Discussion: Should Handspring Make a Non-Palm Handheld?

Handspring has had a good first year but they have one potential problem: Their fate is inextricably linked to Palm's. If Palm can't get their act together and update the Palm platform, Handspring is going to be stuck up the creek without an OS.

So, what should Handspring do about this? Should they stick with what they know and stay with Palm? Or should they license Pocket PC? Or what about Linux or even writing a whole new OS of their own? What about doing a combination of these? Add your opinion about what stategy Handspring should follow by clicking on the "Comments" icon below.

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Stay with Palm

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/22/2000 4:10:58 PM #
Most of us chose a Visor not only for the expandable Springboard but also because of the large number of files in the Palm system. Just because Palm's system is out of date & their stock is dropping is certainly no reason to drop out on the company that has gotten them where they are.


PFloyd @ 12/22/2000 4:11:30 PM #
I think it would bring a lot to the PDA community if Handspring made another PDA. I'm sure it's a complicated question...
How hard would it be to support Springboards under other OS's?
Would it help the larger Palm Springboard market if Springboard manufacturers could sell to a larger market? I bet the answer to that is yes. If Linux Handspring's were a hit then Xircom would sell more Springboards; lowering the price of Springboards, and making Palm Handsprings more desirable, etc.
I think they should stay a hardware company and let Palm be an OS company though. If they stick to hardware they wouldn't spread themselves too thin.

Don't know what you're talking about...

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/22/2000 4:50:18 PM #
Whoever posted this doesn't really understand the relationship between Handspring and Palm. It's not like Palm has complete control over PalmOS which Handspring licenses. Handspring works with Palm on PalmOS, and has their own versions of PalmOS.

Go fo it

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/22/2000 6:10:14 PM #
I think it would be great if they did expand to other OS'es in the PDA market. I think they have done alot to "waken" Palm up with their expansions, more color on the screen, more memory with the springboard technology, and even the first to bring a faster processor to the Palm family. I think they do have an eye for intuition and could expand that to other OS'es, (not just WinCE but also to Linex realm). Though I don't know if comming up with their own OS would be the best thing. I would take alot of resources, time, and money for that to happen. And though it is my own opinion, I think part of what makes the Palm OS so incredible at this time and has helped to lead to Handsprings success is the fact that there are literally thousands of programs that can be loaded on to Palm devices. To come up with their own OS I think would lack that twist that makes Palm's OS so versitle.


I.M. Anonymous @ 12/22/2000 6:30:16 PM #
...of course not. Have you forgotten who's running the company?

And make what?

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/22/2000 6:52:30 PM #
The only reason why people think Palm OS is behind the times is because of Microsoft and their marketing. Palm OS isn't behind the times, because the "missing features" aren't necessary for this market segment YET. So with all the marketing hype gone, what's missing from Palm OS?

PalmOS and Handspring

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/22/2000 7:13:01 PM #
C'mon - many of the innovations in Palm OS 4.0 were done by Handspring. If Palm has problems advancing the OS, then Handspring can just take the ball and run with it. For Handspring to go to another OS now would require enough of a change that it might just be too costly for them in the short term. (And I'm not sold on Linux handhelds yet - I've yet to see a compelling desktop on Linux or any Unix variant, usability is where it's at on a handheld. I should add that I'm a Linux/Unix fan - better/easier development environment than from the Redmond crowd).

RE: PalmOS and Handspring
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/31/2000 10:58:19 PM #
the k desktop environment (KDE) and gnome are both more user intuitive, and powerful than the ce desktop, the only reason ce is doing anything is because it has the win 9x look and feel, but as far as base usability, linux is way better. Palm has both of them beat however in simplicity, and will be hard to unseat as the king of the pda os realm. linux pdas will be for power users mostly - and of course hackers. and will nicely be leveraged by the fact that it will be able to run a lot of *nix platform software, and will easily integrate into current network environments. if there was a more multimedia enabled version of the palm os that could multi-task, and had the ability to hide or lock programs (not the whole pda) I would be happy. That's all a pda needs to be.

Do a PPC

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/22/2000 7:45:26 PM #
Handspring should jump on the Pocket PC bandwagon. They might want to look into creating a replacement for the Compaq Aero 1550 -- that is, a unit that would appeal to people who have outgrown their Palms and (yes!) Visors. Hawkins & Dubinsky are in business to make $$$, not to start or perpetuate a cult. Going with PPC makes more sense than for them to create an entire new OS or hardware architecture.

RE: Do a PPC
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/22/2000 7:47:04 PM #
BTW, the above was posted by mikecane@wildmail.com -- who keeps forgetting to register here, dammit. Hey, Ryan, do it for me, willya?

of course they should!

digichimp @ 12/22/2000 7:57:49 PM #
At PalmSource, Mr. Hawkins did great demos of how robust the Palm OS is currently.
It does multimedia by running an Activesky video clip on his Prism.
It does telephony with 3-way conferencing and SMS on the Visor Phone.
The Palm OS is great because developers have...well, developed it.

Nevertheless, Mr. hawkins did say his company was a Hardware company, period.
Other past reports indicate that Handspring is not a one Palm Pony and
I suspect that other platforms will be supported.
I think this is a good idea. It will show how great the Palm OS when
it still remains popular over the other Handspring supported platforms.

I think Handspring's mission is in handheld computing and not limited by the world of Palm.
That said considering their stock and low margins on hardware.
They most likely should move to other spaces.


a Palm/Handspring fan

no , because the f-15 ratio is 95 or so to 0

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/22/2000 10:52:29 PM #
i don't use a palm or hand spring, but i read about them. thats a really dumb idea.

should pc makers make their own os because microsoft is slow? has delays? isn't the best? of course not. its not so much the os but the programs that are made for the os. windows is great b/c there are millions of developers, and so is palm. the more programs = better the os, so in short this idea is flawed.

flame me @ y2kmatthew@yahoo.com


I.M. Anonymous @ 12/23/2000 12:13:49 AM #
Correct me if i'm wrong, but didn't Jeff Hawkins Create the palm OS? and Grafitti? He started up Palm but needed some money to do it, so US Robotics helped him out, then 3com bought US robotics and didn't care about palm that much until they saw how well it was doing, but Jeff didn't like the way 3com were doing things so he asked if they would spin off palm and they said never so he and 3 other employes left and started up handspring then they went with the visor prototype to 3com's plam head boss guy and showed him out of good manners and the next day Palm got spun off to a seperate compan

SO Jeff Hawkins could very well redesign HIS OS and make modifications update it ETC

RE: Jeff... wrong!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/23/2000 9:53:49 PM #
While the OS was his creation, legally it belongs to Palm, Inc. Jeff has no power over PalmOS anymore. Modifying the Handspring OS is allowed by Palm's OS licensing.

Good Question

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/23/2000 1:06:41 AM #
If I had the choice to by an OS based on what Jeff Hawkins learned today as opposed to what he learned 4 years ago (original Palm). I would pick the OS that he is most proud of, the one he would be developing (or is) today based on the success of the past. Most likely, using the ARM processor and licensing some voice recognition software from a leading software developer in this category.

Afterall, what could possibly be better than Graffiti? Yep, not having to type at all (but make it an option for those times when you don't want to talk outloud, say in a meeting, etc.). Using voice data entry offers many advantages, mostly speed of entry. It would be faster to say "A", "B" "C" rather than type it (as long as the interpreter does a good job at the recognition). Not much horspower or storage space would be required either. 2MB and a 50Mhz Processor should just about do it. The 2MB could be stored in Flash RAM and not impact the Palm OS Storage.

So, the way I look at it if Jeff can get "VoxFitti" out of his head an onto a slab of plastic, I would think this would be a really cool device. It would have one up on Palm and Microsoft. Neither of which have a Voice Recognition system. The key here is, it doesn't have to recognize every word in the English alphabet, just 26 letters, 10 numbers and a handful of other symbols. Not too much to ask and quite possible today.

So, if Jeff has this idea in mind (I don't know, I'm only speculating on what I would be researching if I were Jeff), then if his own OS is the only way to deliver, than I say go for it (It will be 1-2 years before Palms ARM Version of the Palm OS is ready). I'm sure Jeff could beat them to the punch and then license the OS back to Palm. No doubt it would be more advanced than anything that Palm comes up with.

Or, I'm an idiot. One of the two will happen. It either will or won't happen in the next 2 years. My bet is that it will...

See ya!

Jon W.
Harvest, AL

RE: Good Question
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/23/2000 11:45:46 AM #
>> Afterall, what could possibly be better than Graffiti?

MS Transcriber or Paragraph's Calligrapher on the Pocket PC (or even a Psion). mc

RE: Good Question
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/7/2001 7:10:37 PM #
The newton (130+) handwriting recognition is still better at my scarwl than either my clio (wince with caligrapher) and my palm

They don't need to

GrouchoMarx @ 12/23/2000 2:45:56 AM #
The PalmOS is currently expandable, and Palm has made it quite clear that they don't object to companies expanding on it. Just look at the products out there. PalmOS didn't have support for Springboard, so Handspring added, and Palm did nothing to stop them, they encouraged them. The PalmOS didn't have support for external expansion, so TRG added it for CompactFlash cards and Palm never stopped them. PalmOS didn't have support for a jog-wheel so Sony added it, and Palm never stopped them.

Just because Palm's implementation of PalmOS on their devices isn't filled with dozens of features and lots of glitz doesn't mean that all PalmOS devices have to stay that way. Notice Handspring made a killing in the marketplace with a PalmOS device. Why spend money now on something else when they are doing quite well and the market is growing? And if they feel there is a feature lacking, they can add it, just like every licensee company has already done.

And do not forget, Palm isn't sitting still. They have a host of new features on their roadmap, that are designed to complement, not replace, the existing system, thereby building on the huge installed base. Plus, they are already planning a move to more powerful hardware (ARM chips) and more flexible development (multiple sizes and resolutions). They are not resting on their laurels, but moving forward in an evolutionary, not revolutionary manner. Why should Handspring forsake a booming market and a successful product with years of life left to it for..... what?


Handspring should go to hell...

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/23/2000 5:05:12 AM #
;) Yeah ! They went out of Palm OS philosophy.

No way.

Eston Bond @ 12/23/2000 3:41:56 PM #
Like Anonymous said, if Palm doesn't update the OS, Handspring will. It's not too hard to do that. I will soon have a pocket pc to play with, but my palm Vx is still my companion.

Eston Bond
CEO Pine Tree Software

Why just a handheld?

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/23/2000 11:14:53 PM #
What I don't understand is? Why a handheld? Handspring has the potential to be a 3rd party hit. Why not make Web Devices? Or how about this. 3com recently came out with a Web Device. Handspring could have no problem doing this aswell. Many oses are available for them to use, WinCE(PLEASE DON'T USE WINCE GUYS), QNX(I-opener uses them, great micros that can be great in handhelds also), Mobil Linux+Transmeta Processor, and maybe even Palm OS :) In my humble opinion, Handspring needs to spread themselves a little thinner, but not too much.

RE: Why just a handheld?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/26/2000 4:25:06 PM #
Is it me, or does anyone actually buy Web devices? I have a hard time caughing up 400 to 600 bucks for a web device when I know there are PDA's that can do this or even yet computers in the same price range. Of course there are always the Non-tech Users.. But then again... I think they make up a small precentage.. ( and for you Palm users who like the simplicity and dont think you're technical..think again... You'd be using a paperday planner if you were truly non technical, desipite how little you think you know).

Stick With Palm - ONLY Improve the OS

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/24/2000 1:55:11 AM #
I think consumers are SICK of different platforms and OS's. We have enough problems trying to get the proper conduits to the Desktop computer. Add ANOTHER OS and I think you'll be among the different odd ball OS's out there.

Stick with Palm, but IMPROVE on it.
- Add a Photo feature to the Address Book.
- Improve processor speed.
- Improve battery life.
- Keep it CHEAP. Keep it SIMPLE.
- Add the T9 keyboard.
- Improve on the Handspring Calculator.
- Buy out somboday like Iambic, and incorporate features from Iambic Software (or any other good third party software company)
- Continue to develop/expand Springboard modules.

And the list can go on and on....

Palm has the greatest number of shear palmtop users. I think Handspring can capitalize on the Palm customer base by continuing to IMPROVE the OS (if they are allowed) rather than take the chance to develop a OS from scratch OR liscense the PocketPC OS. I say, BANK on a SURE THING rather than trying to start a new FAD.

RE: Stick With Palm - ONLY Improve the OS
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/25/2000 5:15:53 AM #
Well, you know. Your right in what you say. But its no the os thats the problem. Its the interface. It would be very easy to make a custom gui for QNX or Mobil Linux to look like the Palm OS. You could even emulate the Palm OS. Would make things backward compatible.

RE: Stick With Palm - ONLY Improve the OS
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/27/2000 11:52:39 AM #
No I think the OS has a lot to do with it. The last thing everybody needs is another OS to make PDA's that more incombatible with your fovorite desktop application. Look at sharp. They have had a longer presence on the PDA market than Palm has, but how many people do you see running around with Sharp PDAs? The Beauty of Palm OS is the fact that so many people has it. At my job, There's over 15 or 20 people using the Palm PDA on my floor alone and only 1 WinCE and 1 Linex PDA user. I like being able to beam programs and things back and forth. If everybody had different PDA's with different OS'es I think it would hurt more than make inovations to the PDA market. Good example... Palm Vs PPCs. More Palm Based Programs. Less WinCE Programs. It was that alone, (even though I really Like the PPC's and their hardware) that made the decision for me to Use the Palm.

RE: Stick With Palm - ONLY Improve the OS
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/7/2001 7:12:23 PM #
if you have a eyemodule for the visor you can use EyeContact, it lets you associate pictures with addresses.

Will Never Happen

Deslock @ 12/24/2000 9:29:38 AM #
Hawkins is still influential on PalmOS development, despite differences between him and Palm. And if he did decide to use a different OS, it certainly wouldn't be CE, which is far too different from his vision of what a handheld OS should be.

Most (but not all) crticism of PalmOS originates from M$'s marketing, which is trying to paint PalmOS as crippled and WinCE as powerful and robust; I'm shocked at how much people are buying into M$'s FUD campaign. PalmOS does deserve critisicm. But a more accurate statement is that it's limited while CE is crippled.

Let's remember a few things here:

1) WinCE multitasks, but it's so bad that you can't even play an MP3 and scroll through a document without the MP3 skipping. Hello!?! Why can't I prioritize CPU tasks and set their individual CPU%?

2) WinCE requires an enormous amount of memory compared to other handheld OSs.

3) WinCE require a very fast CPU compared to other handheld OSs (both #3 and #4 require a bigger battery).

4) WinCE slows down for no reason and/or crashes periodically (ver3 is better than older versions, but still does it).

5) CE is still much buggier than PalmOS.

6) You can buy a *usable* PalmOS device for $130. In order to get a CE device with enough memory and a fast enough CPU so that you don't tear your own limbs off in frustration using it, you have to shell out $400+.

I'm not anti M$ and I want MP3s, higher resolution, and color. However, I'd rather use a task-switching device with a 160x160 pea-soup-green screen than use an unstable and buggy OS with unusable multitasking.

PalmOS can grow from where it is.

Like many others, I'm concerned the PalmOS is improving too slowly, but unless M$ does a total rewrite from the ground-up, CE will never evolve past it's problems, which are tied to the fact that they ported a desktop OS to their handhelds. Basing CE on the NT kernal was a short-sighted decision, made because M$ wanted to jump on the market before Palm got too much of a head start.

It's too bad, because M$ had the opportunity to start fresh and do something truly innovative. I have no doubt that in 3 or 4 years, M$ will take over the handheld market (M$ knows that bells and whistles sell better than stability and functionality). But unfortunately, like the desktops we use today, our handhelds will be crash-prone and buggy because they will be bloated at the core.

RE: Will Never Happen
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/26/2000 4:06:24 PM #
I find it funny that Everyone in the Palm community skips over the Compaq Aero 1550 Pocket PC. It is the same size and weight as the Palm III, Cost as much as the Visor Platium, has more memory and is expandable, and faster CPU. True.. it is running WinCE, BUT.. there are cheaper smaller and lighter PPCs than the IPAQ. Besides... Speaking of playing MP3s...I know some slower desktops that have trouble playing MP3s and multitasking other things.. Playing Mp3s takes alot of CPU resources... If a person is going to compare the Multitasking on a PPC they should do so with what most Business user would do.. Like surfing the Net, Downloading Email, and pulling up a spreedsheet program or something of the sort all at one time, which the PPC can do perfectly, where as the Palm OS can't To compare playing MP3s on PPC when the Palm OS can't even multitask, is ridiculous and stupid.

RE: Will Never Happen
Deslock @ 12/28/2000 11:54:03 AM #
My intention was not to start yet another CE vs. Palm war. I was responding to a post that said Handspring should use CE (EPOC would be a better choice, IMHO, but I just don't see Hawkins ditching PalmOS).

I seriously considered The Aero 1550 (hardware-wise, it's a great unit... it's actually lighter than the PalmIII, BTW). However, a 70MHz CPU just doesn't cut it for CE. Only the IPAQ's 206 MHz runs CE reasonably, IMHO (I've played with CE devices a lot).

It's true that a business user might want to view a spreadsheet while waiting for a webpage or email to download. However, I don't know if there are more handheld users out there with modems that would like to be able to switch between apps while waiting for stuff to download than users who want to listen to MP3s while doing other things. Personally, I'd want to be able to do both, but the MP3s are more important to me.

I should be able to tell the device I want 20% or 30% or 70% of my CPU-time dedicated for a task. There's no excuse for a 100+ MHz computer to skip while playing MP3s when I'm opening another program or scrolling a document; MP3s don't require THAT much CPU-time to decode (typical MP3 decoders run at less than 70 MHz). As you pointed out, some desktops also have trouble with MP3s skipping, despite having a fast CPU. It's not a CE problem, but a Windows problem.

My point is this: Windows multitasking is so poorly implemented that it's not worth the overhead that comes with it when using a handheld computer; I'd rather use a task-switching OS. I don't think that's stupid. I want multitasking, but I'll wait until it's done properly.

winCE war

eston @ 12/25/2000 8:54:27 PM #
hey, don't attack the pocket pc. i have a cassiopeia and l love it, but the palm is much lighter and easier to use. stick with palm os, Handspring. You'll sell more.

Eston Bond
CEO Pine Tree Software


What about EPOC?

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/26/2000 4:05:06 PM #
How come noone is mentioning EPOC? They're Microsoft's real competitors, as PalmOS is a totally different beast from Wince.

This is the main reason Microsoft is trying so hard to position themselves as PalmOS competitors. They want to be seen as #2, when they are actually #3 or #4.

RE: What about EPOC?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/27/2000 11:40:32 AM #
Epoc??? How could anyone of over looked them. I mean at every mainstream store you walk in that sells PDA's (Circut City, Office Max, So forth) You only really see Palm Based PDA's and WinCE PDA's. What was it called again?? 2Pac? Isn't he dead?

face it.. WinCe has a bigger presence than Epoc.


I.M. Anonymous @ 12/27/2000 10:11:43 AM #
HandSring should license the Newton OS and make it color. It was by the far the best handheld OS. It just had a crappy form factor. A newton in a Palm size enclosure would rock!

cpu & screen

palmer @ 12/31/2000 3:50:05 PM #
200mhz cpu
640x640 screen
emulated 68k palm os


Palm Might Lose Handspring AND Sony

Ed @ 1/17/2001 8:37:09 AM #
This is from an article posted yesterday on Cnet:

[Giga Information Group Vice President Rob] Enderle said rumors are flying in Silicon Valley that Handspring and Sony, which license Palm operating system, are shopping for a new OS. "No one is ever comfortable licensing from a competitor," he said.


Palm Infocenter



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