Thursday, January 1, 1998

Jeff Hawkins, creator of the PalmPilot



Jeff Hawkins, PalmPilot Inventor (click for larger image)
It seems fitting to kick off our Premier Issue by having a candid conversation with Jeff Hawkins, the man who started Palm Computing (now part of 3Com) and created the PalmPilot. Prior to his chat with Hawkins, 3Com PR personnel gave Editor-in-Chief David Gewirtz some interesting background on Hawkins' success: over a million PalmPilots shipped in 18 months, a 66% market share, and the fastest growth of any computing product in history, faster than the TV and the VCR.

You started a software product and ended up with what is an amazingly successful piece of hardware. How does that make you feel?


(laughing) It feels good. What really feels good is that people like the product. Since we're all product people here, there's nothing else that makes me happier than people saying "Hey this is great, it's changed my life." That feels great. On the other hand, looking forward, I think we've just begun. There's a huge opportunity here. As much as I like the PalmPilot and the way the product is now, we're probably in the Apple II days of the handheld computing business. So there's a lot of future ahead of us.

"Looking forward, I think we've just begun. We're probably in the Apple II days of the handheld computing business."

Can you give me an idea of where that future is?


Well, I won't give you product release information. But if you go back to the beginning of Palm, when I started the company, essentially the pitch I had when I raised funding was that handheld computers on a unit basis were going to be far larger than desktop and laptop computers combined. I felt that the appeal of a handheld, a pocket-size device, was very universal. People will have them, their kids will have them.

And I see it in different markets with different needs, going everywhere from kids in grade school, to college, to business people. In a broad sense we have a very big vision about where our market's going to go, without seeing any of the particular technologies. But we think pocket-size access to data, including communications data, is almost a fundamental need. Almost like the telephone or something. So we're just optimistic and excited about trying to come up with products that appeal to a lot of these people.


Do you think that having that much access to data all the time sort of creates more information overload? Or do you think that makes it less of a problem?