Thursday was the last full day of DevCon and I was amazed how quickly time had passed. It seemed as though I'd only arrived the day before, each event blurring into the next. It was for this very reason I'd made the effort to keep notes and (eventually) blog my experiences — so wouldn't lose my memories of DevCon.
Natara Boyz, Part II
On the ballroom level I'd staked out a table and coffee to catch up on email, and was literally replying to Bryan Nystrom's note from the evening before, when he and George walked up. I closed my Powerbook, and took advantage of some undivided time with the Natara crew.
I had a chance to ask a few more Bonsai questions and chat about other items with them, until a few fellow User Council members wandered to our table. We all had a good discussion of our DevCon impressions, up until the first talk of the day.
Dave Fedor on Smartphones
David Fedor (PalmSource) spoke on development for smartphones, which differ in many ways from traditional PDA devices. David spent time explaining PalmSource's view of the smartphone experience: more focused applications, use of d-pads and keys, constant wired access and the distinct nature of a mobile user interface.
I crept out of the next talk on selling software online, to try and get caught up on my blogging. I'd felt the urge to write, but never seemed to have any free windows in which to get writing done. So often this is the case when traveling, so I finally decided to keep detailed outlines and catch up with posts after the fact. I didn't want to miss an opportunity to meet someone by getting too hung up on recording my experiences.
Meeting Ivan Phillips
As I finished updating my outline, I noticed someone at the next table, speaking with Justine Pratt of Creative Algorithms, who I'd met earlier in the week. I introduced myself to Ivan Phillips, CEO of Pendragon Software (the guys who make Pendragon Forms). Ivan was very easy to talk with, so very quickly we shared our backgrounds. Soon we were discussing the Palm ecosystem (the new buzz word around DevCon), challenges PalmSource and Palm OS developers will likely face. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Ivan.
Lunch with Chuck Horner, Palm Fanatic
For lunch I ran into Chuck Horner, whom I'd met last year at DevCon. Chuck is a pastor of a church in Hayward, CA and a total Palm-powered fanatic. He runs both the Personal Computing Community - Palm Users Group (PCCPUG) and San Francisco Palm Users Group (SFPUG) so Chuck is a very busy guy. We had a great time catching up while munching our lunches. I'm always amazed and a little humbled each time I meet Chuck, because he has so much energy!
More User Council Meetings
Our User Council meetings started later today, and were quite good, as we met with PalmOne and PalmSource folks to listen and discuss challenges faced by both companies going forward. We had a chance to learn more about the dreaded NVFS memory issues and the solutions coming soon.
Coffee with Dan Royea
After the last two meetings, I left my gear in our private meeting room, fellow Council member Dan Royea and I snuck out for a coffee. Dan and I are both big coffee fans, so it was good to hit the local Starbucks in the walking mall behind the Fairmont for some good, dark brew.
Near the hotel we spotted the park across the street and decided to find a bench, enjoy our coffee and catch up. Sitting in the sun, enjoying good company, good coffee and good weather was just the break I needed after a busy convention week.
Dan updated me on his son (recently diagnosed with diabetes) and how well he was dealing with the changes. I shared a bit about Nathan and some of the funny stories from the past year. Dan is one of the guys I look up to as a father to emulate, because I can see how much he loves his boys. I truly appreciate his example.
Palm OS on Linux
After relaxing a while, Dan and I headed back to DevCon and slid into the Palm OS on Linux presentation by several PalmSource programmers. Most of the specifics were beyond my level of understanding, however I did get the sense that PalmSource is aiming to open up as much of the underlying Linux layer as they can. It seemed there was also a strong desire to give back improvements made by PalmSource to the Linux community, rather than an obligation to do so.
In general, I see PalmSource aiming for an OS model something like Mac OS X: building a Palm-like user experience on top of a Linux core, with as much standard stuff being used as possible. PalmSource would also generate some code for mobile use, some of which would be released back to the community (depending on where it's added or used).
Hal Schechner, the User Council's resident Linux guru said he liked what he was hearing, so I think in general most Linux minded people will be pleased with the PalmSource approach. As with anything which is still pretty conceptual, only time will tell going forward, but I think this bodes well for both Palm and Linux users and developers.
Final User Council Meeting
We had our last User Council meeting with PalmSource folks, just prior to Michael Mace's ending keynote presentation. This meeting focused on the Windows desktop experience and I think our group provided some good suggestions to the team we met with. Hopefully we'll see the results of our discussions soon.
All in all, I feel we had excellent meetings with all of the groups we met with. I thought we shared the thoughts and concerns of real users and took back some good information for the Palm user community. If anything it's good to simply be there as representatives of the users, to remind PalmSource and licensees who it is they are making products for.
Michael Mace, PalmSource Jedi Master
What can I say about Michael Mace's presentations — they're always the highlight of DevCon. If there was one presentation you don't want to miss, it's the Mace presentation. This time Michael spoke about the 3 kinds of users (actually 4) their research shows dominate mobile device use:
- Communicators: interested in keeping in touch via email, IM, voice, whatever they can use to keep in touch. These users will pay a premium to do as much as is possible. They're very attached to their phones, looking at their devices almost as family members, pets or children. These users tend to lean toward smartphone devices, because they provide multiple communication options.
- Information users: interested in information but not such heavy users of wireless phone, IM or email as this could be more distracting than helpful for their needs. More likely doctors, attorneys or business folks who rely more on data (local or networked) than voice or communcations.
- Entertainment users: Those who are interested in mobile entertainment, such as movies, TV, music, gaming and so on. I can see how the LifeDrive will be popular with this group (though I can also see how the Sony PSP could also appeal to this group).
- Basic users: These are users who simply want basic, focused features — a phone for voice and maybe SMS and camera. They won't pay for anything more than the basics. I think this is where the "Rome" project could offer a Palm OS mobile experience to standard and feature phone users.
There were videos of actual users, expressing how they felt about handhelds, smartphones and phones, amazingly, some groups were very attached to their devices, others who had a more detached relationship with devices, seeing them as business tools. I think the display of real focus group video helped send the message well — much better than Michael simply stating stats and figures. It was another excellent presentation by Michael Mace.
My Mobile Connectivity Epiphany
In my weblog posts I often talk about my work style being that of a not-very-mobile person. I work at a Mac with constant broadband access, so a Treo or other fancy phone doesn't seem practical for my regular daily needs.
My heavy use of a little Virgin Mobile pre-pay phone during the week, provided some good insight to me on how a connected mobile device could become important to someone. I was constantly using voice but even more SMS messaging, because it worked so well for connecting with others at the show and keeping in touch with Gail back home.
Even though composing SMS messages was a royal pain with my el-cheapo phone, I found myself doing it anyway, and could immediately see how addicting a Treo or other smartphone device could be for a mobile person. As the week wore on, I would simply take my little phone along, ditching the Zire, and Powerbook in the hotel room — it was enough.
Oddly enough, this experience seems to have rubbed off on me — now when I go out my phone is always on my person, even though my mobility is just as limited as before DevCon. I suppose experiencing the freedom and power of constant connection was needed for me to see how others come to rely on the connected mobile devices they carry.
Sushi with the User Council
After the show ended, the User Council gathered and walked to Smile Sushi, and excellent little sushi restaurant near the Fairmont on 86 South 1st Street in San Jose. Wow, what excellent food they offered our group of nine diners. We ordered 3 sushi combo plates and a few other items and ate like kings and queens.
I believe the owners gave us way more food than we ordered, probably pleased with a large group helping them make rent for the month. Not only were we well-fed, but it was great food. By the time we stood up from the table, we were all full for just $20 each, including tip!
Breaking the Fellowship
After a walk back to the hotel, we took a group picture, and began parting ways. A smaller sub-group of guys headed to the hotel grill to hang out a while and enjoy the California night. It was very relaxing to kick back on the patio, shoot the breeze and enjoy our last few hours basking in the fading glow of DevCon 2005.
I had an early flight the next morning, so I spent an hour on the patio before my farewells to the guys. Back in the hotel I finished packing, checked email and closed down for the night.
It's now Saturday, more than a week after DevCon, and I can still sense the energy boost from the event. I really think this year's event was special, providing hope and a spark of energy to myself and many others I spoke with.
Adoption of Linux under the hood, shifts in personnel at PalmSource and PalmOne, moving the Palm name back to the hardware side and positive networking experiences have excited me about the Palm world again. There is of course some level of "show glow" to be considered. Only time will tell how well PalmSource can parlay the Palm on Linux to developers and device makers and how their competition will react to the shift.
However, at the very least, PalmSource and PalmOne (now Palm, Inc.) have some momentum and an opportunity in a forward, upward direction. I hope that each company can capitalize on the energy and excitement at DevCon, using it to innovate and provide opportunities for developers and great devices and solutions for us users.
Thank you Larry Berkin and your staff at PalmSource for having our User Council out to the show. Thank you to the User Council members who made the week great fun. Thanks also to the old friends and new acquaintances I've met last week and readers of my blog. As much as I enjoy the technical and mental part of DevCon, the social aspect is still my favorite part of the experience.
So, until (hopefully) DevCon 2006, this is Mike Rohde. Thanks for reading!