The Friday Interview: John Hartnett, Palm

6 Oct 2006

The subject of this week’s interview is Irishman John Hartnett (pictured), senior vice-president of Silicon Valley-based Palm.

Palm has moved from making personal digital assistants (PDAs) to making mobile phones. Is the PDA dead?

The PDA is not dead. We continue to sell PDAs and if you look at our revenues PDAs account for up to US$400m in revenues. This is our heritage, it’s our competitive advantage. We simply came into being a smart phone company from our PDA heritage. There is a distinction between Palm and other handset makers. Our first and foremost capability is mobile computing.

Palm has joined forces with Microsoft and Vodafone to provide push email. Is this a direct attack on Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry?

We reckon that 93pc of the market for push email has yet to be tapped. RIM has an installed base of up to five million users. However, there are over 140 million Microsoft Exchange customers worldwide that are currently on a desktop platform and are ideally placed to migrate to mobile. By integrating with their desktops and by delivering push email we will open up this market opportunity. Yes, consider this a direct assault on RIM’s market.

What was the core reason for establishing a research and development (R&D) operation in Swords last year?

We were developing products out of Silicon Valley but they needed to have a European focus. To really succeed in Europe you need to get carrier and customer requirements just right. This can be a complex job. The recently launched Treo 750v was the first Palm product that we shipped first to Europe and the Irish team had an important role to play in that in terms of speed to market and quality assurance.

How does Ireland rate as a location for R&D operations?

The team we have in Dublin is one of the most multicultural teams I have ever experienced in any country worldwide with people from Ireland, Russia, France, the UK and Germany. The talent pool in Ireland is immense and we will be working on new products in Swords over the next few years.

How has the operation performed so far?

The team there are already in the process of filing their first patents. It’s a reflection of the talent pool and skill level in the country. Ireland certainly has positioned itself further up the value chain. From a Palm perspective the Irish operation is exceeding expectations after just one year in operation.

By John Kennedy

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