Monday, September 03, 2001

The Palm Enterprise Space

This September, the Star Trek television series debuts with Enterprise. I happen to like all the Star Trek series because it describes optimistically what could be in our future. It's not just about advances in technology, but also in medicine, philosophy, and the human spirit. Returning to the present, it reminds me how much work needs to be done to improve our society as a whole and in computing in particular.

The late Michael L. Dertouzos, director of MIT labs for Computer Science, believed access to information should be as seamless as breathing, hence MIT's futuristic computing infrastructure named Oxygen. Details can be found on MIT's Lab For Computer Science website. An excellent article also appeared in the August 1999 issue of Scientific American. Basically, Oxygen involves eight novel technologies: a handheld computer, wall and trunk computers, a novel net, built-in speech understanding, knowledge access, collaboration, automation, and customization. The binding philosophy is a refrain familiar to Palm users and developers: doing more by doing less. Dertouzos summarized his goal with three points:

  1. Bring technology into our lives, not our lives into technology -- that is we don't go live in cyberspace.
  2. increase human productivity and ease of use -- and he does not mean pretty interfaces, colors, and icons.
  3. Offer these gains to all -- this means everyone, not just those who can afford it.

Regarding the handheld computer, Dertouzos did not envision a simple and Zen-like Palm device. Instead, his handheld would incorporate a television, a pager, an AM/FM radio, a cellular phone, and a wireless Internet connection. Like all big ideas from academic institutions, Dertouzos did not consider the cost to consumers, corporate interests, or political will. But that does not diminish his vision. Bright ideas should be viewed the way sailors look at stars -- not as a destination, but something to steer by.

In that light, Palm devices are well suited for the enterprise space. For white papers, application briefs, and other references to the Palm Enterprise space, visit http://www.palm.com/enterprise/resources/.

Whether the goal is Oxygen or Star Trek, there's still so much left to be done.


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