In March of 1999 I flew from my home in Atlanta, Georgia to New Jersey to interview Ken Landau and Clinton Logan of LandWare for an article I was considering writing. I had never met Ken or Clinton before, knew little about their products, and next-to-nothing about them, or LandWare for that matter. As it turned out, I was in for a pleasant surprise.
The article that stemmed from that interview became one of our most popular. And since then I’ve interviewed several other prominent, and not-so-prominent, companies in the handheld computing industry.
And Ken and Clinton have gone on to position LandWare as a major player in the software industry. Since our interview, LandWare has released a GoType! Pro keyboard for the Palm V, the goVox add-on voice recorder for the Palm III series, a version of Pocket Quicken that is compatible with Quicken 2000 (for both Macintosh and Windows computers). They’ve also joined forces with both Merriam-Webster and Zagat to develop a Springboard dictionary for the Handspring Visors and to deliver the Zagat Survey on Palm organizers. Busy boys, indeed!
Congratulations, Ken and Clinton.
Enjoy the interview.
In late 1994, Ken Landau logged on to his Macintosh computer and began yet another e-mail to fellow Newton enthusiast, Clinton Logan. "I think we can sell it," wrote Landau, referring to QuickNames, a program Logan had created and offered as shareware to other MessagePad users. With a bit of convincing, Logan agreed to enter a business partnership with Landau, who had already quit his job at Apple Computer to market another Newton program he had developed, called PhotoShow. They named their venture LandWare, and adopted the catchy slogan Software for Terra Firma.
However, there was a slight catch. While Landau resided in Budd Lake, New Jersey, a quiet suburb outside New York City, Logan lived at the other end of the globe, in New Zealand. Also, Logan was not quite as prepared as Landau to resign from his regular job. "I continued to work there full-time for awhile, plus all of the hours I spent refining QuickNames," says Logan. "I worked remotely for LandWare for a year and a half until it really began to snowball."
Eventually Landau convinced him to move to New Jersey and they set up headquarters in Oradell, New Jersey. How did Landau convince him to pull up roots and come to the United States? "Lets just say Kens a good salesman," says Logan.
LandWare has since emerged as a major player in the handheld computer arena. Theyve developed and published software for Newton, PalmPilot and Windows CE with 25 products currently being sold worldwide. Recently theyve partnered with Intuit to create Pocket Quicken for Palm Organizers, and their OmniSolve software was chosen by Hewlett Packard to be included in the ROM of their latest line of Windows CE handheld and palm-size computers, the Jornada 820 and 420. And, of course, theres LandWares GoType! keyboard for Palm Organizers.
Recently I met with Ken Landau, LandWares President, and Clinton Logan, Vice President of Engineering, to discuss the past, present, and future of LandWare, and the handheld computer industry.
BH: How did you first get involved with handheld computers?
KEN: I started a Macintosh user group at my university in 1985. The Mac had just come out. That led to a meeting with Bud Colligan and eventually a full-time job at Apple, where I spent six years. I learned a great deal at Apple. It was kind of the hey-day of desktop publishing and John Sculley, and not licensing MacOS, but thats another interview.
BH: Well, since you mentioned licensing. Do you see the same issue with PalmOS?
KEN: Not exactly the same. They have Symbol, they have Qualcomm, they have IBM. Those arent bad partners. Sure Id like to see more but its not that theres only Palm and nobody else, which is really what happened with Macintosh. I see it as something youd have to watch out for but not quite the same.
BH: And you have Handspring coming along.
KEN: Right, thatll be the fifth. Would I like to see a Casio, a Sharp, or a Sony? You bet. Id love it.
BH: So your first experience with a handheld was at Apple?
KEN: Yes, it was the Newton. Although the first Newton I saw was actually a NuBUS card stuck into the back of a Mac.
CLINTON: I remember the first time I held a prototype Newton alpha, at Apple in New Zealand. It was around 1992 or 1993. It was actually called a Notepad back then; it was pretty flaky. The handwriting recognition was pretty suspect and yet it was still a very, very impressive technical achievement.
BH: What were your thoughts about it, at first?
CLINTON: I think if you talk to anyone who’s been involved with handhelds for more than 2 or 3 years the same light bulb lit up with all of them the first time they held one. Up until then I had got kind of cynical about desktop platforms. New computers were coming out all the time which where faster and smaller but they weren’t all that different from whatever came before them. When the Newton came out I knew that it was the start of something significant, a completely new class of computing device. This was a platform I really really wanted to own and more importantly develop for.
BH: So how did you get started?
CLINTON: We got an alpha version of the SDK and started playing around with that, just produced some applications for it. And then Ken and I connected up via the Internet.
CLINTON: Yes. I was living in New Zealand.
KEN: And I was in Budd Lake, New Jersey. I had seen a program Clinton had developed called QuickNames, a shareware version, and I thought that with a few tweaks and modification it was something we could turn it into a commercial application, which I think surprised Clinton at the suggestion.
BH: And you werent doing anything as far as the business, LandWare, yet?
KEN: I was just getting off the ground. I had come out with one program which was called PhotoShow for Macintosh.
CLINTON: But QuickNames Pro was the first product that we actually shipped and started selling numbers of.
KEN: Thats right.
CLINTON: Its then that we thought that its possible that we had a business opportunity, that people actually want to buy this stuff.
BH: Were you both working regular jobs at the time you started LandWare?
KEN: No, I had left my regular job and so I was focusing my full attention on LandWare. Clinton had a full time job in New Zealand and we were basically running the company virtually. I was out of my house with a phone line, computer, and web site. Thats how LandWare started.
CLINTON: Eventually I had to quit my full time job because I was getting more and more involved with LandWare and the business grew to a stage where I could no longer work remotely in a practical sense. So thats when we decided to connect in person.
KEN: Actually we hadnt even met. Wed been working together for about six months or so before wed actually seen each other face to face.
CLINTON: We had no idea what each other looked like.
BH: Thats incredible. Lets talk about platforms. Do you have a favorite to develop for?
CLINTON: Well, it used to be the Newton, without a doubt. The Newton development environment was wonderful to use. Graphical layout tools, a rich API, and full object orientation meant the Quicknames Pro application was developed in no time at all. Apple’s typical eye for detail resulted in an OS that was extremely elegant but at the same time very ambitious for the hardware at the time. When they canned it it was at a point in its lifetime where the hardware had caught up. It was VERY fast and the handwriting
recognition was 5 years ahead of anything on the market. It still is. The critical problem was it was too big, too expensive, and the desktop connectivity was far from seamless. On the other hand, the Pilot struck the magical mix of price, form factor, and ease of use that assured its rapid acceptance. It also matured quite well. Certainly the SDK and development environment are a lot richer and more productive to use. Again we seem to pick these devices up when they’re very early stages and then we see them and their development environments mature. So it goes from a hair pulling experience to a hands in the air experience.
BH: When you get them at such an early stage do you ever think, is it me or is it the device?
CLINTON: Oh yeah!
KEN: A number of bricks were thrown at the first one. (Laughter) And thats not a knock on them its just that early on Palm was trying to get their platform right before concentrating their efforts on the development environment.
CLINTON: Of course Windows CE has its validity as well. Some of our applications are particularly well suited to Windows CE. It’s kind of hard to pick out a favorite. OK, so I’m being diplomatic. The Newton is the BMW I use for special occasions. The Palm is the everyday workhorse I use to get real work done.
KEN: It hasnt come yet. Were very early on in this. We did determine quite early on that we were not just a Newton solutions company but a handheld solutions company. So when Windows CE came along we attended the very first developers roundtable at Microsoft and ordered that platform. Then Ed Colligan called me from Palm Computing and we got on very early in that development environment. Not quite ready, I think Clinton would argue.
BH: As a software company, where did you get the inspiration for the GoType! keyboard?
KEN: I should back up. We are primarily a software company but, then again, we dont want that to be all consuming because we are, in fact, a solutions company. We were approached about 2 ½ to 3 years ago by a company that had an adapter that would allow you to use a Newton keyboard with a PalmPilot. They thought we were a good partner in the U.S. because we had the Newton experience and now we were doing PalmPilots. So that adapter was our first foray outside of software. Since then weve also done carrying cases. Based on that experience we learned there was an opportunity for those individuals who wanted to type. We were then approached by Bob Fullerton (the designer of GoType!) and Sicon (the manufacturer) who were developing the GoType! keyboard and needed a marketing partner.
CLINTON: We also developed the software, the drivers and so forth.
KEN: Exactly. It was definitely a mutually beneficial partnership: Stewart-Fullerton Associates, Sicon and LandWare.
BH: Is that your most popular product?
CLINTON: Its our most popular hardware product. (Laughter)
KEN: I heard a great story about the GoType!. The author of the book Palm Pilot for Dummies came into a press room at a convention. He sat down and at the same time someone sat down next to him with a laptop. The guy with the laptop flips it open and turns it on. The author connects his GoType! and PalmPilot, and begins typing in some notes. In a few minutes he unhooks the PalmPilot, folds up the keyboard and says "Done". Meanwhile the laptop is still booting up. That really shows a key advantage of a PalmPilot with a GoType! keyboard.
BH: Will you release a keyboard solution for the Palm V?
KEN: Yes, weve got a GoType! keyboard for the Palm V in the works. The connector for the PalmPilot was just different. There was just no way we could modify the current keyboard to work with the Palm V.
CLINTON: A lot of people ask us why we didnt just create an add-on adapter for the Palm V. We thought about that for awhile but with an add-on connector the lid would not close as well. So we had to redesign the GoType! for the Palm V.
BH: You package and sell your software in retail outlets as well as through online downloads. Will this continue for LandWare?
KEN: The jury is still out. We certainly put the effort into creating retail packaging and getting them into distribution.
CLINTON: Weve almost come full circle there because when we first started the company we thought were going to be a real software company, were not going to be shareware; and real software means real boxes on shelves. So we went into quite a bit of effort and expense to ensure that our software was packaged correctly and went through retail distribution. And certainly thats still a viable channel but theres also more of a demand nowadays for ESD, electronic delivery. So were finding that were revisiting the shareware mechanism for distributing software.
KEN: As far as trial versions of our software for download, well move towards that. We happen to be driven by the market. If it affects our market share well certainly move more quickly into it. Theres more than one way, more than one distribution channel, and there will be for some time.
BH: Theres rumors that Apple has registered the URL www.macpad.com.
KEN: Sounds good to me!
BH: Any products in the works for it?
KEN: Ive read the reports about the shareholders meeting and Steve was asked point blank what were Apples plans regarding handhelds. He said that he cant talk about that right now. Usually thats a good sign because he could have said we have no plans. But if he cant talk about it then hes probably working on something. Is it going to be a Windows CE device? Hmmm, Id be very surprised at that. Is it going to be a Newton? I dont think so. So what does that leave? Certainly we know that he tried to buy Palm, by his own admission in a Forbes or Fortune interview, so it doesnt surprise me about a MacPad. Thats great. That would be yet another platform. We certainly have Mac roots here as you can see with all of our Mac equipment. And we are coming out with a Mac version of Pocket Quicken.
CLINTON: Its in beta right now. Were very pleased with the feedback weve received so far.
KEN: And our QuickPac utility weve been selling for a few years now has a Mac viewer. So if they want to go Macintosh were ready. Well be there.
BH: What do you see as the future of the handheld industry?
CLINTON: I think the current wave is the Internet. The next wave will be handheld devices. One of the reasons why we carry a handheld is to have data with us all the time. At the moment it’s a snapshot of when you were last at your desktop. But I guess the holy grail of handheld computing is omnipresent access to live data and wireless is the enabler for that.
BH: Will the current efforts of the big wireless players drive the market towards wireless quicker than the market research firms predict?
KEN: Maybe. I remember when Lisa came out. People saw the mouse and said who would ever use something like that, and now its hard to find a computer that doesnt have one. Now, again, were very early on in all of this. One big question is how many devices will we carry. Will we carry individual devices for different things or combination devices?
BH: Whats your thoughts on that?
KEN: I think that its two. Two devices. What those two will be Im not sure and that may be academic. Any more than two and I dont know if people will carry them. Well see.
CLINTON: I think the hardware is reaching a critical threshold now where its useable. Its small enough, its powerful enough. The battery life is good enough, the screens good enough. They make sense now. The average person can use them for useful things.
KEN: Wed like to see the prices come down.
CLINTON: Price/performance is getting much better.
BH: Do you think there will be a substantial Wireless Data market?
KEN: I think the first real test of that will be the Palm VII which is coming out in December. Whats going to be the adoption rate of that? What are the applications that people will use for wireless – email, tracking of stocks, buying stocks, accessing news and sports scores? From a data standpoint, what is the information they need? It really comes down to personal usage whether someone needs a pager, phone or handheld. In addition to wireless applications the other major factors are cost and coverage. I certainly hope the Palm VII does well and of course Im certainly glad that the GoType! keyboard is compatible with it.
BH: So where does LandWare go from here?
KEN: Bigger and better, I hope. Pocket Quicken was just released. Weve been working with Intuit for some time and we expect it to do very well. Again, youll see a Palm V keyboard. But, as far as software goes, well try to stay to our roots which is a core set of high quality solutions that serve personal productivity.
CLINTON: Yes, quality not quantity has always been our focus. That goes back to the Newton days. With the Newton it was quite easy to be prolific but we resisted that temptation. Unlike some other companies we stuck to a limited set of core applications that are functional and very solid. Its worked for us, weve gained a reputation for quality products.
BH: One final question. Are you going to stay in New Jersey or is California in LandWares future?
KEN: Were close to Manhattan, obviously, and theres an awful lot going on in there. Newark Airport is 45 minutes away so we can get out to the West Coast easily. Were three hours closer to Europe than California is, so there are advantages and disadvantages. I think well stay where we are.
CLINTON: We wouldnt be moving to New Zealand.