This week we talk with
Mr. Michael Mace, Chief Competitive Officer at PalmSource. As you
probably know, Palm has split into two companies: Palm Inc. is
the hardware maker and PalmSource the operating system maker. PalmSource
develops the operating system and software used on the Palm OS
platform. They work with companies that make Palm OS devices such
as Handspring, Sony, Symbol, Kyocera and Samsung. With Palm OS
5 now released to manufacturers, we thought it was high time to
get some info on it and the new features it will offer.
As Chief Competitive Officer, Michael Mace's role is to help
PalmSource and its partners make mobile devices ubiquitous throughout
the world. He and his team predict the future of the handheld
industry, including products, technology, market, and competitive
trends. He's been with Palm for three years.
is your role at PalmSource? How do you approach it?
job is basically to predict the future of the industry, figure
out how we can do the best job of serving customers, and then
make sure we do it. So it's a mix of strategy and marketing.
Palm OS 5 coming out running on the more powerful StrongARM
processor, what would you say Palm's competitive edge will
be? This processor has already been in use in Pocket PCs for
two years and is being replaced on that platform with the faster
XScale processor. Consumers might not see StrongARM as having
a competitive edge at this point.
Michael Mace: Our
competitive edge will be that we enable the greatest variety
of customer choice, all with a single consistent user interface
and software. So you can choose the hardware that meets your
particular needs (or your company's needs), at the price point
that works for you, and customize it with the widest selection
of software programs -- more than 14,000 and counting, covering
everything from spreadsheets and word processors to e-mail
and instant messaging to databases, education software, multimedia,
The handheld market is developing a little like the car
market -- there are very different products for different types of people.
There is no such thing as an ultimate car. Some people need SUVs, some
people need minivans, some people need sports cars. It's the same thing
in handhelds. Some people need an integrated smart phone. Some people
need multimedia. Some people just want the basics at a low price. Palm
OS gives you that choice.
In that spirit, Palm OS is not restricted to a single version
of ARM. It will work on Intel's XScale, as well as on ARM processors
from Motorola and Texas Instruments. Those processors all have different
strengths and price points. By supporting them all, we'll give customers
a nice range of prices and features to choose from, while retaining software
compatibility across the full range. We think giving customers that sort
of choice is very important, because different people want very different
things from handhelds.
all know about the unfortunate XScale mess that Microsoft faced recently
because they didn't re-code the operating system to take advantage
of the much faster processor. XScale-based Pocket PC 2002 devices run
in ARM compatibility mode. I'm sure you've been watching this shake
down. Has this changed PalmSource's approach to OS 5, if it has at
all? Will the OS run natively on StrongARM or will a portion run in
emulator mode? What kind of speed improvements should we see in the
wildly faster StrongARM compared to the Dragonball-based machines?
OS 5 is fully native on ARM, and we're working with all of our processor
partners (Intel, Motorola, and TI) to make sure it works very well
on their chips. In addition, we have tight relationships with ATI Technologies
and MediaQ, who create graphics accelerator chips for handhelds. We're
excited about what our licensees are creating with those partners.
In preliminary testing, Palm OS applications are running up to about three
times faster on Palm OS 5 than they do on the current systems. But performance
varies tremendously from program to program, and some programs may be slower
if the developer hasn't done any optimization.
Current Palm OS programs will run under emulation on Palm OS 5, assuming that
they are properly written and follow the right guidelines. Those programs will
get a performance boost from ARM in most cases -- despite emulation, they are
faster under ARM than on current hardware. If the developers want extra performance,
they can add ARM native code to their programs.
Because most existing Palm OS 4 programs will run on Palm OS 5, users are free
to choose when they want to step up to the new processor. Palm OS systems based
on the 68000 processor will continue to be a good value for many customers,
and they will not be obsoleted by the release of Palm OS 5 systems. This is
not a forced migration --- it's an expansion of the choices available to customers.
new features should we look for in OS 5?
addition to ARM support, the main changes are enhanced security (for
both wireless connections and on-device data storage), native support
for high-resolution screens (something our licensees had offered before,
but is now built into the OS), and support for greatly enhanced sound
(sound capture and multi-voice sound playback). The net impact of all
these changes will be a wider range of hardware choices, more secure
enterprise solutions, and great improvements in functions like e-book
reading, document processing, voice memo capture, and games.
you tell us a little bit about the new Palm devices that are coming
out in October? What will be the most exciting things?
Michael Mace: I
can't give you specifics on the upcoming hardware from any licensee,
or on the release date. They get to announce their products in their
own time, and I can't preview that.
Some general hints: I am very excited by several new Palm OS based smartphones
that are in the works, I am very encouraged by the advanced multimedia features
coming on several systems, and I'll be very intrigued to see the combination
GPS/handheld that is being developed by Garmin.