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Palm's Hawkins points to 'secret' product line

Or does he just mean the LifeDrive?

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Analysis So what is Palm's next big product going to be? Well, there's the Windows Mobile-based Treo, the 670, images and videos of which are now doing the rounds on a number of rumour sites, but that's just an extension of the company's smart phone programme.

Then there's this, mentioned in an interview between Palm co-founder and R&D chief Jeff Hawkins and the Portland Business Journal. Says Jeff:

"There is a third business that I've been working on but I'm not going to tell you what it is. It's in mobile computing. It's something different and it's in its early stage. We have three businesses at PalmOne. One you don't even know about, which is just a child. Another is the teenager and the other one is the mature 45-year-old."

Hawkins indicates - though you can undoubtedly figure this one out for yourself - that the "mature" business is the PDA side of things, while the "teenager" is Treo.

Of the new "child", Hawkins says only this:

"I'll give you a couple [sic] clues. I always think of mobile computing as personal computing. This long-term vision has led us through everything - first the organisers and now through the smart phone space. It's like everything a personal computer is. Continue down that path. What are the implications of a world where everyone has a super high-speed Internet connection in their pocket and many gigabytes of storage, super-fast processors, audio, visual and multimedia? What are the consequences of that? How will that change computing when you have all that stuff available to you all the time? I try to think into the future. That's how we come up with new products. So I'm not going to tell you what it is, but it's following the consequences of mobile computing."

Unsurprisingly, Palm fans are jumping about, trying to ponder what Hawkins has in mind. To find out, all they need do is turn to Palm's own website. Yes, it's all there. The third category is what Palm calls the Mobile Manager, all public now after its launch a couple of months ago.

Let’s look at the evidence. For a start, Hawkins refers to his company as PalmOne, which suggests the interview was conducted some time ago, before the firm became Palm again. Newspaper feature deadlines being what they are, it wouldn't be entirely beyond the bounds of possibility that the PBJ talked to Hawkins before the LifeDrive was announced, when quite clearly he wouldn't be able to say too much about it.

Crucially, the LifeDrive, in both its name and design, is what Hawkins appears to be talking about: a mobile device device on which you carry every bit of data that's important to you, wherever you go, and do work with it. Hawkins clearly has in mind a portable, electronic Home folder with enough computing power to manipulate the data as well as view it. In effect, the LifeDrive is the first step towards this.

Of course, he could be thinking of something else entirely, but then by Hawkins' own admission the LifeDrive would be no more than a PDA, and not the bold new device category his company claimed it was at launch. Oh well... ®

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