Comments on: PalmSource: One on One with Mike Mace

Mike Mace is the Chief Competitive Officer for the newly-created Palm subsidiary, PalmSource. He held the same position at Palm, Inc. until the spin-off. His job is to be the company's expert on both PalmSource's licensees and their competitors and be able to make predictions about the direction the entire handheld market is moving.

He sat down for an interview with News Editor Ed Hardy on Day 3 of the annual PalmSource conference.

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What is your take...

acarrino @ 2/8/2002 4:24:52 PM #
Ed, what is your take on the conversation you had Mike? He said a lot, but you need to be in someone's presence to get the sense of the conversation...any comments for us?


\\ AC

RE: What is your take...
Ed @ 2/8/2002 5:24:16 PM #
Hmmm, I'm not quite sure what you mean. Mike's a very up-beat, positive guy and he's very enthusiatic about everything PalmSource is doing, and that really comes across when you speak to him. I didn't get the sense I was being "spun" or anything.

Was that kind of what you were asking?

News Editor

RE: What is your take...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 6:47:36 PM #
just looking for your opinion...anything he might havve hinted at, or anything you might have picked up on (i.e. particularly jumpy about certain Q's, etc.) Thanks for your response.


\\ AC

RE: What is your take...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:19:28 PM #
"I didn't get the sense I was being "spun" or anything."

I didn't get that sense either. How completely refreshing for Palm! I have to admit, OS 5 may be underwhelming, but the new face of PalmSource is incredibly good and bodes well.

RE: What is your take...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 5:02:57 PM #
Mike Mace sounds very open and candid in the interview. I like it when people just come out and say "OS5 is our top priority," no BS and no carrots stuck out in front of us.

Interesting Interview... Too many CHIEFs

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 4:23:38 PM #
Interesting interview... but...

While reading the interview, I kept thinking isn't the title of CHIEF COMPETITIVE OFFICER ridiculous ?!? Talk about too many CHIEFs and not enough indians. Palm was and is still bitten by position inflation. At a dot.bomb where I worked long ago, they had such inflated titled such as CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER (i.e., human resource dork) and CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER (the most uncreative person I've met in my life).

Everyone wanted to be a CHIEF and not enough indians to do the work. Net effect: the company tanked. Stock dropped to the nether realms. And the company CEO is still carrying on his affair with his executive assistant (that was not a well kept secret either).

RE: Interesting Interview... Too many CHIEFs
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 4:34:46 PM #
That's why people go to study MBA so they can be CHIEFs .... as the university produced too many MBA student, so they need to invent more CHIEFs so they can keep leeching off people that really do anything productive.

Dude...what's with the analogy?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 5:15:09 PM #
Chiefs and indians?

RE: Interesting Interview... Too many CHIEFs
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 5:21:09 PM #
not enough Indians...

RE: Interesting Interview... Too many CHIEFs
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 5:57:44 PM #
Nice comment, but it really has nothing to do with the interview at all, does it?

Judge not, less you are judged yourself
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 11:52:08 PM #

RE: Too many CHIEFs - even less Indians!!! :(
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:03:39 AM #
I just heard PalmSource, Inc laid off their one-and-only Asia Pacific employee. Gavin Maxwell (author of a Palm programming book) was based in Australia, but was let go due to continued restructuring of the PalmSource company. Apparently they are only focusing on the US market now in terms of developer relationships/support/evangelism. :-(

This is a major downer for us Asian/Pac developers. Gavin worked long and hard to help us out in so many ways. He was a regular contributor to the palm-dev forum and always answered email promptly. I was actually taught by him at a Palm Developer course in Hong Kong and was so impressed with his breadth of knowledge on Palm OS and programming in general.

If PalmSource are letting people like him go I think they have more troubles than we know about.

Gavin, you will be missed! Please stay in touch with your students! :-)

Stephen - Hong Kong

if not drive them out of business

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 4:33:30 PM #
why not bundle their apps in palm OS instead of using the aging PIM software ?

RE: if not drive them out of business
ptc @ 2/8/2002 4:36:02 PM #
This could be too expensive - they'd have to pay a license fee for every "new and improved" PIM app when I'd imagine most people just want the basic PIM functioanlity that comes with a Palm. I like the idea of upgrading to a 3rd party app - this leads to competition and more apps out there. I hate to use M$ as an example, but the basic calculator they include with windows has changed much in years. If you want a better one, you buy a better one from a 3rd party...

Paul C.
RE: if not drive them out of business
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 2:02:30 AM #
Another approach would be to give away a CD with every Palm that includes trial versions/demos of a diverse range of popular software. (Or, perhaps, distribute demos of all the Palm certified programs.) That way the cost would be limited to a few cents for the CD itself, the developers would get more exposure and users could purchase through Palmgear/Handandgo/whatever.

RE: if not drive them out of business
LarryGarfield @ 2/10/2002 6:18:35 AM #
HandEra already does this. The HandEra 330 includes unregistered / trial versions of several titles that are designed to take advantage of the 330's QVGA screen. That's not something for PalmSource to do, however, that's something individual licensees (Palm, HandEra, Sony, Handspring, etc.) do separately. They're the OEMs, they should be handling that.

Frankly, I'm very impressed with PalmSource's history. They have bought several companies in the past year, including the awful decision to buy Peanut Press, but by and large they've gone out of their way to avoid competing with 3rd party developers. Contrast that to MS, who goes out of their way to destroy every 3rd party software developer they can. As a business model, PalmSource's system is better in the long term for both businesses and for consumers. (Compare to PocketPC, where there is one and only one office suite, PocketOffice. Palm users have what, 4? 5?)

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RE: if not drive them out of business
Foo Fighter @ 2/10/2002 9:05:28 AM #
Larry, how can you say that PalmSource has a better business model, when none of the Palm licensees (excepting Sony) are profitable? The purpose of any business entity is to earn profits, manage revenues, and grow. Palm and Handspring are losing money, and losing marketshare. Is that a viable business model?

RE: if not drive them out of business
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/10/2002 10:02:14 AM #
> Palm and Handspring are losing money, and losing marketshare.

Handspring is actually gaining marketshare.

While PalmOS has slipped in percentage points, it is still gaining users at a faster rate than PPC is. Palm's loses aren't going to Compaq. Sales of handhelds that run neither PalmOS nor PPC are exploding in China, which is pushing up the total number of handhelds sold, dropping Palm's relative percentage.

It's easy to say "Compaq's sales have gone up 30%!" but that ignores that it is still below 10% of the total. Palm's have dropped, but it still has over 50% and the PalmOS has over 80%.

At least Sony is making money and Palm and Handspring say they will be soon. None of the PPC licensees are making money off their handhelds and neither is Microsoft. That's why there's rumor going around the whole platform will collapse if PPC doesn't start making a profit for someone. Even Microsoft can't keep pouring money down a rathole forever.

RE: if not drive them out of business
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 5:05:20 PM #
I kind of wish they would NOT bundle those lame PIM apps at all, or at least allow them to be erased from ROM easily (w/o having to buy the Jack programs). They could instead give us all "coupons" that we can use to register our favorite progs at a discount or something. My Clie 610c came with a 10% off at Handango coupon, which I thought was nice.

Never actually heard it described that way

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 4:49:50 PM #

>That's going to sound really weird to your on-line readers because they are out on the crusty edge of innovation

I think I've found my new tag-line!

I'm serious.

RE: Never actually heard it described that way
crustyedgeofinnovation @ 2/8/2002 5:39:47 PM #
ooh, oooh, i got the name, I will forever be crusty!

RE: Never actually heard it described that way
CrustyTheClown @ 2/8/2002 7:09:34 PM #
Well, I'm a Simpsons fan so I chose CrustyTheClown....

RE: Never actually heard it described that way
Foo Fighter @ 2/8/2002 9:03:18 PM #
Sounds like an insult to me. In other words, we are extremists.

The only thing "crusty" I see is Palm's operating system.

RE: Never actually heard it described that way
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:06:18 AM #
Foo, I remember someone called you a troll and you said loudly you weren't. I've been noticing what you post lately and I haven't seen you say one positive thing about anything Palm related. That's in about 2 weeks.

RE: Never actually heard it described that way
TDS @ 2/9/2002 12:37:29 AM #
Mike was pointing out that the readers of this sight are not your typical PalmOS user. I would wager that the typical reader of this site makes up only 5% or so of Palms users. Many of the others view it simply as a tool.
It makes a lot of sense that Palm is targeting 85% of it's users instead of the 5%-10% of us "Crusty Techo-Nerds"
In all, I think this was a great interview! I know that Mike is restricted in the information he can release, but I would LOVE to find out if Handspring is going to license OS 5.

RE: It could be worse Foo
Islander @ 2/9/2002 6:04:30 AM #
At least Mike didnt call you a "Crusty Techo-Nerd."

BTW dont get all hurt about it.
Accept it dude. You more than most of us. Near daily posting to multiple threads on multiple sites, list ect. HAVE TO GET our daily dose of PDA news. I consider MYSELF such and I actually post a couple of times a month.

The irony here is that for every minute of efficiency gained by our technotoys we are losing two as a result of our passion for these devices. But its a free world so who cares.

NEWSFLASH fellow nerds. That aint normal. But you can bet that Mike is right in saying that we are "on the crusty edge of innovation." This is in no way an insult. If you took that to mean "we are extremists, that is not what Mike said. However in truth extremist is a more than accurate description of what we are.

Dont "Fight" it Foo.
Learn it, live it, love it.
Take pride in being among the elite few:
"On the crusty edge of innovation"

Very interesting interview, Ed.

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 5:02:30 PM #
Can you please comment on whether or not he gave any hints about the M130/M515.

Your feedback is much appreciated.

RE: Very interesting interview, Ed.
Ed @ 2/8/2002 5:14:32 PM #
Glad you like the interview. The suggested questions you guys gave yesterday were a big help.

I asked him about the m130 and m515 and he said he no longer works for Palm and can't comment on any Palm products.

One of the other press people says he saw the m515 here. A third-party developer had one and was showing it to a few attendees, off the record of course. The news guy said the screen had a brightness adjustment and at full power was much brighter than an m505's. He said the guy who had it told him that, at max brightness, it has a shorter battery life than the m505's. That's also true from the Sony models, I believe. No idea what the battery life is like when the screen brightness is lowered.

News Editor

RE: Very interesting interview, Ed.
Scott @ 2/8/2002 5:18:44 PM #
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Ed didn't ask about them because he already knows about them and is under NDA. I wouldn't be surprised if he already has one or both of them in his hands for review purposes.


RE: Very interesting interview, Ed.
Davy @ 2/8/2002 6:29:27 PM #
Uhhh..... Ed doesn't work with Palm, and I don't believe he would have these models at all.... I mean, why would they give him a review model if they hadn't even announced it? Unless they planned to do a combined-announcement-launch, no way.

RE: Very interesting interview, Ed.
Scott @ 2/8/2002 8:04:46 PM #
I know he doesn't work for them. But as one of the top two Palm OS web sites (Brighthand being the other), it wouldn't be unheard of for them to have given him a Palm OS device to review prior to its release, so long as he agreed not to publish his review until after the device was officially released. I'm not saying if this definitely is the case, just that it's possible.


RE: Very interesting interview, Ed.
Scott @ 2/9/2002 11:16:14 AM #
Doh! I just realized that Ed had replied to this thread a few minutes before my initial reply. So much for my thoughts. I still stand by my comments that it isn't unheard of for a reviewer to get a hold of products prior to release.


more categories pleeease?

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 5:02:19 PM #
Is anyone else desperate for more categories in the basic apps (read: Address Book)?

If I could just have this, I would be happy as a clam-

Is there any serious problem in the underlying OS or 3rd-party app compatability that prevents this?

RE: more categories pleeease?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 5:29:41 PM #
If you need more than 15 categories, then you need to reorganize your life.

Or, you will need a database program instead.

RE: more categories pleeease?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 5:48:47 PM #
I thought that's what the Palm was supposed to do!

RE: more categories pleeease?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:13:43 AM #
yesh i wish they would expand the 15 categories as well as i use my palm alot for work and i'm running out of categories for work.. and plus my personal life as well.. can't they just make the categories unlimited for the phone book?

RE: more categories pleeease?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 11:09:36 AM #
In addition to more categories, I want sub-categories as well, where my sub-category shows up as a sub-menu in the categories menu.

RE: more categories pleeease?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 11:35:14 AM #
Palm, please add categories to the Date Book too.

RE: more categories pleeease?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:12:29 PM #
I have 1,500+ contacts and 75+ Memos. I don't need no more stinkin categories. But if you do, I guess I can understand. But how micro-categorized do you need to be for C-sakes????

RE: more categories pleeease?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:40:36 PM #
This seems like this is one simple thing Palm so sit one programmer down for a week to get done and end this debate. I'm not a programmer so I guess it could be more complex than this but they really should update their basic apps.

RE: more categories pleeease?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:43:55 PM #
I have 4135 contacts and 1054 memos, and yes, I need more categories. Only in Address Book though- Datebk4 brings categories to the calendar, and I'm actually OK with the 15 Memo categories. But the 15-cat limitation in the Address Book is killing me. As the poster above, I use my Palm for managing both work and personal contacts, and it would be great to be able to have a category for each region I have contacts in, etc., but I quickly ran out.

RE: more categories pleeease?
LarryGarfield @ 2/10/2002 6:23:22 AM #
A junior developer's perspetive on categories: It's not as easy as it sounds.

Everything on the Palm is a database. Every program is a database, every DOC file is a database, every data file is a database, everything. A database is made up of records. Each database and each record have a small header, provided by the OS. Each header provides a certain number of fields, which hold certain specific pieces of information. (Database name, record ID, etc.)

One of those fields on records is an 4-bit binary field (meaning 16 possible values), which specifies the record's category. Each binary value corresponds to a text string in the database header. So the binary string 0001 (binary for 1) would be keyed to "Personal" and 0010 (binary for 2) would be keyed to "Business". 0000 (binary 0) is reserved for "Unfiled". 16 possible values minus one for Unfiled gives 15 possible user-defined categories per database. (The Address Book is one single database.)

That setup makes very good sense in most cases. It's very simple, extremely space efficent, and very very fast. All things that made the Palm succeed. Altering it, however, is difficult. It would require changing the fundamental database structure across the board, most likely by adding more bits to the field. (8-bit field would give 256 categories, for instance.) However, doing so would break a lot of stuff, very badly, since the fundamental database structure is rather important. :-) Say, every current program that uses categories. There are possible ways around it, but they are much more involved and would considerably increase the complexity.

That's not to say that PalmSource shouldn't find a way around the limit. I'm just pointing out that it's not a completely arbitrary limit, and fixing it is not as simple as it may sound at first.

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RE: more categories pleeease?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/10/2002 10:20:51 AM #
To add to what was just said, don't forget PalmSource would have to change the conduits and the desktop app, too. It's going to be a big job. I'd guess they decided to make all the changes at once rather than do a half-a$$ed job. Too bad this has to wait another year but I'd rather they take their time and do it right rather than do it wrong.

RE: more categories pleeease?
andrewholler @ 1/17/2003 11:59:55 AM #
Wow, is this neccisary? New categories could help, but who knows? who really knows!

Email me about anything at
Current PDA:= Palm M130
by the way, Can someone buy me a TT?

My thoughts...

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 5:19:58 PM #
A fantastic interview and I loved that he was honest in his answers of some tough questions regarding the future of the OS... that said I have a few thoughts.

1. While I understand logically the need to split the OS releases up into more bite sized bits, the sad truth is that Palm needs some sorely need obvious to the end user improvements right now, not later. Sure I understand all the reasons why that might not be possible but that doesn't change the fact it is needed. By the time OS 6 or whatever it will be called arrives with a more updated GUI, multithreading, memory protection, native ARM apps not through PACE, and updated PIM apps it will be mid 2003 and where will Palm's competitors be then? I don't know where PocketPC will go, and it maybe it will still continue in more expensive, larger sized handheld route in which case Palm is still same... but then again maybe we will see an improved GUI, iPAQ the size of an m505, all for $399 by mid 2003 too.

2. It is short sighted some of his statements on the PIM. We do not want ActionNames or Datebk4 functionality in the core OS, but improved and updated PIM functions need to be one of the highest priorities for any of the new OS's. The core apps of the Palm haven't been updated since 1997 in OS 2.0 of the PalmOS and their inherent database structure is actually holding back even the aftermarket apps like ActionNames etc. because of it.

3. I am skeptical about the 6-9 month claim between OS releases. All I can say is I hope Palm and the other companies making PalmOS units reward those of us who buy bleeding edge OS 5 units with quick and timely flash updates for no more than an nominal (read under $40-50) fee when these updates come out. My biggest fear in buying an OS 5 unit is not finding that in 6 months a much faster unit comes out, but rather than a major OS release with the things I finally want arrives but I can't have it without buying a whole new unit.

RE: My thoughts...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 5:32:03 PM #
Remember most Palm users are not power users. Most people I know don't even use 50% capability of the built-in functions.

They are right that the underlying OS needs to be there so that 3rd party companies can produce software that the power users want. I think that's a good strategy for OS company.

If Palm is in PIM business, then of course, it is wrong, but they are not.

RE: My thoughts...
Ed @ 2/8/2002 5:34:31 PM #
Glad you liked the interview. But I have to disagree with you.

To coin a phrase, "It's the hardware, stupid". While the OS and associated things are important, they aren't what draw people's attention. Let me give you an example. We posted two articles this week on OS 5. We also posted a short piece that was really just a picture of a Sony prototype handheld that we know almost nothing about. The Sony article got more hits than the two OS 5 articles combined.

Most people aren't even aware of the existence of some the features that you say the Palm OS absolutely has to have to have in order to survive. Go up to someone you see on the street with a Palm handheld and ask them if they care that the device they are using isn't multi-threaded. If you can even get them to understand it, they will probably think the handheld they have does it now.

Don't get me wrong; I agree that the improvements you want are important. But Palm won't be out of business without them by next year. PalmSource agrees and is working to add them with all due haste.

But the platform will still be great without them. Definitely Palm and almost certainly Sony are going to release some outstanding models running OS 5 by this fall. Developers are going to make excellent third-part apps like games, MP3 players, and more that show off the power of the ARM-based chips. There will be much rejoicing, except among a few purists who are letting themselves get bogged down in the technical details.

> maybe we will see an improved GUI, iPAQ the size of an m505, all for $399 by mid 2003 too.

In order for this to happen, Microsoft would have to totally change their entire concept of what a handheld is supposed to be. To Microsoft, a handheld is a little laptop that runs Windows Lite. This basic assumption will always leave them with a clunky OS and expensive hardware requirements. So while what you say is physically possible, it would require Microsoft to become a very different company, which you and I both know isn't going to happen.

News Editor

RE: My thoughts...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 5:47:37 PM #
The core PIM functions do not need updates. It is perfect, as it is.

RE: My thoughts...
Sweetlu @ 2/8/2002 6:28:45 PM #
Great Interview Ed.

I though it was interesting to see that Palm does really read our comments that come out of this forum.

Cheers for Mike Cane and being recognized for his efforts. It's good to know that in the future Palm will be eliminating some of the limitations out of the built in applications.

Just one thought, now that Palmsource is on its own, would it be wise to start developing some of their own major Enhacements/Utility applications in order to increase their revenue stream. I can't see them surviving on Palm OS licensees alone.

RE: My thoughts...
rldunn @ 2/8/2002 6:33:44 PM #
> Let me give you an example. We posted two articles
> this week on OS 5. We also posted a short piece that
> was really just a picture of a Sony prototype
> handheld that we know almost nothing about. The Sony
> article got more hits than the two OS 5 articles
> combined.

That's because I went back to the Sony article 20 times to drool over the picture yet again, while I only read the OS 5 articles once each, and I'm sure I'm not alone :)

RE: My thoughts...
crustyedgeofinnovation @ 2/8/2002 6:41:16 PM #
that's exactly his point you idiot!

RE: My thoughts...
acarrino @ 2/8/2002 6:54:45 PM #
crusty, just had to comment on the user name...very enjoyable!

RE: My thoughts...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 6:56:55 PM #

I think I will use "CrustyOldBastard". I like it.

RE: My thoughts...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 7:08:17 PM #
I really don't need more than 15 fields but if PalmSource doesn't want to totally revamp the address book/planner and wipe out DateBk then I think that's fine. Palm should however work on adding support for more fields so third party developers can improve their products since I believe they use the Palm's built in database but I could be wrong.

RE: My thoughts...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 8:28:22 PM #
The only thing that I feel is absolutely necessary more fields (ie a second set of address fields for home/work) in the address book. Everything else is fine or can be fixed by 3rd party apps.

RE: My thoughts...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:48:28 AM #
For "Non-Crusties" the improvements wanted are not "multi-threading" or many O/S related items but they do want improved useability. Most of the time (80%+) this means the core applications. As a techy I understand the need to move to a new basis (for the O/S) and as a marketing person I think they are making a brave (and correct) decision to split the "old" O/S5 release into two or more releases (starting with what is now O/S5 but get the first one out more quickly). Also *not* putting the DateBk4 guys out of business is darn good idea. However, people want an improved core set of apps that are common to their friends without having to add 3rd party software. PalmSource should continue to leave space for the ROM App Replacement guys but the core apps need to grow in usefulness. Also PocketPC/Microsoft will not rest! I hope to see Palm Desktop look and feel to the new apps (for the Calendar anyway) asap.

My 2C


RE: My thoughts...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 2:16:26 AM #
"In order for this to happen, Microsoft would have to totally change their entire concept of what a handheld is supposed to be. To Microsoft, a handheld is a little laptop that runs Windows Lite. This basic assumption will always leave them with a clunky OS and expensive hardware requirements. So while what you say is physically possible, it would require Microsoft to become a very different company, which you and I both know isn't going to happen."

Ed, you are absolutely right. But, I think the cause and effect is a little different. My theory is that M$ tried to learn the lesson of why WinCE v1 and v2 failed; they tried to trim down their OS and make the UI better. However, Palm was so successfull and they left so little room for improvement that M$ felt that if they produced a 'me-too' PDA, they would not have any decent marketing angle and so they would not be able to secure the support of manufacturers. The only real option for M$ was to take their usual approach (at least with desktop apps) of trying to compete on the basis of features (regardless of the fact that they are useless to most users) which, as you rightly say, lead to a bloated underperforming OS, to say nothing of the ambitious hardware specs. Either way, you are right, PPC has no hope against the re-invigorated PalmOS.

More address fields for home...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 9:28:39 PM #
>The only thing that I feel is absolutely necessary more fields (ie a second set of address fields for home/work) in the address book. Everything else is fine or can be fixed by 3rd party apps.

I was actually hoping for this, too. Thought it would have happened long ago.

PalmOS needs a rewrite and OO language support

donpdonp @ 2/8/2002 6:22:28 PM #
I am a relatively new PalmOS developer. My background is in Java and assorted open source scripting languages. I got really excited about PDAs when I first learned about bluetooth. Over the past 3 months Ive been working on PalmOS development at about 10 hours a week.

Im working on a mass transit scheduling app and my first thought and hope was to use Java on PalmOS. I found IBM's VAME to be the best implementation but I couldnt afford the $12/copy runtime licence fees. I've since moved to straight "c" development with the gcc tools. I've been picking up more and more of the PalmOS API.

My conclusion so far is that the PalmOS 3.x/4 API is a mess. a hack.

Very often there is a mix of modifying the data structure and the look of a form element with the same method call. For instance, putting text in a table element forces the appending of a ':' character to the text. To get rid of this you must make your own UI element routines.

Memory seems to be divided into 'Chunks'. There are two kinds of references to chunks, MemHandles and MemPointers. Both must be locked before they can be used. MemPointers cant be moved in RAM, MemHandles can. Call the method to lock a memhandle and you get a mempointer.
want to unlock a memhandle? you cant use the mempointer, you need the original memhandle.

You have a Form, filled with user interface elements. In the UI definition file you give each element an ID. FrmHideObject will hide an UI element from view. What do you pass to FrmHideObject? The element ID? no! the element Index. How do you know an element's index? You call FrmGetObjectIndex -which by the way wants to know what form you're working with even though UI element IDs appear to be unique across all forms. How does an Index relate to an ID? it doesnt!

Some, maybe a lot, of the frustration I've had with PalmOS is the limitations of c. PalmOS is largely responsible for this because c is the only language the actively promote. For instance to put some debugging info on display in java (Regular Edition) its System.out.println("("i="+i+" message of "+message"; With IBM's VAME they have the mother-of-all classes to wrapp the whole PalmOS API in one class: Os.FrmCustomAlert("i="+i+" message of "+message, null, null). In c its char msgbuffer[80]; StrPrintF(msgbuffer, "i= %d message of %s", i, message); FrmCustomAlert(FatalErrorAlertForm, msgbuffer, null, null); (that may not compile exactly but its close enough to show my point). (note that FatalErrorAlertForm being a form and not a UI element doesnt need the ID to Index lookup)

I have a pulldown list that I want to populate with records from a database. DmGetRecord and funky pointer casting I am able to pull out the records. Now I need to use LstSetListchoices. On Page 259 and 260 of Palm OS Programming 2nd Ed from OReilly, the have pointer arithmetic that rivals a space launch to get a two dimension array allocated and deallocated in the right way, at the right time. Java's collection classes such as java.util.vector would make an operation like this as simple as putting things in a bag (eg. listChoices.add(element)) and handing the bag to the UI element (eg. java.awt.pulldown.setElements(listChoices);)

The last straw was today, under POSE. I had my form up, I had a pulldown list on the screen, I put up an Alert window. POSE reports that this third layer of UI is too much. "Windows cannot be under forms because they can't be redrawn". It appears there is some limit of two layers of UI elements on the screen at one time. Im not working with c and PalmOS 4 anymore.

I have been reading about PalmOS 5 this week and the new features are very exciting. A bluetooth API, plugable audio/video codecs, a sound API, etc.. I am writting this letter to say please make a rewrite of the most basic APIs the priority for the next OS release, or at least wrap the whole thing in a usable, object oriented framework. Metrowerk's project along these lines is encouraging, but PalmOS prides itself on its easy of entry for software developers. This is only possible with free tools. Please promote Java on the Palm platform and include a JVM and Java class libraries on every new palm. Promote open source languages such as Python (see the pippy project), ruby, and perl. Put PalmOS developers 20 years ahead of where it is now by unshackling developers from the "portable assembly language" that is c and showing them a threaded, object oriented, garbage collected environment with Model View Controller user interface elements and remote method calls and mobile code (serializable) and everything else that makes java wonderful!

Thank You
Don Park

RE: PalmOS needs a rewrite and OO language support
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 7:33:20 PM #
I believe a major rewrite of Palm OS APIs is on the table for the OS 6 timeframe and will be the point in which time applications written for OS 6 will no longer run on pre OS 6 handhelds (ie. non ARM units since hopefully all ARM handhelds, even those with OS 5 will be upgradable to OS 6.) This will be the big "breaking" point as for now OS 5 and OS 4.1 apps will be compatible. This was all stated at Palmsource this week and is a likely reason why the OS migration is going slower so that by the time this occurs a reasonable percentage of ARM Palms will be in the hands of users as opposed to forcing developers to make programs for the few who have the new bleeding edge ARMs this fall but not for all those who currently own the 21 million Palms sold.


RE: PalmOS needs a rewrite and OO language support
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 10:08:02 PM #
I agree. Writing application for Palm OS is no easy task. The API is pretty messy. Since OS 5+6 is a complete rewrite, they should be able to clean up the C API.

RE: PalmOS needs a rewrite and OO language support
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/8/2002 11:50:20 PM #
Palm clearly stated at Palmsource that the OS 5 API will the same as the OS 4.1 API plus a few new APIs for high res screens and security. The follow on OS (we'll call it 6 but it is up in the air) will have all new APIs that will cause programs written for 6 to not work with any other OS. OS 6 will however continue to support pre OS 6 apps. This big break as I stated will be helped by the fact at the time OS 6 arrives the ARM platform will have been on the scene at least 12 months.

RE: PalmOS needs a rewrite and OO language support
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/10/2002 9:48:27 AM #
> Put PalmOS developers 20 years ahead of where it is now by unshackling
> developers from the "portable assembly language" that is c and showing
> them a threaded, object oriented, garbage collected environment with
> Model View Controller user interface elements and remote method calls
> and mobile code (serializable) and everything else that makes java wonderful!

Java is an awful language for limited resource devices like these. I love Java, but if you can't handle the decent (though not great) C APIs and especially memory management on the Palm, you probably shouldn't be playing with the big boys in your programming attempts. It is borderline at best to call anything in the exposed Java APIs Model, View, Controller as well. Last I knew, Palm was actively involved in the specification of a PDA profile for Java 2 Micro Edition. Java has, at best, some very weak implementations on Pocket PC which have considerably more resources than current Palms.

Mike Mace: This Is The Core App Point

Islander @ 2/9/2002 6:41:50 AM #
Thank you Mr. Mace for your time in giving us this interview. Your answer about core apps seemed to miss the point of what most want in the way of software improvements.

It is not about replacing 3rd party apps. DB4 and AN are both handcuffed by core os limits. I own both products and am on their lists. People request more categories, or multiple categories per contact, more address fields ect, the answer is ALWAYS that the are limited by the constraints of the OS. If they add such features they lose compatability with the desktop.

Outlook has this ability and this is what we want on our devices. This is not a Desktop in our pocket request. These are basic PIM funtions, what Palm does best.

I love having choice and do not wish to duplicate the functions that 3rd parties provide. You are right about the fact that they can do this better than you can. That is their role. But without Palmsource making core changes 3rd party software cannot fix what is missing to begin with. This is your role.

Please do not take this as bashing. I only wish to add constructive criticism. I am very excited about what is to come. I love your product and only hope to be helpful in improving it. I hope for an exciting and long future for your company. But please do not underestimate the value to the end user of such a change.

Thanks Mike again for sharing with us a glimpse of what is to come.

If you do speak to Mike again please ask specifically whether the core app change here described are in the works.

RE: Mike Mace: This Is The Core App Point
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 8:04:45 AM #
The slides up at Palmsource indicated in the next major OS after OS 5 there will be "PIM updates and database changes" so I assume it will happen. I find it galling that it hasn't yet, esp. since OS 2.0 in 1997 there hasn't been an update. I agree with everything you said, I don't want a desktop in my pocket but the OS is limited even aftermarket providers from providing me the functionality I need.

RE: Mike Mace: This Is The Core App Point
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 8:05:57 AM #
I'm glad to hear that Palm reads this feedback. I'd just like to add my vote that the reason I chose a Palm III back in 1998 and retired my Psion 3a was the functionality of the PIM functions that I could use my PC to enter and sync information (that's where the Psion fell apart).

The problem with most add-on programs is that they don't address one of the core benefits of the Palm platform -- the ability to use your PC to enter and manage info quickly and then sync it with the Palm. Or there are limitations in the standard app's that they can't modify -- number of fields in address books and in to do items are key (e.g., Action Names or Datebook can't add a field for meeting attendees or one for location to an appointment).

Also, many of us use (or have to use for corporate reasons) MS Outlook at work for some or all PIM functions. If I lose info in the syncing process to the Palm because of the limitations of the Palm OS, then that could be a big deal in deciding on my next handheld.

So for me, enhancements to the PIM functions are key in deciding my next handheld.

RE: Mike Mace: This Is The Core App Point
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 8:11:59 AM #
Well, don't forget that there were some minor tweaks in OS3.5 - agenda view for Datebook, better drop-down menus controls, etc.

RE: Mike Mace: This Is The Core App Point
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 5:15:52 PM #
So PalmSource does NOT understand that today when you buy a Palm OS device, it's actually a bad PIM-tool that you bought? They *know* their own software lacks oh so many features and say: "You can go buy shareware!" ??

But isn't the main reason for buying a Palm OS device (albeit only the excuse to buy one most of the time) the PIM functions?

Oh well, maybe MS has a right to win.

RE: Mike Mace: This Is The Core App Point
kevdo @ 2/9/2002 7:30:29 PM #
Would it be too much to ask for Datebook items (and, yes, To Do and Memo Pad items) that could each have a unique alarm sound?? (e.g. business alarms could use one sounds, personal alarms another).

That would be such a huge improvement. Esp. alarms for To Do items.

-Kevin Crossman

RE: Mike Mace: This Is The Core App Point
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 8:19:54 PM #
It is quiet obvious that the Palm OS is a system that
is ideal for third party software addons etc. so I wish people would realise this and move to another
system if they want everything in an OS. BUT I realy
hope that Palm will include an install tool for people
to replace apps of their choice, ie, larger flash memory(so as not to use up usable memory), auto install to flash and auto hide unused icon
of replaced app, auto assign to button of previous app,
I realize you probably can't delete unused app (OS Apps), but it could make it look as though it has replaced the application.?? Just a thought?
Great article and great site guys, KEEP UP THE GOODS
Bruce Burton

RE: Mike Mace: This Is The Core App Point
Islander @ 2/9/2002 9:35:24 PM #
Kev said:
"Would it be too much to ask for Datebook items (and, yes, To Do and Memo Pad items) that could each have a unique alarm sound?? (e.g. business alarms could use one sounds, personal alarms another)."

Yes that would be too much. 3rd party products can do this TODAY. You dilute my original point. For every person who requests what you want, there are 50 different visions of what a datebook or todo app should include. It is not for Palm to be all things for everyone. Let the 3rd parties create those type of improvements. Built in apps should be basic.

On the otherhand pointless limitations that cannot even be overcome by third party developers should be Palmsources focus. Just give developers the freedom to do what they do best. Remove the shackles and CESD and Iambic will do the job just fine.

Mike says: ''Trust us''

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 7:35:05 AM #
Mike had some interesting things to say in this interview and the main theme is basically 'you can trust Palm'.

You know what? I think I can trust those guys.

Let's put it in perspective: They have produced some excellent products over the years. Sure they made some mistakes recently, but they are trying to put things right. Their efforts to recover seem to be genuine and they are clearly addressing the issues in a forthright and sensible manner.

Now that we have some idea of what to expect, 6-9 months doesn't seem so long to wait, in the scheme of things. Like everyone else, I'd prefer 6-9 weeks (or days). However, I understand how important it is to get these things right (the first time). There is no sense in rushing to release some 'half-baked' code, just for the sake of getting something out.

Let's give them a chance and see what they can come up with.

(Ed, this is like my third post on this thread - don't shoot - I mean well.)

RE: Mike says: ''Trust us''
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:16:21 PM #
Trust? I don't trust nobody but my momma!

RE: Mike says:
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:36:19 PM #
"Trust? I don't trust nobody but my momma!"
Really? 'cause I know a few things.... ;P

RE: Mike says:
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/9/2002 12:38:39 PM #
" 'you can trust Palm'. "

Trust no one. Not even Momma.

In all seriousness, I don't trust Mace Windu and the rest of the PalmOS crew. See: I have a problem with the failed Apple alumni like David Nagel that are repeating the same mistakes. You definitely can't teach an old dog new tricks and neither can you teach new tricks to failed Apple alumni either.

I hope dearly that Palm survives but my lack of confidence in the 2 Live Crew running PalmOS stretches my imagination.

RE: Mike says: Nothing about my shares
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/10/2002 1:56:37 AM #
I dont trust mom, not Mace ant not the stockexchage.
Because I'm shareholder and only money counts at the end of the day. What about my shares, how are they accounted after the split? I did not get asked neither an offer as a shareholder. How much of my share belong to the hardware group, - how much to software team? And if hardware goes bankrupt or is bough by Sony what about my shares then?
Who benefits now is only the dreamer - surely not the shareholder as we see the stockprice dropping faster then the golden parachutes.

RE: MiMike says: ''Trust us''
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/10/2002 1:56:37 AM #
honestly - could sombody step forward and give a decent answer:
How is it legally possible that a company splits and the shareholders are left unasked in the dark.
Officially the two parts OS & hardware do not share anything together anymore. Not ever the lightest information.
I as a Palm shareholder I'm wondering what stock I have betted on.

RE: Mike says:
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/10/2002 8:52:18 AM #
See: Enron, Global Crossing, KMart..........

RE: Mike says: ''Trust us''
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/10/2002 10:45:34 AM #
> I have a problem with the failed Apple alumni like David Nagel that are repeating
> the same mistakes.

Did you read the interview at all? It sure doesn't sound like it. Only someone who tried to do what many of you want (rebuild an OS from the ground up all at once) can really understand what went wrong and prevent those same mistakes from happening again. Nagel has already shown that he's not repeating the same mistakes.

Would you rather have someone who has never done anything like this before in charge? If someone with no experience was handling this project, PalmSource would still be planning to make OS 5 this monumental change with all the new features you want... and there would be no new ARM-based handhelds out until March 2003, if it ever happened at all.

RE: Mike says: ''Trust us''
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/10/2002 11:11:32 AM #
I expected with OS5 a whole brand-new OS5 - one which is kind of like to OS4 what WindowsXP is to DOS - totally NEW. Faster, Cleaner, Prettier, more Elegant, and most importantly, MORE POWERFUL when combined with the ARM processor. They have been working on this for over 2 years (and should have been working on it for a lot longer) and I am underwhelmed by what I'm hearing. Looks like a bastardized OS4 for ARM? Nothing really new here? I would have liked to see them release a REAL OS5 a year ago and provide the OS to developers to begin transitioning over their current/new programs to the new OS5.

Sooner than you all think, the MS PPC camp will squeeze the power of an Ipaq+ into the m505 form factor/battery life. They will also make it even more and more user-friendly and at a very low commoditized price. It's only a matter of time. When this happens, Palm is done. History repeats itself.
I have an m505, but I am a MSFT shareholder.


mikecane @ 2/11/2002 11:32:01 AM #
Thanks, Michael Mace, for your kind words about my OS 5 Wish List. (Giving him the Most Secret Handsignal of The International Brotherhood of Mikes.)

I've read the interview and comments here (as of Sun, 2/10, 3PM ET). (I am Graffiti-ing this Comment on my CLIE for later HS C&P.)

Like many, I am disappointed that OS 5 is just a wee more than OS 4-for-ARM.

However, I can understand the strategy Nagel is using. Better "something" now rather than "everything" later (or much later). Or not at all -- viz, Copeland, Taligent, or Nokia's Palm-GUI-on-EPOC.

Several points --

1) I hope PalmSource will take a true leadership role. Hearing that a replacement for DOC is in the works would be a good sign. Let's not leave everything to third parties. If PalmSource wants third parties involved, issue a Paper stating an objective and invite feedback from developers.

2) It's not good news hearing that third-party developers are not financially flourishing. But that PalmSource exec is 1,000% wrong when he said (quoted at, "How do we get the painter...the taxi driver...and the executive [to buy PalmOS apps]? We can't go to CompUSA." If this is his thinking, he should be relieved of that jurisdiction -- fast. PalmOS developers will go bankrupt under such a limited vision.

3) For PIC readers who say they don't want a "handheld desktop replacement" -- it's too late. You already do. PalmOS devices are virtually equivalent to mid-1980s Macs.

4) I don't know why anyone needed to go to the PIC article 20x to look at the prototype CLIE pics. I grabbed photos off the Net and put them in my CLIE to view at any time. Shame, not using your own Palm device like this! (AlbumToGo is free! And PictureGear Pocket in built-into CLIEs. And, yes, the photos are fine on my 160x160 mono CLIE.)

5) The separation of the OS from the hardware is beginning to make for schizophrenic reading. Did "PalmHard" present at the Conference? Do they have a press liason? Is there someone to explain their idiotic decision not to make the "Universal Connector" truly universal? Why can't they license it? I hope PalmOS licensees will band together to create their own UC. It'd serve "PalmHard" right for bringing PPC's Connector Babylon to PalmOS!

RE: PalmHard/Soft
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 12:07:47 PM #
hehe, first off the name "PalmHard" really sounds like something really nasty. I just got some ideas for the "Universal Connector", why not all plam just standardize on USB or mini-USB plug ? so every palm will have a built in USB port, this might lead to something quite interesting.

bare brutal facts
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 7:01:33 PM #
The situation is in my humble opinion as follows, and I would as shareholder & Palm user, love to be lectured otherwise:

1.) PalmSoftware / now PalmSource never in history made a real profit selling their OS to anybody. Thought they contributed a few percent to the whole turnover –until now it was peanuts. The only real money the make currently is selling expensive boots to 3rd party developer at fairs or high price tickets to PalmSource.
2.) PalmHardware was highly profitable until more attractive competitors came along. So Palm hardware from every vendor (except Symbol selling wisely only to corporate market and Sony in Japan) also makes a loss now and is still burning money at an alarming rate. That is reflected in the free falling Palm share price as well.
3.) Handspring gave up the PDA line and concentrates with a device that could be most sellable in Europe (GSM is available there to about 450 million people) in the US market with a highly splittet provider environment – if they can ship / sale the items ever in quantities. If this strategy fails, there’s no lifesaving-boat left to turn to.
4.) Not bespoken the Xerox lawsuit which will, if they altogether cannot escape somehow (and it does not seem so) break Palm & others necks instantly who ever incorporated Graffiti. The sums probably requested from Xerox for 20 million or so sold Palms is in any case a final bullet.
5.) Handera has, even thought he is ugly as could be, a chance on the (corporate) market because he will be the only Palm PDA with two slots – providing space for data and by the same time other add on’s like cameras SD, GSM SD or else. Palm forgot this very important point.
6.) The part of the Palm market which hopefully really benefits and prosper from the Palm idea of the past will still be 3dr party developer and shareware programmer which will (I hope at least) continue to money even Palm itself, as we know it now, has passed away.
7.) I predict, as there’s no clear leader (always a former unsuccessful layman) and the money for the time for fixing the OS5 the jump to the Arm is not her anymore e– Palm will not see a further Christmas tree.

Anyhow – Palm is dead / long live Palm in the software industry – the programmers could live the last years until now without all the bugs and without a decent refurbishing on the Palm OS – they will manage further on basis of existing sold hardware – hopefully.

Lets discuss this without flames & insults PLEASE!

RE: PalmHard/Soft
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 7:09:46 PM #
Maybe Palm should have never licensed the OS? Was it damned if they do, damned if they don't?

Balance, children

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 9:42:50 PM #
Ah, my friends, life with a PDA is a suffering with disappointment with desires unfulfilled. I still say one of the few PDA's that came anywhere close to offering everything died when exposed to Steve Jobs' Reality Distortion Field. And it was too expensive.

People want better PIM stuff, because the PIM stuff is the main reason most people bother with Palms or PocketPCs. This is a true thing. People also want better hardware so they can do more things and be more free from the shackles of the desktop and the laptop. Also true. People want a better underlying OS, to overcome limitations, and bugs, and what all else is plaguing them. True. People don't want Palm to become monopolistic and eliminate most third parties. True again. People want new things that they never thought possible, enabling them to do new things, or old things much much better. Almost Always True.

But most of all...


Can you IMAGINE how hard it is to balance all these people's desires? What order do you go about them? You almost have to do them all eventually, or people will turn to better things. The previous directors of Palm did not know how to go about these things, so they stuck with what worked, and shackled the entire "Palm Economy" to the past. Slowly, and surely, the new entities are working to allow us to step into the future by, first and foremost, unshackling the hardware from the software. Now they're building a stable foundation, then they will see the potential of their foundation and build great things on top of it.

But they are doing it slowly, taking a wait and see approach, and *listening* more than they ever have, to their community. This may be too slow, or too late, but Palm, PalmSource, and the licensees are NOT dead yet, and in a year or two, we may all have something in our hands that will wipe of every smug PocketPC users smile, and be able to say "oh, gee, you paid $100 more for THAT?!!"

It will not do too much, it will not do too little. It will make me happy, and I'm an idealistic Palm dreamer.

What's WRONG with the Crusty Edge of Innovation??!!

RE: Balance, children
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/12/2002 2:36:37 PM #
The Newton was not only too expensive, it was too large.



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