Palm Writing Do you remember when you got your first Palm Pilot? I got mine in 1996, and using it was like falling in love for the first time. The PDA created a whole new market and kicked off a wave of technolust that buoyed the technology industry for years.
(Business 2.0) – I guess I fell out of love with my Palm at some point; for the past year or so, I've carried only a cheap cell phone and a BlackBerry. But ever since senior writer Om Malik--whom I listen to religiously on such matters--came into my office raving about the Treo 600 smartphone, I've been thinking about upgrading. And that got me excited about the company that makes the device.
PalmOne, as it's been called since separating from its software division, is no ordinary company. So, to cover it, I called on an extraordinary writer: Paul Keegan, a longtime contributor to this magazine. (Keegan, like senior editor Andy Raskin and senior writer Paul Sloan--featured in this space last month--is a musician. He occasionally plays trumpet in the East Village with his quintet.) "My dirty secret is that I'm not really a business writer, and I'm not really a technology writer," Keegan says. "I'm just interested in a good story, and the technology world has had some of the best stories over the last 10 years." I couldn't agree more. You're about to read one of them.
As Keegan pointed out to me, what a lot of business magazines miss is that all business stories, in the end, turn on the way leaders respond to the challenges of their markets. "It's all about how people perform under stress," he says. Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky have dealt with their fair share of pressure as they pursued a dream that many of us embrace and started their own company more than a decade ago. Reconciling their dream with the reality of paying for it proved tough.
Hawkins's most recent brainstorm, the Treo 600, has put the company back on the cutting edge ("How Palm Got Cool Again," page 92). Now they just have to contend with competition from the likes of Microsoft, Nokia, and Samsung--and with the fact that customers are snapping up Treo 600s faster than Palm can make them. Consider Keegan's story, then, the latest installment of an epic that should continue for years to come.
Looking for more tales of innovation? Turn to our third annual list of the fastest-growing technology companies (page 108), where you'll find 100 of them. I challenged our reporters to sum up why each company was growing so fast in 25 words or less, and they came through with nothing but gems. All the hot tech sectors are represented, from videogames to biotech to offshore outsourcers to military contractors. We also look at the top companies in depth and explain how the list can benefit your portfolio.
Will PalmOne make it onto a future list? I wouldn't bet against it. But what really makes Palm cool again is that it has people guessing what its next big thing will be. Hawkins won't say--but something tells me I'll be falling in love again.
JOSH QUITTNER, EDITOR firstname.lastname@example.org