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.

You have to be aware that OS 5 isn't all that some people hoped it would be.

Basically the way Palm OS 5 happened is, we had this schedule for doing a huge amount of stuff that was going to take us through the end of the year or something like that. When David Nagel [CEO of PalmSource] came in, he said, "No. We need to do some of this sooner, so let's pick out the things that are most important, put them on a fast-track, and we'll just do a series of releases over time." What we now call Palm OS 5 is kind of the first release of all this stuff we've been working on.

Can you say anything about the timing for the next release after OS 5?

We're not giving exact timeframes but what I have been authorized to say is that we are trying to move the innovation a lot faster. It's not going to be 18 months between releases. We would be delighted if eventually we could get releases to be as close as 6 months. I have no idea if we'll be able to hit that early on; my guess is it will take a bit longer than that. But what we'd like to do is to be able to come back to folks with more stuff in the 6 to 9 month range beyond when Palm OS 5 comes out and to be able to show some more progress.

When Dave Nagel came in, some of the people who know industry history said, "Wait a minute, this is the guy who was at Apple for the Copeland project", which was this enormous effort to completely rewrite the entire MacOS all at once. It failed. So when Dave came into Palm, people said, "Oh my God, is he going to do the same thing at Palm that he did at Apple?"

I'll tell you what Dave did when he got to Palm. He said, "I see you are planning on doing an entire comprehensive rewrite of the operating system all at once. My life experience tells me that that's not a very good idea. We should look to prioritize things and move into a series of releases that happen faster."

So in a lot of ways the things that people were dinging us for and saying "Oh no, they are going to repeat that stuff" is exactly the experience that Dave is using as a lodestone and telling them what not to do.

You said in your keynote that PalmSource was encouraging licensees to explore new markets. Can you say anything about Palm OS devices that aren't the traditional handhelds or smartphones?

I'll give you a great example that I can't give you any details on but it will give you a flavor of what I'm thinking about when I say that stuff. One of the best meetings I've had while I was at PalmSource was with Garmin to talk about what they are doing to combine GPS capabilities with a handheld. They are going to do some really cool stuff. I'm really excited about what they are working on.

A number of companies are working on some really cool stuff. I'm coming out of this conference very encouraged. The creativity these guys are showing is very interesting.

Do you want to drop any hints on future licensees?

We've said in public that we're working on Asia. Beyond that I'd end up screwing up the negotiations if I dropped any specific hints.

I don't want to set the expectation that all of a sudden there are going to be 15 Palm OS licensees because we don't want to flood the market with so many licensees that no one can make money. It would be easy to really screw up this market by doing too much licencing too fast. On the other hand, there is room for more licensees and you'll see us go after some folks aggressively. There is more to come.

With OS 5 coming out this year, do you have any plans to update OS 4?

We are looking at potentially bringing some OS 5 features to OS 4 but we haven't made the determination on exactly which ones or whether we can do it. To be honest, completing OS 5 comes first. If we have extra capacity to add some stuff to OS 4 we'll do it but the higher priority is to make sure we get OS 5 done on time.

I don't want this to read like "Oh, Michael committed to where they are going to bring across a whole bunch of stuff." Where we can we'll do it. Where licensees want support for those features we'll do it. But the main focus is driving towards OS 5 and beyond.

Between now and when we release it [OS 5] to the licensees is actually not that many months. If we are doing late spring or early summer, that's pretty close. I think we will update people periodically on how it is going. I don't know how many updates we'll give but it's getting close.

Will there be new devices running OS 4?

Yes. I'm not saying from what vendor and I'm not saying what. But there's a lot of stuff in the pipeline.

Don't expect an instant cut-over to all new products being ARM even after OS 5 comes out because there is nothing that makes OS 4 obsolete. We've got software compatibility back and forth. If a particular company likes the price/performance of 68K, and already has some work underway on it, or just feels it is more appropriate for their particular product, that's fine.

Over time I expect that eventually everything will become ARM-based but I think it can easily be a couple of years in transition. That's going to sound really weird to your on-line readers because they are out on the crusty edge of innovation but not everybody pushes out to the same degree.

Does PalmSource plan to update the built-in applications to improve the personal information manager (PIM) functions?

I know this won't be a satisfactory answer to a lot of folks, but that's why the third-party developers are here. They do a gorgeous job of extending these applications in all sorts of directions. As a group, they are smarter than we are at PalmSource. There are wonderful products out there and if you want to get an enhanced PIM, by all means go for it.

Having said that, we recognize that there are areas where we haven't moved the applications forward as much as we should have. You will not see us trying to wipe out DateBook4 or something like that but you will see the PIM apps evolve. It's not in the first release of Palm OS 5 but it is on the agenda for things we want to do in the future.

Is HandMedia a real company? A press release went out recently claiming that it was about to release a device running the Palm OS.

I tried to track it down. It doesn't exist.

Any final comments?

The one other thing I was going to comment on was I did read and actually forwarded around Palm the discussion on your site that was talking about what's going to be in Palm OS 5.

You just made Mike Cane very happy.

Let him know I thought it was excellent.

Obviously by that point it was too late to change anything in the OS but it was interesting to see the expectations.

One kind of general comment I wanted to make is you got two classes of commenters on that essay, which is a really good essay. You got one group of people who are very focused on end-user functionality. It was about PIM apps or it was about other apps they would like to see bundled and things like that. You got another group of people who tended to be much more influenced by core functionality of the OS. You know, "I want to see multimedia; I want to see threading", other stuff like that. They were kind of going at it against each other. It was really, really interesting.

We really want to make sure that the OS is moving forward very well on the fundamentals, so it has the multimedia, the threading, and all those sorts of things. Yes, we'll move forward with the built-in apps, we'll make improvements to that stuff. We really want to make it easier for customers to identify whatever third-party apps they want to use and very easily be able to get those things installed. Over time it should matter less exactly which applications we are pre-bundling with the operating system. It should be more a case of when you get this operating system you understand that you are buying into this huge range of software that you can easily choose from and you can just go and get the one that you want.

Individual licensees may well create bundles that they put with the OS and aim it at a particular type of customer but the idea of there being a large set of one size fits all, ultimate apps that we throw out there is probably not the way to expect it operate. Where there are things that everybody uses like the calendar, we'll move those things forward but I'm pretty serious about the things I've said about one size fits one and exposing the diversity of the developers' work to the customers. That's what we'd really like to be doing with the platform.

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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?)

This post is ROT26 encrypted. Reading it is a violation of the DMCA

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.

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