PalmSource: The Future of the Palm Platform

On the final day of PalmSource, there was a panel discussion between representatives from Palm Inc., Handspring, and Kyocera on the direction the Palm platform is going. Each of these licensees shared some his company's plans for the future and their ideas of where the Palm platform will be in the next few years. It was moderated by Steve Sakoman, PalmSource's Chief Technology Officer.

One of the most interesting moments of the talk came during Mr. Sakoman introduction, when he showed a slide of possible future types of devices running the Palm OS. The list included game consoles, watches, media players, electronic maps, and several others.

The participants in the panel were Steve Manser, the senior VP, Engineering, at the Palm Solutions Group, Stan Scheufler, VP of Product Management at Kyocera, and Rob Haitani, Director of Software and and Interface Design at Handspring.

Each of these was asked to give a general statement on the direction his company was going with hardware.

Not surprisingly, the Kyocera representative said his company's devices will be phones first, then handheld computers. Their models will always have a hard keyboard, never a virtual one.

Mr. Haitani from Handspring said, even though he was one of the original developers of Graffiti, that a real keyboard is going to be the input method of the future.

To Palm, the most important thing in the future will be wireless networking.

Then the panel began to respond to questions from the audience.

When asked where most data will reside in the future, locally on the handheld or on a wireless network, Mr. Manser from Palm said that content will be stored in both places because both options have advantages. Access to local information is very quick but is limited by storage size. There is almost unlimited storage on the Internet but this is slower because of the need to download it wirelessly.

Next, an audience member asked whether any of the companies would be releasing a tablet-sized model.

The Handspring spokesperson dismissed the idea because handhelds must be able to fit in a pocket. If they don't, people won't use them. He said there will be variations in Palm OS devices but there is an upper limit in size and that is below the size of a tablet.

Mr. Sakoman chimed in with his experiences using a tablet-sized computer. He said it was useful but never left his house and rarely left the room it was kept in. He believes tablet computers might replace the home computer but never the handheld.

Then someone asked when the U.S. will settle on one wireless standard and which one it will be.

Mr. Scheufler said Kyocera will continue to use only CDMA and is confident that it is a superior technology, especially as 3G rolls out..

Handspring plans to not standardize on any of them and release devices for the different wireless options. Mr. Haitani believes both CDMA and GPRS will be around for a while and will squeeze all the others out.

Palm would prefer to build Bluetooth into its models to allow users to connect with their mobile phones. This will let the user pick any handheld they want and any wireless standard.

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Article: Palm dabbles with Bluetooth

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 11:07:05 AM #
Palm dabbles with Bluetooth

Article: Palm: Personal Area Networking Power
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 11:09:12 AM #
CDMA and GPRS work great with Bluetooth
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 11:21:22 AM #
Both CDMA and GPRS technologies work great with Bluetooth.

Qualcomm Bluetooth Solutions

Ericsson, Qualcomm let Bluetooth meet CDMA

Ericsson makes GPRS and Bluetooth a reality

Palm eyes Bluetooth, GPRS wireless connectivity

RE: Article: Palm dabbles with Bluetooth
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 12:54:19 PM #
Great articles. Thanx for the info.

Bluetooth-GSM/GPRS card
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 2:08:00 PM #
Plextek combines CSR's BlueCore2 with GSM/GPRS card

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 2:15:51 PM #
Understanding these two technologies and how they can benefit you
By Michelle Man
January 2002

Mobile Phone Basics

Finally someone who doesn't talk BS. Cool articles
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/12/2002 3:55:16 AM #
Am getting real tired of all those whining people who just whine about all sort of things like "why no grafitti?", "how about a keyboard", "i like treo", "treo? palm is a winner" blablablabla

What's the future?.......WIRELESS. Exactly.

Next Question. What do we know about WIRELESS?

Not much if i read the messages and boards. A lot of "X is much faster/better/secure etc." stuff. What are the Wireless Standards, what can you do with it and what are the different needs.

Tip: Read before you yell.


I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 11:24:01 AM #
i don't get it

what's the deal with the move towards built in keyboards? i thought one of the original advantages to a palm was graffiti. i don't want a palm without graffiti. it seems easier to use your stylus for everything (unless you're doing extensive writing) than to tap with your stylus, then peck at a keyboard, then back to your stylus. could somebody fill me in? i really don't see that much of an advantage of a built in keyboard.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
fkclo @ 2/11/2002 11:38:55 AM #
Since we are dealing with a touch screen on a Palm OS device, graffiti becomes second nature with a stylus. I have tried different keyboards ( including the one on Treo 180) and find them quite challenge, except with the Stowaway for large document editing. Besides, a keyboard still cannot replace the stylus to do selection and drag & drop on the screen.

Seen someone typing on the keyboard with the stylus in his mouth ? Sounds familiar ? This is where graffiti (or Fitaly for that sake) stands out.

Francis Lo
Hong Kong

RE: keyboard/graffiti
Scott @ 2/11/2002 11:43:53 AM #
I agree completely. I'm not saying that these thumb-boards aren't great ideas and for sending email, etc. they may be *more* efficient. But, as you say, for much of the functionality of the Palm OS to be utilized, you *need* to use your stylus. If you have to stick the stylus back in the slot or somehow "palm" it while you use the keyboard, and move back and forth, it will be a definite step back in usability. I find it most interesting that one of the Handspring folks sees the future moving to the thumb-board. I'm also very interested to see the user reviews (and play with one myself) of the keyboard on the Treo as this seems *too small* to me. The RIM keyboard has the benefit of being significantly larger. This adds to the usability of it.


RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 11:46:42 AM #
You do this all the time on your PC. Notice how you have to take your hand off the keyboard to use the mouse.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 11:59:01 AM #
I would bet anything that Palm feels that it is going to lose the arguments on the Xerox patent issue and, therefore, needs to either pay Xerox for past and future use of the patent or pay for past use and switch to something else in the future (i.e., keyboard or virtual keyboard). Otherwise, Palm will have to deal with Xerox as a business partner by paying the licensing fees, which will then be passed along to the end user (i.e., handhelds that cost more).


RE: keyboard/graffiti
dethblud @ 2/11/2002 11:59:19 AM #
I've been trying for a very long time not to figure out how to not have to move my hand back and forth between the keyboard and the trackball.

If any of the other Palm licensees decide to go keyboard I am going to get worried.

RE: keyboard/graffiti - TREO Choice?
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 12:00:29 PM #
So which does everyone prefer? I think I would choose the graffiti model. I hope they make a color graffiti version for AT&T Wireless.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
sub_tex @ 2/11/2002 12:04:23 PM #
"You do this all the time on your PC. Notice how you have to take your hand off the keyboard to use the mouse."

Right, but you have a nice huge desk to lay both on. try holding your mouse in your hand when you switch to the keyboard.

Granted, a stylus isn't nearly as cumbersome, but it's a point.

(albeit a rather drastic example of one...)

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 12:12:36 PM #
almost anyone who has used a blackberry for any length of time will tell you that the keyboard beats graffiti hands down. IT does take practice, but didn't graffiti take time to learn at first as well?

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 12:18:03 PM #
I'm also confused about the move towards little keyboards. Granted, I think it is better for e-mail, and it therefore makes sense on a blackberry, which is basically an e-mail only device (I don't know anyone who thinks the blackberry PIM functions are worth anything). Swapping back and forth between a stylus and a keyboard doesn't seem to make much sense for a handheld. And using just a keyboard strikes me as akin to using windows without a mouse. Is Handspring taking us back to the DOS days?

RE: keyboard/graffiti
robrecht @ 2/11/2002 12:18:55 PM #
Since someone asked, I vote for stylus (soft graffiti) and folding keyboard peripheral. I hate thumbboards!

Thanks, Robrecht
RE: keyboard/graffiti version for Treo
fkclo @ 2/11/2002 12:31:29 PM #
About Graffiti vs Keyboard version of Treo.

Usability aside, one have to note that with the keyboard version a lot of the hacks which activate by way of stylus stroke through different region of the silk screen will no longer work. Off my head this will include McPhling, Multiclip Hack, all of PopUp hacks by Benc, Pop and certainly many others.

The Keyboard version incorporates some "fn" key to allow switch to the original silk screen apps.

Also, users of Fitaly Stamp will be out of luck on the keyboard version because there will be no place for the overlay.

Using the Graffiti version in conjunction with Word Complete and hopefully Fitaly Stamp (still checking if the M100 series will work for Treo), will most likely provide the fastest input without external add-on.

Francis Lo
Hong Kong

RE: keyboard/graffiti
PR @ 2/11/2002 12:32:55 PM #
i'm glad to see i wasn't the only one who felt this way (i started this off by asking thid question up top), it seems that having a thumbpad is going back to those stupid little casio and sharp 32kb organizers that had keyboards. they weren't easy to use, that's why i bought a palm. i thought graffiti was a step above that, not below.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
fkclo @ 2/11/2002 12:39:13 PM #
I would like to see enhanced character recognition in the next generation of graffiti - more freedom, more accurate, and more intelligent. With ARM processor power, I guess it won't be too difficult to revive what we have seen on the Newton.

Francis Lo
Hong Kong
RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 12:41:42 PM #
Newton's cursive HWR on palm LoL . don't make me laugh, you guy's can't echo what you wrote on screen.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 12:43:49 PM #
I agree with the pro-stylus people. There should always be a Palm device that uses stylus-only input. This is one of the great strengths of the Palm platform: it's Zen-like simplicity.

The problem is that the thumb keyboards are too slow, yet a full keyboard (e.g. Targus/Palm) is too large to always carry.

Until our Palms can read minds, the hardware manufacturers are against a wall.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 1:18:35 PM #
I remember back when I got the Newton Messagepad. The recognition was good, better than people wanted to acknowledge, but the interface to the writing was miserable. Having to move your pen around the screen, as if writing on a pad of paper, was a nice recreation of a physical process, but an awful way to input large amounts of text. And once you went beyond a page of entry, the device labored like an ancient steam engine (I know, I know, get a 2100).

When I first got a copy of Graffiti for the Newton, I was extremely pleased. After a few days, all I could think was "Now, if they would only integrate this so that the text wouldn't get behind the Graffiti window and the scrolling would keep the cursor on screen, I could do some serious writing." And along came my Palm Pilot 1000.

Since then, I've Graffed quite a lot of ti. In fact, I may be the world champion in terms of sheer volume. I've done 12 complete novels, a few dozen short stories, and something near 100 articles on the Palm. Something close to a million words, give or take a hundred thousand. That's a lot of stylus work.

I can manage an input rate of around 30wpm, which is no great shakes for typing speed, but that's okay. 30wpm matches up pretty well with my thinking speed. If it was any faster, my fingers would just be setting at idle.

I'll never purchase a handheld device that doesn't allow me to input text with a stylus. Further, I'm not interested in a device with "soft" Graffiti. With a fixed input spot, I can enter text while not looking at the screen. I can do an interview, get my notes down without missing a word, and never take my eyes off the person I'm talking to. I can't think of another device (outside of a voice recorder) that offers me that kind of utility.

Mark Sumner

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 2:09:54 PM #
I use my Visor constantly and own a Targus keyboard. I don't carry the keyboard around with me all the time, but it's indepensible for traveling. It makes typing in data a much easier job than the Visor's own keyboard. I use both the Visor's keyboard and the Targus depending upon the task. The thumboards' keys are too small to be useful to me when transferring a large amount of data away from my main computer.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
dhaupert @ 2/11/2002 2:48:48 PM #
I spoke with a Handspring employee at PalmSource, who said that the initial demand has been significantly higher for the keyboard version. He said that they have not announced yet whether the color version would have a graffiti or keyboard option like the b&w model, and that was because they wanted to see if there was a big standout between the two. I believe he was implying that if there indeed was only a 10% demand for the graffiti version, they'd probably only opt for a keyboard color version.

IMO, having tried the keyboard version- I think there is a lot of potential for an integral thumboard, but was disappointed in having to use function key combos to get to things like the applications screen. Seems like there is great potential, but just a bit more time perfecting things before a keyboard only Palm would be a viable option for me.

Hope this info helps!

Dave Haupert

RE: keyboard/graffiti
sub_tex @ 2/11/2002 3:00:26 PM #
I think the Sharp Zaurus has the best medium.

If we could graffiti if we want, and also slide out a thumb keyboard, that's the best of both worlds.

Add a stowaway for long text entry and you have only 1 extra peripheral to carry since the thumbpad is built in (but hidden when you don't need it).

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 3:00:42 PM #
I agree. If you show the general unknowing public one with a keyboard and one without, they will choose the keyboard version - because they think that "more IS MORE". But I think many Palm-users know that Graffiti is a beautiful thing and would prefer the 'g' version.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 3:57:22 PM #
I still haven't really decided regarding thumb-boards, and graffiti. I carried a RIM for a while, and never really got into the keyboard on it, but it didn't have a touch screen anyway. I also like being able to use my Palm with one hand instead of needing two hands to get any "typing" speed.

The issue is that for exclusive keyboard usage (not having to use a stylus) you either have to have a lot of dedicated function keys, OR you end up with a lot of multi-key hotkeys to do things that are simple with the stylus. A normal Windows machine will do everything with the keyboard, yet for most things it's far easier to do it with the mouse. Some notable exceptions might be cut/paste (ctrl-c, ctrl-v), but I still use the mouse for the selection, and then the hot keys for the function.

Obviously switching between KB and stylus is not going to work. I know that I would constanly drop something. Possibly the addition of keyboard and "jog-dial" technology would solve some of these problems. That would allow for quick navigation and selection, with the added speed of a keyboard.

It's likely that we are going to have to go thru another generation of keyboard and stylus systems before someone really comes up with a smooth way to combine the functionality of both in a small package.


RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 4:08:49 PM #
I remember the days of the HP95LX and 100LX, and everybody complained about the keyboard. Graffiti is a big improvement for small, short text entry needs. If I need more, I just use the Stowaway. This seems the best combination to me. I agree that getting rid of Graffiti would be a step backwards.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
Scott @ 2/11/2002 4:23:06 PM #
Great discussion.

Ok, a couple of points. To the guy who commented about moving your hands off of the keyboard and onto a mouse when using a desktop computer, I have a couple of comments:
1) On my IBM Thinkpad this is a non-issue because of the pointing stick. I love the pointing stick concept.
2) As someone else alluded to, you "have more space". I'd modify this argument to say that your computer is sitting on the desk. When you're using a handheld, you have to juggle your stylus to change to using the thumb-board without dropping everything.

To the person who talked about the Blackberry: You have to remember that the Blackberry was designed from the ground up to be focused around a thumb-board and a scroll wheel with specialized buttons for certain tasks. With a thumb-board on a Palm, you're trying to graft this concept onto the Palm and it doesn't always work. As someone else pointed out, the Palm has a touch screen while the Blackberry doesn't. More to the point, you can navigate anywhere you need to with a Blackberry using the keys and scroll wheel, while on a Palm, I'd imagine, you'll often *need* to pull out the stylus.

Finally, I think it's interesting that Handspring is going towards the thumb-board while Palm is staying loyal to Graffiti. Palm is the one who stands to lose big time if the Xerox lawsuit doesn't go their way. Ironically, if the idea *was* stolen from Xerox (and I kind of think it was), Hawkins is the one who ought to foot the bill, or at least part of it.


RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 4:26:42 PM #
For someone like me a keyboard is great. I don't even use graffiti because I am too lazy to learn. I just use the pull up keyboard and it works great.

I also have a Motorola t900 which is an email pager with a keyboard and boy is that thing great. Just after a week I started typing like a pro.

I think for us getting into the world of palms that a keyboard is best. For all of the oldbies they are going to prefer the graffiti.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 4:51:43 PM #
I prefer using my palm with one hand because my other hand is usually busy with coffee, or child, or phone, or food, or wife...

RE: keyboard/graffiti
skytraveler @ 2/11/2002 7:29:24 PM #
I am also pro stylus/grafitti. I'm a little worried about the patent with Xerox. It would be nice if Palm would incorporate a voice recognition into the OS. I would love to be able to speak my appointment and not have to type or reach for the stylus. I think voice capabilities is one of the strenghts of PPC.

The SkyTraveler
RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/11/2002 8:56:56 PM #
I agree. It took less than a day to learn the graffiti strokes and now it is second nature. Hunting and pecking on one of those tiny keyboards is not for me.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/12/2002 3:38:04 AM #

Wouldn't the best solution be a stylus/voice recognition input system?

One would expect, given the potential power of the new ARM chips, that voice input of data would be the most logical way forwards.

I've used grafitti for quite a while now. But really I'd like to be able to speak a memo or email, or spell someone's name. Use the stylus to select address or new or whatever, perhaps correct a mistake the VR system made. Grafitti should still function for times when you can't speak or background noise makes it impossible to recognise voice.

I don't want a thumb board taking up space. Use that space and give me a bigger screen with virtual grafitti with hvga resolution, a battery that lasts a week before recharge and ummm make it the same sort of size as a clie or m50x. Its not too much to ask is it?

RE: keyboard/graffiti
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/12/2002 4:23:44 AM #
Graffiti for me please. I researched before i bought my first palm (instead of a psion) and the thing that worried me the most was that you had to learn this 'slightly different kind of writing'. I went to the trouble of finding out all the characters to see how 'different' it was. I thought I would go for the palm and that i would master graffiti after a while. after using it for a very short time i decided that graffiti was the best feature of the device, so intuitive and easy to use. don't know a letter/symbol? slash the screen and they're all right in front of you. Graffiti went from almost putting me off a palm to being one of my very favourite things about palms.
Of course if the makers want to comprimise, all they need to do is make a handheld with a keyboard and soft graffiti. I know it's not quite the same as a silkscreen, but i think i could live with it...

International keyboard layouts ?
teq @ 2/12/2002 7:08:54 AM #
...something that hasn't been mentioned in this discussion "graffiti vs. keyboard" is the topic of international keyboard layouts: For example, in Germany we don't use the QWERTY layout, but a QWERTZ layout instead (not mentioning the "umlauts")- simply because "z" is far more often used in German than "y".

In case Handspring does not deliver localized keyborad layouts for every language region (e.g. Spanish, German, French, Italian), getting used to the "standard" American layout is an additional hurdle. For that reason I clearly prefer graffiti.

****** Pilot 5000 => Palm Pilot III => Palm Vx => M505 - Ive had them all and loved each one of them.

RE: keyboard/graffiti
Scott @ 2/12/2002 9:37:29 AM #
"...something that hasn't been mentioned in this discussion "graffiti vs. keyboard" is the topic of international keyboard layouts: For example, in Germany we don't use the QWERTY layout, but a QWERTZ layout instead (not mentioning the "umlauts")- simply because "z" is far more often used in German than "y"."

I don't understand this. For touch-typing, I'd say that the "Y" is actually a bit harder to press than the "Z" on a standard QWERTY keyboard because you have to reach for the "Y" with your right index finger, whereas you only need to move your left pinky finger a shorter distance to reach the "Z". Your argument would make sense on a QWERTY vs QWERTZ "virtual" Palm keyboard, however, because here you wouldn't be touch-typing but, rather, moving a stylus and under the layout you mention the "Z" would now be moved closer to the center.


RE: keyboard/graffiti
teq @ 2/12/2002 2:59:17 PM #
"I don't understand this. For touch-typing, I'd say that the "Y" is actually a bit harder to press than the "Z" on a standard QWERTY keyboard because you have to reach for the "Y" with your right index finger, whereas you only need to move your left pinky finger a shorter distance to reach the "Z"."


agreed, when talking about a "thumbboard". (I just tried to explain why the Germans had this "weird" keyboard layout on ANY keyboard because it's easier to reach the "z" on a normal sized keaboard).

My point is that if the TREO's keyboard isn't adapted to the respective layout used in a certain language region (e.g. Spanish, German, French, Italian) then it's even harder to use for users from this region because you always have to search for the corresponding keys. That's why I prefer graffit...

****** Pilot 5000 => Palm Pilot III => Palm Vx => M505 - Ive had them all and loved each one of them.

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