David Nagel, president and CEO of PalmSource, a Palm subsidiary, was at Comdex showing off the latest Palm OS licensee, a PDA watch from Fossil. The PalmSource WIN might be consumer-oriented, but Nagel said PalmSource isn't overlooking the needs of the enterprise. He recently sat down with CRN Senior Writer Kristen Kenedy to talk about security, Web services, Dell Computer and other issues.
CRN: Hewlett-Packard recently announced that biometrics will be included in its latest iPaq. Will you look to enable these types of up-and-coming technologies in Palm handhelds?
'Security requirements for handhelds are greater than for a PC because these things are walking around. You want to make sure that if something happens to the device, a company loses only the cost of the device, not the corporate information.'
NAGEL: We need to be careful not to create an infrastructure that is exactly the same as a PC. Palm is a product that does a few things well. The design is different from a Pocket PC. I don't think a PC in a pocket is the right metaphor for this market.
CRN: What technologies are you looking at then?
NAGEL: Security is high on our list. My own personal belief is security requirements for handhelds are greater than for a PC on average because these things are walking around. You want to make sure that if something happens to the device, a company loses only the cost of the device, not the corporate information.
CRN: You mentioned a while back that you would provide a security upgrade after the first release of Palm OS 5. What can we expect from PalmSource in the short term?
NAGEL: We'll have at least one 'dot' release in 2003. We've been working on [the concept of code signing; it's not something we've rolled out yet. [Code signing will ensure in a wireless network that data installed is from a trusted source. That will dramatically cut down on any instances of viruses. That's an inevitable problem as these devices move into a wired world.
CRN: Intel, Microsoft and Advanced Micro Devices are working on ways to secure some portions of the OS code and sensitive data. Are you involved in those initiatives?
NAGEL: Not directly. But we can lock down memory and make it unavailable to new software installations or access. That would certainly be another part of the road map.
CRN: What other technologies are you looking at?
NAGEL: The next important area is the management of devices.
We have started working with partners like Tivoli to extend management features to handhelds. Web services are also important. Microsoft has its .Net [plan, but with Web services we don't think 'one size fits all' is the right model. We are working with IBM and BEA Systems. Some of the strategy has been detailed, and we will provide additional information shortly.
CRN: What percentage of Palm-based devices will include wireless support next year?
NAGEL: My belief is in the next five years the majority of handheld devices will be wireless. Wireless could include Bluetooth or its successor.
CRN: Which technology do you think will succeed Bluetooth?
NAGEL: I like Ultrawideband. It's high-bandwidth, 50 Mbps, but extremely low-power. That's one of the reasons I like it so much. Ultrawideband is a very sophisticated technology and will eventually be very cheap. We're looking at it as a three- to five-years-out kind of thing.
CRN: Some Microsoft competitors have expressed concern that the company will not fully comply with the antitrust agreement. What has it been like to work with Microsoft lately?
NAGEL: We haven't really detected a change. We certainly have had our problems. We tried to join the Visual Studio program but Microsoft wouldn't let us. On the other hand, the Exchange group called us. Microsoft is a big company, and they are all over the map.