With Nagel gone, will PalmSource wake up and smell the Java?

With Nagel gone, will PalmSource wake up and smell the Java?

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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David NagelDavid 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).

Topic: Mobility

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  • THen why would PlamSource even need to exist?

    I mean if they are a Java clone why wouldn't developers just use Java? This suggestion might work well if the goal is to close the doors completely...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • You are confusing an OS language with the OS

      Example - DOS was created in Assembler - Win3x is a C language. W9X, WNT is both C and C++ (as is Linux and Unix). The Palm OS would be using Java and the JVM to provide the user inteface.
      quietLee
      • Clearing up the confusion

        Thakns quietLee for attempting to clear the confusion up but I fear your post may add to it.

        Java and the JVM would not provide the user interface. Java and JVM would be the set of APIs on which the user interface and all applications would be developed. Actually, this is sort of perfect for the handset environment because most people do not have access to the OS in a handset environment anyway. So, the contact manager may look the same as what the contact manager looked like on the old Palm OS, but under the hood, the APIs it's using to control the display of information, beaming of contact info to other PDAs, etc are Java-based. By moving to more of a Java environment, the overall ecosystem grows. The existing 3 million Java developers would then have access to all PalmOS users, and those users would have access to all of those Java applications. PalmSource has tried to manage this by offering a JVM that runs on the the native PalmOS, but like I said, this is more flirting with Java then getting super serious about it, the way RIM did. Savaje, by the way, still has a different kernel underneath it (I don't know of a Java kernel). It's the old Inferno kernel that was developed by some engineers at Lucent (actually, back then, I think it was Bell Labs). Those same engineers are the ones who founded Savaje.
        dberlind