by Anita Devasahayam
KUALA LUMPUR, 29 June 2000 - Malaysian Palm users have split up into three groups following a
row with the Malaysia Palm User Group
(MyPUG) over its legitimacy.
The users fell out after heated exchanges in online user forums that spread as far as the neighboring Singapore Palm Users' Group(SPUG).
In the center of the storm is MyPUG founder Hussin Khan, who some users alleged had "misappropriated funds" and led them to believe that the group was officially registered with the Registrar of Societies, a requirement under Malaysian law.
The offended users were angered that Hussin had profited from a highly successful Palm 8MB upgrade exercise organized by Palm reseller Tech-Stop (M) Sdn Bhd for users here three months ago. Hussin is also the managing director of Tech-Stop.
In a statement posted on MyPUG's Website, Hussin denied the misappropriation allegations and said that he had been falsely accused of defrauding MyPUG of RM500,000 (US$132,000) in conducting the upgrade exercise.
He clarified that the exercise was organized and managed by Tech-Stop as a part of MyPUG's activities for Tech-Stop's customers and any other Palm users who wanted to take advantage of the offer.
"The risk of the event - cost of setting it up, flight and accommodation for the expert, storage of 200 Palms and replacement of damaged units - was also borne by Tech-Stop alone," he said, justifying his actions and adding that users were not forced to take up the offer.
Hussin also threatened to take legal action against those who malign MyPUG and himself.
When contacted by ZDNetAsia, Hussin maintained that he did not mislead the public into
believing that MyPUG was "official", but that it was merely "a loose grouping for some 2,000 Palm users."
"It functioned mainly as a source of technical support for Tech-Stop customers," he said.
He added Palm users were free to set up alternative user groups. "I would welcome that. Users should be responsible for user groups," he said.
The splinter groups that grew out of the dispute are the Klang Valley Palm User
Group (KVPUG) and the Malaysia Palm Users Community (MPUC) that were set up
KVPUG pro-tem committee president Loh Eu Kuang said the new group was formed on May 28 and held its inaugural meeting to select a pro-tem committee.
"We decided to set up another group as we felt that it was time for a user group that could nurture the Palm user community, especially in the Klang Valley area. Our membership is open to all members of the public whether they are new users or experienced ones," said Loh.
KVPUG currently has 30 members and signing up entitles members for free email updates via the KVPUG Website.
Loh, a second year medical student at a private college here, said KVPUG plans to register with the Registrar of Societies before year-end.
"Palm Inc has already acknowledged our group, although it is not a registered organization as yet. We hope to receive their cooperation regarding the latest news of Palm hardware and software developments. We will also be working with Ingram Micro Malaysia Sdn Bhd, which is one of two main distributors for Palm devices here," he said.
Meanwhile, MPUCalso plans to obtain official status through registration once it assumes a formal structure.
Founder Jon Lee said that the 50-member strong, all-volunteers group currently comprises new users, power users, programmers and "everyone in between."
"We initially started out as an online information sharing place with a close group of friends living here and abroad. I am opening this Website to the public because I believe the spirit of a user group is sharing and has to be independent of commercial pressure from a third party," he said.
Lee is of the opinion that allowing commercial entities to have a say in any user
group event or issue does not bode well for the independence and non-profit motives of user groups. "The major goal of MPUC is to provide an one-stop Website providing news, links and an interactive forum for Palm users in Malaysia and neighboring countries," he said.
Lee expects membership to grow between 20 and 30 per cent in the next three to six months.
The Palm handheld device is recognized by local dealers as the top-selling product in its category since its introduction in January 1998.