a third business that I've been working on but I'm not going to tell you what it is. It's in mobile computing. It's something different and it's in its early stage. We have three businesses at PalmOne. One you don't even know about, which is just a child...
I'll give you a couple clues. I always think of mobile computing as personal computing. This long-term vision has led us through everything -- first the organizers and now through the smart phone space. It's like everything a personal computer is. Continue down that path. What are the implications of a world where everyone has a super high-speed Internet connection in their pocket and many gigabytes of storage, super-fast processors, audio, visual and multimedia? What are the consequences of that? How will that change computing when you have all that stuff available to you all the time? I try to think into the future. That's how we come up with new products. So I'm not going to tell you what it is, but it's following the consequences of mobile computing.
Its still impossible to figure out what this new class of mobile computing device will be, since Jeff Hawkins won't release any new hints about it. However, no where does he say that its completely unique and revolutionary, just that its a new class of device for Palm. Clearly he's indicating that it will be some device with a huge hard drive, very fast internet connection, and multimedia capability.
Its just pure speculation, but perhaps he's referring to some type of wireless internet tablet. Maybe its a concept similar to the Nokia 770 or the Samsung Q1. Palm obviously already has the LifeDrive with a big hard drive in it, Wi-Fi technology in the Palm TX, and 3G data connection in the Treo 750v. So maybe this new business unit is just pulling these technologies together into some kind of internet tablet or micro PC. I guess we won't know until next year...
Michael Mace's blog entry is here.