Visionary Jeff Hawkins blends PDAs, cellular phones — and? __ Here’s an interesting somewhat buried interview. Apparently we have something new on the horizon..what can it be?

Jeff Hawkins: There is a third business that I’ve been working on but I’m not going to tell you what it is. It’s in mobile computing. It’s something different and it’s in its early stage. We have three businesses at PalmOne. One you don’t even know about, which is just a child. Another is the teenager and the other one is the mature 45-year-old.

Q: Can you give me a better idea about what this “child” technology is?

Hawkins: Not really. I’ll give you a couple clues. I always think of mobile computing as personal computing. This long-term vision has led us through everything — first the organizers and now through the smart phone space. It’s like everything a personal computer is. Continue down that path. What are the implications of a world where everyone has a super high-speed Internet connection in their pocket and many gigabytes of storage, super-fast processors, audio, visual and multimedia? What are the consequences of that? How will that change computing when you have all that stuff available to you all the time? I try to think into the future. That’s how we come up with new products. So I’m not going to tell you what it is, but it’s following the consequences of mobile computing.

OK, readers are invited to guess what this might be. First Hawkins invented the Palm Pilot — that was the “mature” product. Then the next was the Palm with a built-in phone and email. What’s after that?

discovered by D. Drews

  1. Ed Campbell says:

    My 1st guess would be something we were discussing at lunch, today. My father-in-law, my wife and I. She has a desktop computer at work. We share one at home. We each have a laptop. Plus I have a wireless Palm. My father-in-law has a desktop machine at his latest base of operations in North Carolina. Another in his 5th-wheel trailer. Plus a laptop.

    Helen and I use Apple’s .Mac service to store backups, right now. Tom is planning to switch to Macs [about the only one in the family who hasn’t, yet] and .Mac is one of the reasons.

    I also use iDisk via .Mac to maintain and update 2 websites — drag and drop is all it requires for one of them — and not much more for the other.

    We all agreed a service like this — or something a lot larger, like the 10-50gb rumors we hear about Google — frees up whatever computer you’re working with just to use the hard drive for temporary or interim storage. Keep everything but the OS and some software off-premises.

    Memory is cheap enough, nowadays, to make this feasable, especially for a heavy-hitter. Is Palm ready to do this with Google — or on their own?

  2. Miguel Lopes says:

    A palm-sized device with 3G GSM, Bluetooth, WiFi, 100 gigs hard drive, 1 gig RAM, tiny but usable keybord – probably wireless rather than built-in – GPS, digital TV and radio tuner, possibly also satellite radio. Builtin 20 megapixel camera, usable for videocalls. It can make regular calls too, of course.

    When you get to the office you can plug it to a monitor, OQO-fashion. Not with wires, of course, some wireless tech.

    What else would I like to see there?

    Inexpensive videocalls, price under US $250…

    If you want to be REALLY innovative you got to beat THIS!!!!

  3. Dave Drews says:

    There are two elements to consider: hardware and software.

    Right now, you can cram a microphone, speaker, combination display and touch screen into a phone/pda. Move ahead a couple of years, and the quality of images and sound in such devices will rival professional video equipment. Extend the range of video to infrared ultraviolet and who knows how high. Extend the range of audio to subsonic and beyond audible. Add micro sensors for odors and other things. In effect, create the Star Trek tricorder.

    With multiple processors on-board, it could process the data coming in from all the sensors, displaying it’s analysis on its screen. Then, using an ultra-high speed wireless internet connection, it could retrieve historical, scientific, medical… really any kind of data from your personal Google database and the entire Internet to do further analysis.

    An example of a possible use would be as a hand-held CSI. Take video of an unidentified body. Dip a sensor into blood and other fluids to test for drugs, contaminents, viruses, etc. Press fingers to screen to be scanned for fingerprints. Process this locally, then compare data with FBI records, medical diagnosis programs, and so on. Use a built-in laser rangefinder to sight bullet tragectories. Well, you get the idea. And this is one application. The possibilities for such a device are endless.

    The key is the software as most, if not all, of the sensors and displays already exist and will only get better with time. With an ultra-high speed connection, what processing can’t be done locally can be offloaded to outside machines.

    Talk about innovation…

  4. Nur Hendra says:

    He mentioned high-speed Internet in the pocket, plus those extra stuff (storage, apps, etc). So, I am thinking he might want to combine the simplicity of pocket devices to connect through those extra stuff, via the high speed connection.

    Let’s say everyone are happy with their stuff (hypercruncher, terabytes, computer systems) everywhere in the house, office, etc. Then give that person a palm sized device that allow remote control and terminal streaming of those devices via high speed wireless connection. No more copying multimedia, games, etc to devices for your trip! You can watch video streamed from home PC, or checking notes/files from office PC, and so on. The palm device will be lighter (no hard drive), use less power, and reasonably marketable.

  5. johnwin says:

    just one phrase: artificial intelligence

    a new palm device will not be some kind of spec busting super-palm i think it will be a context based true assistant – prompting you to do things based on where you are and what wor are currently doing

  6. James Hill says:

    I always think of mobile computing as personal computing.

    Sounds like he’s thinking beyond what’s currently considered the mobile computing experience. While beefing up existing mobile devices seems the natural course, I expect these guys to want to move their devices towards being “the device” you think of as your computer. That would mean turning your desktops, laptops and media centers into child nodes of your Palm device.

    While this is practical from a technology sense (Tried saving to the C drive in Vista recently? Moving all non-OS software off of C could be the future.), it fails the business logic test for two reasons:

    1. What makes this guy think he can change the computing landscape? He’s only added to it in the past, and to what extent is questionable. Personally, I don’t use a PDA: I’ve done just well, for years now, with a clamshell cell phone with limited phonebook and task records and a laptop.

    2. When people make statements like “I try to think into the future. That’s how we come up with new products. So I’m not going to tell you what it is, but it’s following the consequences of mobile computing.” do they ever come true?

    In the end, this whole story seems to be a way for this guy to say one thing: I’m still relevant!

  7. Miguel Lopes says:

    I actually agree with jonhwin in that a new kind of device should be more funcion oriented than a uber-palm. Augmented reaity comes to mind. But I think the market will lead to another uber palm being announced… Just what Palm has been doing with the ‘Lifedrive’

  8. meetsy says:

    the swiss army PDA…comes with video, blah blah, and ALSO — a screw driver (phillips head), a corkscrew, can opener (electric, of course), personal shaver, ionized air fan, nail clipper, personal “massager” (**wink wink**), thermometer, key ring, heart defibrillator, and cologne holder (Old Spice optional)in a very nice leather man-sack.
    …..Did I get it right?

  9. Keith Harvey says:

    It will be an “intelligent” PDA. Read Jeff Hawkins’ book “On Intelligence”. The man has devoted a large part of his life on studying the brain and how it works. In his book he talks about creating intelligent machines. Not your hokey AI or neural networks, but machines that can actually understand. So, I believe he is talking about a PDA that gives you access to the ever growing amount of data that we store (documents, video, audio, web, etc.) via truly intelligent voice recognition and/or natural search text over broadband wireless networks.

  10. Mark C says:

    I think he may be talking about a mobile device like the palm that will be constantly connected to our home central computer. Since storage is very cheap and evenone and their brother has a home network, it would be great to be anywhere in the world and pull up any video, photo, files from our main computer at home. I also think it would be great to be able to control the device by just speaking to it naturally. In essence, it would just be a mobile interface for our main networked system at home as 3G and 4G networks in 08/09 will be able to handle a constant data stream back and forth. To me voice and constant mobile connection is the next step on from ‘sync-ing’, there would be no need to sync (or iDisk) as there would only be one central repository of info – backed up of course!

    Dvorak – I have added a Mac to my computer network and I have heard you talking about them, so please for god sake get your site formatted properly as it always cuts the bottom of the page off in Safari – works fine in Firefox of course.

  11. Jeff hawkins will not do “Artificial Intelligence”. He wrote a book that is very critical of it.

    I vote for RFID+GPS-based personal computing. A PDA can be very useful if it’s full of software that constantly thinks about where you are, and who is near you.
    – Precision Blogger


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