PalmSource 2002

This year PalmSource is at the San Jose Convention Center. Previously, the Santa Clara Convention Center was home to the conference. The change is probably a good one, since Santa Clara lacks the energy and excitement of downtown San Jose. No, Bennigan’s doesn’t qualify Santa Clara as hip and happening!

PalmSource was originally going to be held in October, but the events of September 11 pushed it to February 5-7. The extra three to four months were beneficial, however, as they allowed Palm to prepare and showcase more material, such as the Palm OS 5 Preview and the i705 wireless handheld. In addition, travellers to PalmSource had more peace of mind travelling to San Jose; I heard from the organizers that there were a number of out-of-town exhibitor and attendee cancellations following September 11.

This was the first year that I didn’t have any speaking engagements at PalmSource. That was refreshing for me, since the planning phases were always very tedious and time-consuming. There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing and pulling off one’s presentation. I remember spending way too much time creating and fine-tuning my PowerPoint presentations, not to mention thinking about all the jokes and pithy comments that I’d throw into my speech. For the organizers, it’s worse. Once the curtains close on Friday, work begins almost immediately on next year’s conference!

This was the also the first year when PalmSource was open to the public. Exhibitor passes were either free (if you knew the special event registration code) or $35. This pass only got you into the exhibit hall, where members of the Palm Economy were hawking their goods. It did not get you into the developer seminars, which were guarded by the gatekeepers of Maloney. Those guys and gals are at practically every conference I’ve been to in the Bay Area; no surprise, since Warren Maloney started the security company in the Bay Area in 1976.

Overall, however, PalmSource 2002 seemed smaller than the one in 2000. Maybe it was because I had an exhibits-only pass this year and wasn’t able to attend any of the seminars. The exhibit hall remained small, though it was stretched out over a large area. It was larger than SyncFest, though not by much. I didn’t attend the PalmSource Party on Wednesday night. I doubt that it would have been as good as the one at PalmSource 2000. Who can forget the fabulous performances on Who Wants To Be A Palm OS Engineer? Anyone care to comment on the Wednesday night party?

My main goal at PalmSource 2002 was to meet up with old friends and former colleagues. Being in the handheld space for over eight years, I’ve known hundreds over people who have passed through the gates of Palm, Apple, OmniSky, RIM, Microsoft, and IBM. A number of these people left the handheld space only to reappear at one of the other companies years later. Sandy Bennett, the former COO of the ill-fated Newton, Inc. subsidiary, has now landed at Palm. David Nagel, formerly of Apple and Lucent, is now the head of PalmSource, Inc., the newly named subsidiary of Palm working on the operating system. David has a tough challenge ahead of him. The new version of the operating system which will support ARM processors has been hinted at and awaited for over two years. A technology preview is nice, but so was Copland’s, and that OS never shipped from Apple.

Speaking of people moving on, I ran into one of the speakers, Eva Manolis (co-founder of Shutterfly), from the Turning Bits Into Memories seminar on Digital Photography at The Tech. The funny thing was she was wearing a badge with the Palm OS Subsidiary name! It turns out she left Shutterfly shortly after the seminar for other opportunities.

I also ran into Asa Mathat, the photographer at the last PalmSource. I followed him as he made his rounds in the exhibit hall, soaking up any information he had about the business of photography. One of the things that I need to determine is what I want to focus on. Like a number of my friends, I have too many interests that makes deciding a difficult proposition. Although I enjoy being well-rounded, there’s the danger of never getting good at any one particular thing. Dilettante is not something I want on my tombstone. I feel the perfect medium is being well-rounded but kick-ass in one or two areas. Asa put it well, “If you could do only one thing, what would it be?” I couldn’t answer his question. That’s not a good sign!

I’ve always been fascinated with the duality of one’s work and personal lives. We don’t know what everyone else is thinking about while at work. Do they concentrate fully on the task at hand, or are their heads in the Bahamas, dreaming of where they’d like to be or what they’d prefer to be doing? I’ve thought about doing a photojournalistic piece on this duality, but that type of thing seems to have been done to death. Where’s the new angle or what’s the new thing to do?

Now, let’s turn to someone who has accomplished something! Kudos to Andrea Butter, who is on the verge of publishing her first book, Piloting Palm: The Inside Story of Palm, Handspring, and the Birth of the Billion Dollar Handheld Industry. There hasn’t been much written about the handheld industry, aside from Defying Gravity and Startup and nothing’s been written recently, so this should be an interesting book. I hear that it provides a very balanced view of the growth (or retardation, as some would categorize the recent economic state of some of these companies) of the handheld industry. Of course, some people are more interested in the dirt. Those stories will probably be left unwritten and recited in the oral tradition. Crisp execution, after all, demands great communication of information to those who will be crisply executing.

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