David Nagel, CEO of the embattled PalmSource, has resigned. For those of you who aren't up to speed on the differences between PalmSource and PalmOne, the former is the licensor of the Palm operating system. As a hardware manufacturer and Palm OS licensee, PalmOne -- maker of the Treo (by virtue of its acquisition of Handspring) -- is a PalmSource customer. The two used to be one company -- Palm -- until the company realized that it would be better to break the company in two. Since then, PalmSource has struggled. Somewhat reminscent (to me at least) of the way Wordperfect refused to go the Windows route, company executives (then, CCO, Michael Mace for example) insisted that the simplicity ethos that put Palm on the map in the first place would endure against more complex offerings such as Microsoft's PocketPC operating system.
Although I have a great deal of respect for Nagel and have found him to be one of the most likable and approachable of this industry's executives, he and I never saw eye-to-eye on the direction that PalmSource needed to take. Dating back to 2001, Nagel and I have gone round and round on his commitment to the PalmOS (discussed here). I've long maintained that PalmOS' number one enemy is Microsoft's PocketPC, and that Palm -- to compete with Microsoft -- had little choice but to join forces with the Java community and leverage its 3 million developers (as opposed to the 300,000+ developers that Palm and subsequently PalmSource have had difficulty growing). Back then, a small company called Savaje had already demonstrated how everything that Palm offered on the PalmOS was doable in more of a pure Java environment (without any sacrafice in performance) and I even asked why Palm might not consider an acquisition of Savaje.
Since then, both PalmOne (in its hardware) and PalmSource (in the software) have been flirting with Java. But they never adopted it as religion in a way that would put all Palm apps on a strategic path to be migrated. Over the years, execs have come up with many excuses. Performance, Sun is difficult, etc. RIM has gone the pure Java route with its BlackBerries and need I say what direction that company has gone in the last five years? I'm sorry to see Nagel go. But I still believe that more of a pure Java approach is the only direction that either company can take if they hope to survive Microsoft's PocketPC juggernaut (not to mention other Java-oriented players such as RIM and Symbian).