Jeff Hawkins' Keynote Address

Handspring co-founder Jeff Hawkins gave a keynote speech at the PC Expo today in which he spoke in praise of "unconventional wisdom". For example, he said that conventional wisdom is that devices should adapt to people. Hawkins, however, believes that if you make a very useful device, people will learn how to use it, and he cited the keyboard as an example.

Conventional wisdom is that PDAs will become more and more like PCs. "It is very difficult not to add features to products," he said. "But it's important just to do the important things well ... and a faster CPU is not as important as a faster user experience."

He also praised the advantages or using a closed standard, like Springboard, verses and open standard, like the new Secure Digital (SD) slot.

PalmLounge has posted a paraphrased version of the question and answer portion.

What is your position on shipping Visors with rechargeable batteries?

Will we make a visor with rechargeables? Yes we will. Some people like them, some people like alkalines. It all comes down to product thickness.

Will Handspring support Bluetooth or 802.11?

My experience is that people want a single device; they don't want to carry a laptop around the office. Zircom is demoing a wireless LAN springboard module. Wireless data will eventually be free.

Will you support voice recognition in a PDA? I have colleagues in health care that are waiting to buy PDAs until they support voice recognition.

Well, they are going to have to wait a lot longer. I have been pitched by numerous companies that want me to integrate their product into the Visor. Multi-thousand word dictionaries, etc. I ask them the same question: give me a way to dictate the letters A through Z for under $5 - and no one can do it. That I would buy.

What about higher resolution displays and color?

Will we support color? Yes, we will. The problem is that color means compromises. With color display technology you have major issues to deal with: cost, power and size. The thing about handhelds (not just us, but Palm and everyone else) is that the screen technology is really poor. Older people tell us that they cannot read the screen. Although it is called black and white it is really gray on gray.

What about competition: Palm, Sony?

We are all using the same OS. (he seemed generally agreeable to competition). Handheld computing is not the personal computing space. It is much more like a cell phone. The OS plays a different role; on a PC the OS defines the product. On a handheld the OS is less significant. The last 5 products I developed, the Palm V, VII and Visor all run the same OS. The OS does not make you successful nor does it not. It is like 1982 in the PC hardware space; it is about who can innovate more. I don't even know what kind of computer I have on my desk - it's beige and has a reset button.

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