Opinion: Handspring Not Leaving the Palm OS
In a recent interview with Business 2.0, Handspring co-founder Jeff Hawkins said,"It's almost certain that we will have products that won't run Palm OS". This has been taken out of context by some to mean that Handspring is considering soon dropping the Palm platform and switching to another.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In the same article, Mr. Hawkins says, "We're very happy with Palm-and I mean that. All the products we want to build today, we can build with Palm OS." But this statement was skipped over by some who drew the wrong conclusion.
Handspring's other co-founder, Donna Dubinsky, has stepped in to try and clear up some of the muddle. She said yesterday that while Handspring may someday expand the number of operation systems they support, "We'll always have at least a major portion of our business in Palm". She went on to say her company saw no immediate need to use other OSs.
This is not a new position for the company. They have said in the past that if the market changes, they would consider another OS. Basically, they are covering all the bases. If, in a few years, Palm has lost its dominant position in the handheld market, Handspring would consider licensing whatever replaces it.
This isn't likely to happen soon. While Palm Inc.'s handhelds have slipped a bit from their previously astronomically high percentage of the market, the company that has gained most from this is Handspring itself. The Palm OS still commands 86% of all retail handheld sales.
They also said in the past they might also change if they saw a need to release a product that was simply impossible to create using the Palm OS. Both Mr. Hawkins and Ms. Dubinsky made it clear that this isn't happening, either. Mr. Hawkins said, "All the products we want to build today, we can build with Palm OS," while Ms. Dubinsky said, ""We're very happy with the Palm OS--we've been able to do everything we wanted to do".
A switch to another OS would be a large undertaking for the company. Creating a device that could still use Springboard modules while running a non-Palm OS might be an insurmountable hurdle. The applications that come pre-installed on the modules are Palm OS apps and Handspring would have to either produce a Palm emulation mode or convince the Springboard developers to rewrite their software.
An interesting question is whether Microsoft would allow Handspring to put the Springboard slot on a Pocket PC device. While this isn't confirmed, it appears that Microsoft requires its PPC licensees to use industry standard extension slots, like Compact Flash. Springboard is not an industry standard so there might be difficulties.
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