Prognostications about the future of computing typically have all the accuracy of a supermarket tabloid, or Palm Beach elections results. However, the explosion of handheld PDAs over the last year makes it hard to ignore the hype emanating from this year's PalmSource conference: the Palm OS is the future. Whether that's true or not, Mac users won't be left out either way.
According to Byron Connell, vice president of Palm's consumer markets group, the company is very committed to the Mac. Connell pointed out that the executive team at Palm has more years of combined experience at Apple than at Palm. Of course, actions speak louder than words -- and Palm says it's backing up its statements with some good news for Mac users.
Connell says that Palm will release a Mac OS X version of its desktop software next year. The current version of the Palm Desktop software works in OS X's classic mode, but users can't HotSync. Although the company didn't provide a date for the release of their desktop software, Palm officials did state that the new software would not arrive until after OS X's official release.
In addition, the company says that next year, it will be easier to connect Palms to the Mac. "Palm is committed to migrating to USB," says Connell. This means Mac users who buy a Palm next year will no longer have to add a Serial-to-USB adapter. (Palm OS handheld manufacturer Handspring has offered USB-based cradles from the start.)
Of course, the future line of Palm OS devices are threatening to make cables completely superfluous. Connell says the next two generations of Palm products will be more focused on Secure Digital cards, Bluetooth wireless short-range radio, and the Internet. He sees Palms working in conjunction with a variety of other devices -- including digital cameras, printers, MP3 players, and of course, computers -- without connecting directly to the device.
Instead, users will either swap out SD cards or use Bluetooth to make the connection. Connell says the Bluetooth-ready Palm OS 4.0, which is already in beta and will be released in 2001, is the first step in making use of these technologies. (And Apple still has not committed to creating any devices that interact via Bluetooth.) However, no dramatic changes -- aside from color support -- are in the works for Palm OS 4.0.