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Hawkins: Keep it simple

Wed Jun 28, 2000 - 3:07 AM EDT - By James Hromadka

Hawkins' Keynote

PC EXPO began with a keynote address by Jeff Hawkins, co-founder of Handspring. During the address, Hawkins touched on what he considered to be key errors by some handheld makers, as well as what should be considered the "killer app" for smart phones.

The key point that Hawkins stressed was that handhelds have in the past used conventional thinking when they should have been using unconventional wisdom. For example, around the time that the PalmPilot was made conventional thinking said that computers should adapt to people. Hawkins' unconventional wisdom was that people will learn useful tools - out of this came Graffiti™, which is a very useful handwriting recognition tool that people learn in about half an hour. In addition, adding more features and a faster CPU is not important - instead, do the important things well and speed up the user experience.

Hawkins then went on to point out what he considers to be important in smart phones. The following is what Jeff Hawkins feels is important in smart phones:

  1. Better voice calling - currently, features like speed dialing, call history, and conference calling are very difficult to quickly use in cell phones. These functions can be made easier by using names instead of numbers to dial contacts
  2. Integrated PIM that allows the Address Book and caller ID functionality to work together
  3. Messaging (IM, etc)
  4. Browsing / Transactions (wireless) - currently poorly done in cell phones, this will require a persistent connection that has low latency and offers a great user experience

Following his speech, Hawkins then answered some audience questions. Color and rechargeable batteries will be in Handspring's future, but there will also still be models that use traditional batteries. Voice recognition according to Hawkins should not be the primary interface; so don't look for it in a Handspring model anytime soon. Higher resolutions today primarily benefit only pictures, and marginally increase readability. Increasing the contrast to offer true "black on white" screens is more important, particularly for users with poor vision.

Hawkins was very well received by the packed house, and later was in a panel discussion with executives from Palm, AvantGo, and Tivoli. I only wish that Handspring puts out a cellular module like the one that Hawkins described.


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