[CoMoDev] PalmSource DevCon

  • From: David Beers <cervezas@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <comodev@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 31 May 2005 09:09:04 -0600

I'm back from my week in San Jose at the PalmSource DevCon.  Whew!  Great 
conference, but exhausting!  Informally, there was conversation and networking 
with other developers starting at about 7:30 every morning when people were 
showing up for breakfast, and after the regular sessions there were informal 
presentations until 10:30pm and the lab was open and hopping until midnight.  I 
don't think I was the only one to sneak away for a power nap on occasion to 
keep my energy level up.  

The conference itself was a two-track affair most of the time (roughly, one 
track was business oriented and the other was technical) and with the shift in 
PalmSource's emphasis toward smart phones it was hard to skip out on many of 
the business sessions, which had good information about how to sell 
applications through the wireless carriers and gave a lot of insight into 
PalmSource's strategy in the coming years.

I've got a ton of work to catch up on, so I'll save most of my comments for the 
June CoMoDev meeting, but here are a few high points:

Palm OS is alive and well running on a Linux microkernel that PalmSource 
acquired when they bough China Mobilesoft a few months ago.  Of course it's a 
pre-alpha kind of thing, but their progress in just a few months is very 
promising.  The Palm OS Cobalt API runs on top of Linux and enables standard 
Palm apps to run with a simple recompile on the new system.  All the built-in 
PIM apps were running fine as far as I could tell and I was assured that this 
was accomplished without changing a single line of code.  I'll tell you more 
and what the roadmap looks like at the meeting.

Palm OS Cobalt (OS 6) itself is finally getting on some cool hardware but still 
hasn't hit the market.  This is the OS that PalmSource developed on a 
microkernel built largely by the BeOS engineers after PalmSource acquired Be. I 
got to play with a Cobalt smart phone for a while in the lab one night and was 
pretty impressed.  Here are some pictures and comments that I wrote up on the 
flight home: http://www.comodev.com/first_cobalt_phone.htm  

Lots of change was coming down during the conference itself.  PalmSource CEO 
David Nagel delivered a shocker by resigning the day before the conference, 
apparently for personal reasons.  Nice timing.  Interestingly, few people 
seemed to care that much, although the PalmSource staff themselves were in 
shock for the first day.  Once the conference got rolling it was scarcely a 
topic of conversation.  It's hard to get out of the PalmSource people what 
happened that their latest OS will have been almost 2 years in making it onto 
the market, but I think there's a sense in the developer community that Nagel 
made some mistakes and that perhaps it was time for him to go.  The feeling I 
got is that PalmSource wants to put the Cobalt debacle behind them as soon as 
possible and will focus on Linux almost exclusively now.

There was plenty of other news (like palmOne renewing its license on Palm OS 
through 2009 and acquiring the "Palm" brand from PalmSource) but no time to go 
into it now.  I think in general the Palm platform is doing better than a lot 
of folks give them credit.  PalmOne has had 7 straight quarters of 
year-over-year sales growth, and big increases in both volume and margins.  The 
new LifeDrive device (very cool by the way) looks like it's on its way to being 
a hit.  Other Palm OS licensees are doing well, too.  Kyocera has sold more of 
its 7135 smart phone than sales of all Microsoft smart phones combined.  And 
the platform looks like its well poised in the China market now.  Still, 
there's no question that mistakes have been made, competition is heating up, 
and there's little margin for error now.

How'd the meeting go last week?


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