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Exclusive Hawkins Interview

Last Updated Mon Oct 18, 1999 - 2:54 PM EDT - By Marcus Adolfsson

Suddenly he appeared. Live, on stage, promoting his own product. Most people in the audience had no clue who this person in front of them was. Others recognized the enthusiastic face. As VisorCentral member Solo wrote in a post, here was "an individual who has made (and will continue to make) an important impact on life as we know it." Jeff Hawkins had entered the stage.

Since the launch of VisorCentral, many questions regarding the Visor have surfaced. Why not get them answered from the developer/inventor/chairman himself?

Do you feel that the expectations for your new PDA were too high within in the "core" Palm community?

"I certainly did not hype anything," Hawkins said. Most of us can certainly agree with this since Handspring even refused to acknowledge what they were developing until early September. "Visor is our first product and I am pretty pleased with it," Hawkins added. "I can always do a color version." So why isn’t Visor in color? "I wanted to quickly produce a product targeted to the mid to low-end market. It will only get better," Hawkins promised.

Why is the Visor not using a Flash ROM?

"There were two main reasons - actual usage of the upgrade ability and price. Historically only close to 5% of Palm’s users took advantage of flash upgrading their PDAs. The demand for such a feature is not high for the market the Visor is targeted for," Hawkins said. "In addition, the price would go up if we used Flash ROM. It was an economical trade off." Hawkins added that there is a possibility for "flash in higher end units."

Are you happy with the stylus holder?

"I think it is the best one from a storage view point so far," Hawkins pointed out. The stylus holder is completely integrated into the Visor - nothing sticks out. The stylus does not "click into" position like in other PDAs, instead it slides in and gets stuck in foam. "It is very durable," Hawkins added.

How many Springboards do you hope to see a year from now?

"Several hundreds - and a lot of them will be software titles," Hawkins said. I asked him why he believes people will buy software on cartridges rather than simply download it.

"A lot of people have no clue how to download a file, unzip it, and transfer it. Statistics shows that about 50% of the palm community can download programs on their Palms," Hawkins added. So the market is certainly there. In addition, Hawkins feels it is a "convenience factor" of having software on Springboards. Future palm programs might become quite large and would occupy much of a PDA’s memory.

What is your current "dream" Springboard?

"I would like to see a presentation style Springboard. Imagine ’printing’ your PowerPoint presentation to the Visor," Hawkins said. The presenter could then connect the projector, monitor or TV straight to the Springboard and control the presentation on the Visor. "You wouldn’t be able to edit the show, just display it," Hawkins added.

The Springboard and Visor are not necessarily synonymous. "Springboard technology is designed to work in many products and for a long time to come," Hawkins said. "When we designed the Springboard technology I had the mentality that Springboard investments should still be useful in 10 years," he added. "If you don’t think a technology can stay for that long, look at the Game Boy, " Hawkins pointed out.

Was it a mistake to start taking orders early?

"I don’t think it was a mistake. You have to commit to a date and that is what we did." Several VisorCentral members have complained about the misinformed and disorganized representatives at Handspring’s call center. The situation seems to be somewhat better by now.

How many Visors do you want to see in the hand of consumers in a year?

"No idea"

When will the Visor ship?

"Really really shortly. And in the beginning of next year in Europe and Japan."

What is next?

"Can’t say," Hawkins commented quickly. Eventually he revealed that "Visor is one of four major products that are in development."

Only time will tell what they may be.


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