Fwd: Palm, Access, Linux and Irrelevance
Matthew S. Hamrick
mhamrick at cryptonomicon.net
Fri Apr 13 03:32:27 CEST 2007
Forgot to forward this to the lists...
Begin forwarded message:
> Subject: Palm, Access, Linux and Irrelevance
> Hey Brad...
> A friend forwarded me your "Opening up the Wireless Handset"
> article, and I figured I have a few apropos comments.
> First... I've been "in the mobile value chain" for almost a decade,
> working first for RSA and Certicom and later at Handspring,
> PalmSource and consulting for "the usual suspects." I've been using
> Unix since the early 80's and Linux since rev 0.91 of the kernel
> (not that there's much knowledge from the 0.91 days that's useful
> today.) I'm the Co-Founder of the Homebrew Mobile Phone Club 
> and a participant on various OpenMoko  related projects. I am
> also, as far as I know, the first person to recommend the concept
> of the "complete open phone,"  the idea that the market is best
> served by a collection of open hardware specifications, open source
> software and the ability to buy single-unit quantities of
> everything you should need to build your own phone. (Though good
> ideas seem to spring out of the woodwork, so I wouldn't be
> surprised if someone else came up with the idea, too.)
> I guess what I wanted to say is... opening up the handset is about
> more than deploying open source code (or even publishing hardware
> reference designs.) It's about changing the way manufacturers,
> marketers and solution providers interact with their customers. The
> joy of the Treo (and earlier platforms from Microsoft and Psion)
> was that individual users could make the decision what application
> code they added to their devices. If you weren't happy with the
> limited calendar that came with your Treo, you could buy or
> download a replacement. If you worked in a vertical market, you
> could add industry or corporation specific applications to your
> mobile device that would (in theory) increase your personal
> productivity. Or maybe it would allow you to implement a better
> business process. The Springboard platform on the Visor extended
> this concept to custom hardware; it's passing is partially what led
> me to experiment with making my own "homebrew" mobile phone.
> The great joy of mobile Linux is not, as it's used by Access, Palm
> and Motorola, as a "cheap" alternative for some other operating
> environment. Anyone who's worked with mobile Linux knows that free
> can often be quite costly. It's great benefit is that it's a non-
> denominational "meeting place" for ideas about software. Like other
> Unices, Linux implements Posix and exports useful abstractions for
> programmers and administrators. Got an idea for a better calendar
> app? Just write it. Worried about security on your wireless
> network? Maybe that security agent software made for the desktop
> could work on your mobile device? Now that we're starting to see
> more mobile devices with USB host and Bluetooth, devices made from
> these standards are easy to integrate into a mobile Linux solution.
> The great joy of Linux on mobile devices is not that it reduces
> cost, but that it reduces risk. There are countless ways the
> development of a mobile solution can be brought to a screeching
> halt. Experience has shown that we frequently don't know what the
> major development problems are when we begin a product design. But
> for my money, the wealth of tools available for Linux means with a
> little creativity, you can hack your way to a solution easier than
> had you started with WinCE or Symbian (or even PalmOS to a lesser
> And the great thing about it is it's not owned by any one vendor.
> To be sure there are many reasons why you might want to develop
> with WinCE and Symbian (and PalmOS and iTRON and ... ) But the
> future of Linux is not married to any one particular company. While
> I love Platform Builder and Vis Dev Studio, I have noticed that
> WinMobile 5.0 makes it easy to integrate with Microsoft-based
> services (Windows Media, NTLM, etc.), but a pain in the keester if
> you're trying to develop a system that uses open standards like
> FLAC, Vorbis, Speex, etc. There's a perception that you don't have
> these problems in Linux, and for the most part it's true.
> From my experience, though, neither Palm or Access (or Motorola or
> Nokia) understand this. Well... okay... Nokia and Motorola are
> starting to show signs of catching on. But Palm and Access seem to
> be taking a closed approach to Linux. Palm has noted that it's not
> going to be licensing (or presumably releasing) it's distro.
> They're using Linux to provide a stable underpinning for their
> Garnet emulator (or so it seems to me.) Access is trying to make
> money selling middleware and applications for Linux. Well... more
> power to 'em. With Access' Hiker Project and Nokia's Maemo/Hildon,
> both are asking application developers to increase the risk of
> their projects by requesting they expend effort to customize their
> apps for their own commercial products.
> And then they wonder why people are spending a lot of effort to
> deploy web-based apps that could, in theory, run on any device,
> even a mobile browser. Hiker may die. Hildon may die. And it's my
> sad experience to report that even the WinCE APIs vary over time.
> sheet, this sorta explains why they're giving their middleware away
> but selling their browser.
> But... If I'm an app developer, why should I customize my app to
> use a device-specific UI API, when I could extend my app's life and
> applicability by using the browser (any browser) as a renderer. And
> I think this is the question that both Palm and Access have missed.
> TrollTech's QT is quite refined, especially when compared to either
> Hiker or Hildon. And their dual-licensing model benefits
> I keep thinking that TrollTech, Palm, Access (and to a lesser
> degree, Microsoft) have missed an opportunity to move "up the value
> chain." IBM did this in the 90's... it was painful, but ultimately
> profitable. By shedding their low-margin businesses and
> concentrating on providing business re-engineering consulting, IBM
> was able to focus on high-value, high-margin activities for their
> customers. IBM still sells hardware, to be sure, but it's all stuff
> they can't buy cheaper from other people or it's high-performance
> equipment (SP2s, zSeries, etc.) thats meets specific customer
> requirements (online transaction processing, etc.)
> TrollTech and Access view themselves as software companies, and
> that's the problem. Both organizations must overcome an
> increasingly skeptical, cost-sensitive market. The cost of mass-
> market devices is plummeting, and both companies need to hitch
> their wagon to a couple more hit products if they are to survive.
> Palm, Motorola and Nokia view themselves as hardware companies, and
> despite several commercial and critical successes are struggling to
> survive in a market with increasing pressure to reduce cost.
> In his presentation "Models of Software Acceptance : How Winners
> Win,"  Dick Gabriel discusses the utility of evolution in
> software development. Or more specifically, he points out that
> evolutionary theory credits the changing environment, and not the
> mutating individual as the primary agent of natural selection. We
> sometimes forget this. In the tech marketplace, products that can
> be adapted to new, specific requirements are the ones that survive.
> Companies that make these products survive to compete another day.
> To the degree that we can predict the future needs of our
> customers, we can build products that meet these needs. But
> internal conflict occurs when we predict the utility of a product
> that competes with our current cash cows. Gabriel points out the
> biological equivalent of this effect; "only things that are
> relatively worthless change rapidly and dramatically." Molecular
> biology, it appears, prevents mutation in genes that encode
> survival traits.
> Gabriel uses Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm"  model
> overlaid on evolutionary biology to analyze how innovation is
> related to market acceptance. Within his evolutionary model,
> Gabriel advises tech companies to develop inexpensive technology
> that adequately meets an emerging market need. If we read
> Anderson's "Long Tail,"  we're likely to assume this means we
> should go after niche markets.
> In "Sources of Innovation" and "Democratizing Innovation,"  MIT
> professor Eric von Hippel argues a similar point, but from the
> perspective of the niche customer. In von Hippel's model, "lead
> users" are individuals who are highly motivated to solve a business
> problem, are not being serviced by existing suppliers and have the
> ability to fabricate ad-hoc solutions. Companies who understand the
> needs of lead users may make decisions informed by experiences of
> real customers. Properly executed, companies use lead user studies
> to discover what customers value and how their existing products or
> services can be modified to efficiently meet the emerging markets
> lead users represent.
> If we again apply Anderson's philosophy on the value of niche
> markets, and everything we learned from Taiichi Ohno , the
> future may be large "Just in Time" manufacturing centers capable of
> selling 98% complete products into a constellation of marketing
> companies, each specializing in understanding the values and needs
> of different niches.
> Palm and Access are firmly focused on the international wireless
> carrier market. And from their perspective, I wouldn't expect
> anything else. It's a proven money-maker and a growth industry. But
> they've both shown a bit of myopia when it comes to looking at the
> "bigger picture." Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! have failed in voice
> chat applications, and Vonage is certainly skirting the rocky
> shoals of corporate insolvency. But Skype seems to be taking hold.
> Backed up by eBay's financial resources and joined at the hip with
> PayPal, they are starting to be a serious competitor. But Palm and
> Access are too dependent on the carrier's good graces to be able to
> work with Skype or any of the VoIP players. In short, they're
> trying as hard as they can to design products that make it easy to
> browse the web over WiFi, but difficult to integrate SIP/RTP VoIP
> In the meantime, organizations like the Homebrew Mobile Phone Club
> and the OpenMoko community are developing user interfaces,
> applications, hardware designs and open source software to provide
> "lead user" innovators with the tools they need to solve real world
> business problems in a cost effective manner. Palm, Nokia and
> Motorola appear to be competing to make the next Linux-based
> Blackberry killer. Access is expanding the reach of its browser by
> surrounding it with Linux middleware. Palm's competitive edge
> against Nokia is it's installed base of PalmOS apps, and it's user
> community. But the PalmOS heyday is long past, ask any PalmOS
> developer. Nokia's been known to make mistakes, but should they
> decide to move Linux into their mainstream products, they'll do so
> as a market leader. By making the browser the center-piece of their
> profitability smorgasbord, Access runs the risk of irrelevance
> should a mobile version of Firefox ever deploy (or should Mark
> Shuttleworth decide that he wants to make "Mobuntu".)
> I wish Palm and Access luck, but I can't help but think they're
> jockeying for position on the hierarchy of irrelevance.
> -Matt H.
> 1. http://hbmobile.org/
> 2. http://openmoko.org/
> 3. http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/etel/2006/09/05/the-complete-
> 4. http://www.dreamsongs.com/Files/AcceptanceModels.pdf
> 5. http://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Chasm-Marketing-High-Tech-
> 6. http://www.longtail.com/
> 7. http://web.mit.edu/evhippel/www/books.htm
> 8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban
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