November 05, 2003

Hawkins Interview: The Next Big Thing in Mobile Computing

Here's an intriguing interview with Jeff Hawkins, from the Investor's Business Daily. Hawkins founded Palm Inc., then Handspring, and is now palmOne's chief technology officer. In the interview, he comments on his future role with palmOne, the significance of the Treo 600 and teases us about the "unbelievable next big thing in mind" that will require the combined resources of Palm and Handspring to pull it off.

Some of the better passages:

"Hawkins: Many years ago - 17 years ago or something like that - I got the bug in my head that the future of personal computing was going to be mobile devices, mobile computing. I looked at the world of PCs and said, "This ain't gonna work for a world of 6 billion people." Well, back then it was 5 billion. These products (PCs) are too complex and they're too hard to use and too expensive, and computing ought to be for everybody."

Regarding the next big thing:
"One of the reasons I wanted to merge Handspring with Palm was because of this idea. And it's something that was bigger than just Handspring could do on its own. I felt that the combined companies were perfectly aligned to do this new thing."

"Those are my two intersection points: future of personal computing and mobile. (It) may yet again be sort of a different industry or different business, but plays on our strengths in the things we've been building over the years."

Why the Treo 600 is a significant product:
"It moves us more toward the direction where everybody's cell phone ought to be a smart machine. It shouldn't be this dumb little thing where all you can do is make phone calls on it." [Amen to that.]

"And one of these days these things will be $99. They're not today, but they'll be here in a few years. (The Treo 600 sells for $600, but can be obtained for less with a service plan with a cell phone company.)"

A $99 smartphone would be irresistible at that price, as long as it was usable by the masses. Given Hawkins fascination with brain research and the intuitiveness of the Palm OS, I'm looking forward to his next brainchild. Too bad they take over a year to build -- but in the meantime the Treo 600 sounds like the cure for the "dumb little thing" that can only make phone calls.

Hmm... "brain research", "personal computing", and "mobile" -- I used to kid a busy fellow technology consultant that he needed a cell phone brain implant. Change it to a smartphone implant or brain interface of some kind, and I think we've got something. One thing's for certain: It's going to need a darn good spam filter -- we've got enough mental clutter already.

[Update 11/6/03: Yet another sci-fi device is becoming science fact, as The Boston Globe reports on a company seeking approval to test a new brain implant which could enable paralyzed people to control computers directly with their brains or possibly help them move their limbs. It features a jack for the hard-wired connection.

If you've ever watched Andromeda on television, then you may have seen Harper jack into the ship's computer in a very similar fashion. Naturally, with my focus on mobile technology, I'm scratching my head here. Why haven't they included a wireless transmitter that could jack in and sit behind the ear or fit in a shirt pocket to make it easier to change or recharge the batteries? Hard wiring just seems so "90's" to me. If one truly wants to empower these folks, cut them loose.]

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard