A Road Leading to the Clouds

Whoa. It seems to me only a few weeks have passed since I previously posted on my blog back during those first few crazy days at Palm when I jumped onto the moving train; somehow, it also feels like ten years ago. Being a part of the Palm story has been a whirlwind adventure. And now, that adventure takes a new form.

Starting Monday, Dion and I are leaving HP / Palm as full-time employees but staying involved with HP webOS in a consulting capacity. Our post on the Palm Developer Blog goes into more detail on this transition and look to Dion’s blog for his own perspective.

As for me, “bittersweet” perfectly describes my feelings at this juncture. Working alongside the talented team at Palm has been a tremendous opportunity, and the chapter being written now with HP is ripe with extraordinary potential. Leaving the company of this crew is certainly a bitter cup to swallow.

At the same time, I couldn’t be more excited to be starting a new venture with my good friend and colleague of many years, Dion Almaer. We’ll post more on the details of our new company soon, but we plan on spending our time creating quality software and helping others to do the same. A particular focus of ours will be to help folks realize high-quality mobile and desktop app and web experiences using HTML5, JavaScript, and related technologies.

What a fascinating time of change for our industry! The Web has been challenged as the dominant platform for mainstream consumer software experiences–though the contest with apps is far from over. The predicted mobile convergence (with the desktop) is happening now. Independent software developers are now re-empowered to earn a living at their craft in a new and interesting way–they join musicians, directors, writers, and other artists whose products command the attention of large swaths of the general public. The opportunity has always been there, but now the complexity of so much infrastructure required to distribute those experiences has been swept away (though the trade-off has not been without cost).

While at present we see a diverse set of incompatible software platforms competing for the right to distribute the produce of these new and revitalized app artisans and businesses, history tells us that consolidation of these platforms cannot be far in the distance. Reducing the number of app platforms in the marketplace–the “content formats” of the app world–is unquestionably a good thing for developers in the short-term. However, I hope that we can evolve to a place where the content format and device manufacturer are not irrevocably coupled. When you think about it, the status quo is comparable to a sort of bizarro world where, say, Sony MiniDiscs achieved unparalleled ubiquity but Sony never licensed the format to other device manufacturers.

Of course, this “bizarro world” I described is how the world played out in the last set of consumer software platform wars, but perhaps this time around a large set of developers will choose portable content formats and ensure that competition and innovation thrive for the next exciting decades to come. And hopefully, Dion and I can play a role in shaping that outcome.

More soon.

(* The analogies above aren’t perfect, of course; cut me some slack. 🙂 I’d love to write another post that goes into detail on the similarities and differences between traditional content media and interactive content, etc.)

23 thoughts on “Moving On

  1. Hey, Ben – best of luck with the new venture! Sad to see you two leave Palm, but I’m sure you’ll be fighting the good fight.

    Cheers!

  2. Wow, sorry to hear you’ll be leaving HP / Palm as a direct employee. Pretty excited to see you’ll be carrying forward with your goal to advance HTML5 / open Web standards. Best of luck in the new venture. I know how exciting it can be to start up a new company!

  3. Ben Galbraith

    It is with some regret but with anticipation on what’s to come that I’ m reading both of your blogposts on your departure from Palm. And I wish you both the best of luck.

    But I wanted to point out one thing.
    And that is the big influence you guys had and probably will have on a small but fiercely enthusiastic course called Devine. (www.devine.be ). Devine is brand new 3 year course, in Belgium, where we form students to become what we like to call the “next generation” web/screen designers.

    What our site doesn’t show, yet, is the huge impact you guys had on our curriculum. I’ve watched your lecture at the Stanford University over and over again. Your vision on the web, the rise of new web technologies, the marketing term html 5 ( glad someone called it that ), the webOS (!) … It fuelled my beliefs on the importance, on the rightful place open web standard design/ development has in the mostly flash based environment Devine was at the time.

    It brought us sufficient arguments but more importantly fire, enthusiasm to build a case for a more balanced curriculum between actionscript and javascript.

    It triggered some kind of revolution. Now we are teaching our students about mobile browsing, about javascript driven technologies, about bringing the future to the web, about making rich experience based websites for all kind of devices and platforms with open standard technologies.
    What I wanted you to know is that many generations of students to come will be influenced by you speaking out your vision, and of course our take on it.

    Thank you.

    Ps . You all made us very enthusiastic about the webOS, sadly here in rainy Belgium we can’t get our hands on it. Hopefully that might change in the future.

  4. Any feelings on how HP/palm just hosed all of the people who switched to palm for the love of webOS and yourself and Dion’s role in it?

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