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Palm: A hand to the future

Roger Baskerville, Director, Business Markets & Alliances EMEA, Palm Solutions Group talks to Adam Baddeley about how wireless and mobile devices best generate revenue and loyalty for operators when the applications fulfil a real business function for the customer.

Q: How do you see form factors influencing network use?
A:
It may be a fairly simple statement but one of the great advantages that a hand-held device has over a smart phone device at one end of the spectrum and a laptop at the other, is that it is really a combination of a device that has much greater usability in terms of its form factor yet it can still run complex applications. This drives the need for higher volumes of data, which typically translates into revenues for operators when compared to something like the smart phone. When compared with a laptop clearly itís more limited in size. However, itís far more portable, therefore usable, and is used with much greater frequency than laptops. Typically the volumes of data driven by a hand-held over any given period are substantially more because they are used much more frequently.

Q: How do the applications differ in their ability to generate operator revenue?
A:
If you look at the true mobile phones that are capable of running applications, a lot of those are really based on download and run. These are applications such as games for which you pay a once off fee, but tend not to be connected applications, which generate traffic on an ongoing basis. If you compare that to mobile mail applications, accessing calendars, sales force automation - CRM type applications, you have applications that you are constantly going to be connecting back to your data source to either resynchronise data or get access to live application data. Once you are in a PDA form factor it is more likely to be connected for longer periods of time than with the types of application, typically used on phones to date.

Q: How do you see the market developing between business use and consumer demand for hand-held devices?
A:
Palm is a world market leader in hand-held devices. We see both markets are primary markets for us. To give you a rough estimate we would expect somewhere between 40%-45% over the next couple of years to be in the business-to-business space and the balance to be with the consumer although historically, the vast majority of devices bought by consumers are then taken to a business environment.

Q: Is the concept of a single Killer Application commercially relevant? Is there one Killer Application?
A:
Thereís a lot of debate on this but probably not. If you are talking mobile workforces in a business-to-business space, then it is a combination. Mail and messaging will be a key application. Thatís broader than maybe just Exchange or Notes, think of SMS as a mail and messaging or instant messaging technology. If you then link that to sales force automation, field service management or field data collection, combine them with personal productivity tools inherent in Personal Information Management, and the ability as you can today to run ordinary Office product functionality Ė Word, Excel and PowerPoint - on a hand-held device. Thatís a powerful combination. All of this you can do seamlessly on a Palm platform today.

Q: How are user expectations about their connection times changing?
A:
Users really want to be charged like they are with satellite TV. They get a fixed monthly cost and enjoy a range of free content but are quite happy to pay an additional amount to watch say a film or sporting event. In the mobile world, this equates to Ďall you can eatí data usage for Internet access and email but access to premium content such as location aware services is also available.

Q: How does ease of use impact upon usage?
A:
Integrating the software is very important and thatís where we spend a lot of time focusing our efforts. If you were to take somewhere like Stockholm which has so many wireless hotspots, itís difficult not to be in one, you are far more likely to be able to open it and get connected to the network. You are also far more likely to make that connection if it is easier to do so with a single press. We at Palm spend a lot of time working with those software vendors particularly on things like mail and messaging and sales force automation. That experience can be the best and quickest, out of the box if possible. At the end of the day what businesses are trying to buy Ė without being too trite about this Ė are solutions. Compelling solutions are ones that are strongly integrated hardware and application propositions. We fully understand that the hardware itself will not drive usage; itís really that integration provides a total solution.

Q: Is the need for battery power limiting the applications and hardware being offered?
A:
Not in the Palm world. Our battery life is significantly better than the competition. You could run our new Wireless LAN product for seven hours with battery on, lights on, communicating all the time, synchronizing all the time. Because the Palm OS is specifically designed for the platform it offers much greater efficiency of performance than competitor operating systems, which have by and large been designed for a desktop environment where battery life is not an issue. Palm focuses on mobility; it always has done. As a result, the very fact that you can get to application data quicker is hugely important in the right form factor. We talk about battery life, but instant on is very important. There are all sorts of sales force environments where the sales guy doesnít have the luxury of an hour long meeting with a prospective customer, he may only have a couple of minutes; in the case of a pharmaceutical rep seeing a doctor he doesnít have the time for a conventional laptop to go through its start-up routine.

Q: Integration is a term bandied about a lot. What does it mean to the user?
A:
Very few people can make a dial up connection, go into their corporate e-mail and do so without any help. To get to the mass market ó in businesses, and also the consumer market (people just wanting to access their ISP e-mail), it has got to get to the point where the only thing they need to know is their e-mail address and their password using a device out-of-the box. That can be done with a combination of very good well trained channels going into the enterprise market, and Palm are very interested to talk to Telcos many of whom are already looking at this hosting model.

Q: What attention has been paid to security?
A:
Security is a real concern. With Palmís Tungsten C weíve introduced class-leading security on the device itself where you can lock down and encrypt data and applications and we have full VPN support on that device. We fully understand the concerns around security and we are making sure that we are both directly, and through partners, delivering the kind of support and security features that will allay those concerns.

Q: Are there potential new markets waiting for that improved security?
A:
Healthcare would be a good example of that. Healthcare is already deploying a lot of Palm devices in terms of doctor using devices to take patient records out in the field or the pharmaceutical companies undertaking clinical trailing. Security is a major issue for them; they feel comfortable in what we are able to deliver now that they have the requisite levels of security in their devices.

Q: What is the roadmap for Palm?
A:
Palm Solutions Group is the device business within Palm. Itís our business to make best of breed hand-held devices and, partnering with people, build other best of breed components for the mobile ecosystem. As a business, Palm is committed to open standards, with a business model far more flexible than our most well known competitors. In our conversations with a lot of operators, they have said that is a key benefit in working with Palm.

This summer Palm will have our own Java/Mid-P processing engine enabling an application made for a mobile phone to go onto a PDA. In the open systems debate it is effectively open systems versus Microsoft in the phone space. I think the Telcos already have made their decision and that is very much down the open systems route.

There are about 20 million Palm devices out there today; something like five times the number of competitive devices. Palm considers that it has a responsibility as market leader, to make the markets move forward towards mobility with hand-held devices. We are concentrating on identifying the key markets, the leading applications providers and working with them to develop integrated solutions and bringing them to market through the right partnerships.

For more information, please contact:
Roger Baskerville: Roger.baskerville@corp.palm.com


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