LAS VEGAS -Driving onstage in his own vintage, blue Volkswagen Beetle (restored, of course), Palm Inc.'s CEO Carl Yankowski delivered the Workstyle Keynote address to a packed house at the Hilton Theater during International CES.
The VW was symbolic of a reliable design and technology that was easy to use and adopted by the masses, said Yankowski, while drawing a parallel with his company's handheld PDAs.
"I was asked to talk today about the future of handheld computing," he said. "Well, it has arrived."
On the heels of 165 percent growth over the past holiday season and holding 65 percent of the market share for handhelds, Palm has been at the forefront of what Yankowski called the "handheld revolution."
"Handheld computing has changed the way we work and live," he stated. "How many of us can honestly say that there is a strict delineation of our work and personal lives? The handheld will do for computing what the Walkman did for music."
Even the Internet will "bend" to suit the need of the handheld audience. While unveiling the Palm Portal, a partnership with Sprint PCS, he noted that this Internet portal would provide "relevant Internet content" for Palm users.
Contrasting handhelds with PCs and notebook computers, Yankowski said that handhelds are triumphing because the computer industry obsessed over microprocessor speeds and myriad functionalities that eclipsed the daily needs of ordinary people.
"Computers were never designed with average people in mind," he said. "Why should a consumer know what a 'C' drive is? The computer is great for spreadsheets and word processing, but you don't have instant access to information you need daily."
He evoked car dashboards, which have remained a relatively static interface, hiding the numerous processors and components that run a car and presenting users with easy-to-use buttons. That simplicity and transparent technology resonate with consumers, said Yankowski, and that is the mind-set of Palm.
Yankowski cited three keys to Palm's current and future success: user experience, incorporating an easy-to-use interface with access to relevant content; transparent technology, or sophisticated technology behind the easy-to-use facade; and finally, the Palm Economy, a network of more than 130,000 application and extension developers, such as IBM and Sony, which enhances the product for different uses.
"It is an absolute requirement that we have a flexible and open system," Yankowski maintained. "We focus on the core functions of the device, while highly qualified developers work on extensions."
Yankowski also sketched out the future of Palm. The Palm OS 4.0 (expected soon) will incorporate telephony, e-mail and instant messaging. Palm OS 5.0, which is currently in development, will enable multimedia, music, video and gaming in 16-bit color.
But the ultimate goal is to have the PalmPilot replace the wallet as the medium for holding all personal identification information and credit cards. This "e-wallet" would enable mobile e-commerce or "me-commerce."
In a partnership with Visa, Ingenico and Verifone, future Palms will be able to store credit card info, accessible via a personal identification number, for in-store purchasing.
Users would simply point the Palm at an Ingenico point-of-sale station and beam their credit card info to it. Itemized bills will be mailed to users and also stored in the Palm for reference.
Yankowski performed the first-ever me-commerce transaction with Sharper Image, buying nearly $2,000 worth of electronics merchandise.