Thursday, January 27, 2005

Why device drivers are essential for the platform-and how to improve selection

The Handera 330 was introduced in m5xx times-but it still sells for more than 100$ at ebay. Compare that to an m5xx. Since nobody has cash to dump, this price must have a reason-Handera 330 users in the german Forum330 say that it is due to the huge driver selection. The machine behaves like an all-you-can-insert-machine, and accepts lots of different CF peripherals.
Now, lets look at the current state:
Most handhelds do not have two expansion slots, and the SDIO slots are not really supported with drivers-same thing when bluetooth peripherals are concerned. While a PocketPC owner can select from a variety of different peripherals, the PalmOS user is limited to a select few.
If you ask PalmSource for a reason, they blame the licencees and hardware manufacturers. However, I do not accept this reasoning. Handera cared about their drivers right from the start. PalmSource never made those drivers part of the operating system. In addition, there is only little information about driver programming in the SDK.
My way of handling the problem would be the creation of a driver bounty system. Put up a list of devices that you want to support along with detailled protocol specifications, and offer the first driver developer a free handheld with a refund for the peripheral that he got working. Release the driver as open-source then, with credits and everything. This would motify privateers to develop drivers, and the increasing amount of available sample code would simplify development for hardware designers.
The actions I have outlined may not work immediately-but the bigger amount of device sale would soon recompensate the loss!
What do you think?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

At PalmSource 99 I spoke to the TRG folks. We suggested that a TRGPro + IBM Microdrive + some software = a portable MP3 Player. The TRG guy said "An MP3 Player? What's that?" (TRG became Handera for those who might have missed that connection). Let's excuse the TRG person as it was a TRG marketing person, not one of the tech staff, but ever since the iPod hit I keep thinking what an opportunity they missed.

Agree with your assertation - PalmSource has done little to make it easy to interface with new hardware. Again, I believe it has to do with a combination of a quick-and-dirty hack that became the OS 5 microkernel and a desire to put the real focus on the "real" and "right" OS implementations (read: Cobalt, now Palm OS on Linux).

(And we know why Handera is no longer a licensee - they couldn't deal with the new licensing terms that PalmSource was asking - probably too pricey. What a shame - the Handera folks were some of the most creative in the field, and they were very willing to share their work with PalmSource - some of the API's in the OS are due to the work of TRG/Handera. They are definitely missed!)

8:43 PM  
Blogger Steven Fisher said...

Didn't HandEra have most of the original Palm team?

4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Handera did not. Tapwave has a good number of the core. The rest have moved on to other companies.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Tam Hanna said...

I personally think that there were many ex-palmers at Handera's. But how it looks now-don't ask me...
Best regards
Tam Hanna

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