Kazuho Oku, 24
Internet and Web
Commuters in Japan are staring into their hands—and Kazuho Oku is to blame. Oku used personal digital assistants in high school but only experienced the Internet when he enrolled at the University of Tokyo as a geology major. He was struck by how much more useful the Internet could be—especially to idle commuters on subways and trains—if it were easily accessible over handheld devices. He was soon spending his time in the university’s computer department, devising a way to compress Web pages and developing software to convert them into a format for handhelds. The result was Palmscape, one of the world’s first Web browsers for handhelds. Oku distributed Palmscape—intended for the Palm Pilot’s Palm operating system—free over the Internet. Before finishing his studies, Oku was lured to Ilinx, a software company in Tokyo, where he developed his successor product, Xiino. It comes installed in a wide range of handhelds and is a leading browser for Palm products in North America, Europe and Japan. Oku is now adding capabilities that allow corporate clients and individuals to write their own custom applications.