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Jeff Hawkins Hints at Secret Palm Business Unit

Jeff Hawkins, founder and current CTO of Palm, has revealed in an interview that Palm has a secret business related to mobile computing. He doesn't give details, but gives a few clues.

The San Jose Journal interviewed Jeff Hawkins, one of the original inventors of the Palm Pilot and current Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Palm, Inc. The article has some very interesting information in it.

  • Jeff discusses how Palm started and evolved over the years and how the Palm Pilot came to be
  • He talks about Handspring and how the Treo came about
  • He reveals that Palm has a secret business until related to mobile computing
  • He talks about his latest venture, the Redwood Neuroscience Institute

Some excerpts from the article are as follows:

Q: You have the Treo 650 out and it's getting rave reviews. What comes next technologically?

A: Today about 50 percent of our business is PDAs. That's a big mature business. It's not growing. But it's not going to go away. We have the smart phone business, which is the Treo line, and that's up-and-coming. It's rapid growth. Ultimately, it will be a much bigger business than the handheld computing business. We have a good five years of innovation and progress and major growth ahead of us for the smart phones, maybe more. These things are going to get cheaper and faster and better. It's going to be just incredible. I've got three full-length movies in my Treo. They're actually quite good. You'd be amazed.

This is the personal computer of the future. Right now they're several hundred dollars. They have to get cheaper and smaller and faster and that's going to happen. This business is in its teenage years. It's just coming out of adolescence. There's a lot of growth ahead for a minimum of five, maybe even 10 or 15 years. This is a big business.

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. Another is the teenager and the other one is the mature 45-year-old.

Q: Can you give me a better idea about what this "child" technology is?

A: Not really. 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.

Q: Looking at the scope of what you've seen happen with mobile computing, what has happened in a way that was entirely unexpected for you?

A: I had no anticipation of the Internet and even wide-area wireless networks until I learned about cell phones. And the first time I really understood cell phones I was actually worried about it because I knew it would kill the PDA business. I knew we had to get into that business.

Thanks to the Portland Business Journal for publishing the interview transcripts.

Editor Comments

The interview is very interesting and its definitely worth reading the whole thing. The information about Palm having another secret business unit related to mobile computing is very cool. I certainly can't figure out what it is based on his clues, but Jeff is an inventor at heart and I bet its something very interesting. Certainly we'll have to wait to see, but unfortunately he doesn't even give us a timeline for when this business until will be revealed.

Posted by tim_palmzone on Sat, Aug 06, 2005

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"Jeff Hawkins Hints at Secret Palm Business Unit" | Login/Create an Account | 4 comments | Search Discussion
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Re: Jeff Hawkins Hints at Secret Palm Business Unit (Score: 1)
by sijpie on Wed, Aug 17, 2005
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I think we should be looking at some form of tablet device, ie slightly larger than a palmtop, or something with a folding or roll-up screen. Processing unit could even be remote (bluetooth). Then of course wifi.

Thing is that at the moment to get to an (un)wired world, we need a lot more and cheaper wifi access points. Most places offering wifi are absolute rip-off. Why charge at all? If I'm in an airport, and had a free accesspoint at a cafe, I'd sit down have a coffee or beer, and surf. Now I just walk on as I don't want to pay the $/min or whatever they are charging.

Re: Jeff Hawkins Hints at Secret Palm Business Unit (Score: 0)
by Guest on Wed, Aug 17, 2005
I'm not sure what Jeff Hawkins is thinking about, but I've known for a long time what the next step should be, and it seems you do too:

Imagine a device with the form factor of a LifeDrive, only with no real on-board storage and no real computing power. So what DOES it do?

It acts as a wireless dumb terminal for your home and office computers, using VNC (or something like it) over a wireless broadband connection, from anywhere on the Internet.

You won't have to Hotsync this handheld - all the files you access with it are stored remotely on your desktop. You won't have to choose what files to take with you - you can access any file on your desktop, remotely. You won't have to have handheld versions of your favorite applications - you'll just execute your desktop's apps remotely and have the results sent to you in realtime.

In short, everything you have in your desktop, you'll have in your pocket too.

I'll buy the first one I can find.


Re: Jeff Hawkins Hints at Secret Palm Business Unit (Score: 0)
by Guest on Sun, Aug 14, 2005
he already said all that in a wired interview a good year ago... so nothing really new ?

Re: Jeff Hawkins Hints at Secret Palm Business Unit (Score: 0)
by Guest on Sun, Aug 14, 2005
I guess not ;-) PIC has recently reported that this interview may have been old. They noted that Hawkins referred to his company as palmOne and that's now been a month since they've been Palm, Inc. So they are speculating that Hawkins was referring to the LifeDrive. However, the LifeDrive has been out for 3 months now and everyone knew about it long before then.

So I still think this is some new division that we are all not aware of. Hopefully we'll find out at some point here what he was really talking about.


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