Macworld UK recently
spoke with executives from Palm Inc. about their experience working at Apple during the salad days of the Newton project. Newton, Apple’s own handheld organizer, paved the way for the success of Palm and other PDA manufacturers. Long consigned to the scrap yards of defunct Apple projects, the Newton MessagePad still has diehard advocates.
“Palm executives admit they learned from working on Apple’s Newton PDA, which discontinued in February 1998,” writes Macworld UK’s Jonny Evans. Evans spoke with PalmSource vice president business development Albert Chu and senior vice president worldwide marketing Gabi Schindler about what they learned working at Apple.
Schindler said that Newton’s early success showed that “there’s a need” for PDAs, although Chu and Schindler both recognized the device’s shortcomings — its failure to recognize handwriting in early versions, for example.
“Chu and Schindler agreed on four key lessons they learned from their time at Apple which Palm has been able to apply in its dealings in the handheld space: open standards, the user interface, strong partnerships, and diversity,” said Evans.
Palm continues to work with Apple — its Palm Desktop software runs natively on Mac OS X and its newest PDAs work with Macs as well. Plus Apple offers synchronization support between its own iApps — like iCal and Address Book — and Palm PDAs. Regardless, Chu is critical, if understanding, of Apple’s famed secrecy. He said that “the customer ends up losing” because of Apple’s continued efforts to keep its hardware, operating system and application development strategies under wraps.
“Apple’s secrecy isn’t helping us plan ahead, so if we knew, for example — and I certainly understand why Apple wouldn’t want to tell us — that it would release on this date with these different features, then Palm can plan for that. But we just hear about it maybe the day before, whenever — and by that time, we can’t come up with everything,” said Chu.
Chu said that the solution as it stands now is to rely on third parties who can react quicker than Palm can. “It isn’t perhaps a perfect answer, but that’s part of the reality,” Chu said.
Chu also noted Apple’s “tremendous job” of supporting open standards in recent years, as well.