Palm founders drop hints about Handspring handheld

PalmPilot for kids, anyone?

Handspring, the company set up this year by Palm Computing founders Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins, is working on an education-oriented handheld computer. According to a report in USA Today, while not making an specific comments about what products they're working on, did become intensely enthusiastic when the conversation turned to Palm-based kit for kids. "What if you had a handheld device that costed $100?" said Hawkins. "You could imagine every kid having one. They'd be like GameBoys, only better." "It's an area we're interested in at Handspring [hardly the kind of name you'd give to a purveyor of serious business machines, we'd hazard a guess] and an area we are personally interested in," he added. Handspring was formed in the summer under the name JD Technologies -- the namechange became official last month. The company admitted quite early on that it was focusing on a consumer handheld based on the PalmOS, but Hawkins' comments this week are the first indication of what sector of the consumer space the company might be targetting. Interestingly, it's the same arena that Apple has its eye on for its forthcoming consumer portable, codenamed P1 (see Apple 'WebMate' portable to follow iMac), which interim CEO Steve Jobs this week described as an education-oriented machine that the company hopes will also appeal to consumers. Given the apparent close ties to Apple and Palm (see Apple and Palm alliance emerges), the similarity between P1, Palm's recently announced Palm VII machine and Handspring's approach all begin to appear more significant. It's not too hard to picture Apple discussing buying Palm Computing from 3Com, and Dubinsky and Hawkins not too keen on the idea -- particularly given Apple's poor handling of its own education-oriented notebook, the eMate 300 -- deciding to bail out and go their own way and push into the consumer arena, a market that neither 3Com nor (at that time, anyway) Apple seems too interested in. ®

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