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Not your mother’s handheld

PalmSource president David Nagel shared the spotlight in a collaborative keynote address at Comdex, during which he and his team showed off the latest mobile multimedia dreams. By JEREMY ROSENBERG.

“We are in the era of new, smart devices,”” PalmSource President and CEO David Nagel said at the conclusion of his Wednesday afternoon COMDEX keynote address. “”And we hope you’ll all be Palm-powered.””

In addition to briefly playing pitchman, Nagel also served as historian, prognosticator, and stage-sharing master of ceremonies during his hour-long presentation.

The speech and accompanying PowerPoint presentation carried the questioning title, “”A New Era in Computing?”” Nagel set about comparing the PC epoch with the current wireless, networked, and hand-held period.

“”Where is the focus of innovation today?”” he inquired. “”Handheld is where the excitement is.”” Nagel and a stream of associates proceeded to demonstrate some of the products and applications behind the buzz.

Pulling out a Tapwave Zodiac 2 running on his company’s operating system, Nagel welcomed two of his marketing department employees to the stage. One called the device a “”mobile, multimedia dream,”” and commenced playing the Pink song, “”Get The Party Started.”” The employee mouthed the words and bopped his head. Nagel, standing at the podium, did neither.

When the two employees ‚Äî using Bluetooth wireless networking to compete in the video game road race, “”Stuntcar Experience”” ‚Äî struggled to keep their virtual rides on track, Nagel joshed that their lame playing was proof the pair were instead working hard at their jobs. “”Not exactly your mother’s handheld,”” he added.

Joe Sipher, a PalmSource VP, took the stage next and delivered a demo for the Trio 600. “”It is Outlook in your pocket,”” Sipher said, and showed off calendar, directory, e-mail, and other features. Sipher stressed that the program permitted e-mail attachments.

Sprint official Kevin Packingham was the next to the take the ostensibly PalmSource stage. He spoke of his firm’s collaboration with Nagel’s company. He showed a video of an OBGYN highly praising his wireless PDA. When Nagel next spoke, he said that at least one-third of doctors in the United States are now carrying Palm devices.

The conceptual ‚Äî and practical ‚Äî motive for bringing a strategic partner on stage was made clear when Nagel stated, “”we’re a highly interdependent business model.””

During another portion of his remarks, Nagel addressed what he labeled as the three major developments impacting the industry is seeing today. Mobilizing knowledge workers was one, bringing IT to new tasks was another, and speed was the third.

The latter he cited as having “”profound impact.”” Nagel told the story of a company called LDT Systems that connects those waiting for an organ transplant with their emergency doctors.

“”With a new solution,”” he said, “”[that LDT] used based on the Trio 600, they were able to reduce [wait] time from 20 minutes to two minutes.”” In a small trial, 120 lives were spared, Nagel cited from LDT estimates.

“”This is a dramatic example, “” the PalmSource CEO said.

Returning to the key comparison between PC era and today, Nagel noted that back then, open platforms, Moore’s Law, and ubiquitous networks were keys. They still are, he said, adding a pair of other items to his list: “”wireless and mobility”” and “”customization.””

Stressing the importance of wireless and more, Nagel said, “”I think this next era of computing could quite literally touch every person on the planet.””

Saying he himself uses two phones, depending where in the world he is, Nagel said, “”I think we’re entering an era where people want to buy products that are best in class at something.””

And regarding customization, he pointed to the skyrocketing growth in the number of PalmSource applications and developers — the latter estimated by Nagel at 300,000.

“”All we have to is publish our APIs,”” Nagel said, “”hold a developers conference from time to time, and let it all develop organically.””

In other comments, the CEO said PalmSource is developing its OS6 product (code-named Sahara), and to address compatibility issues, the company has been building in sockets to support multiple standards such as GSM, 802.11, Bluetooth, and others.

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