Sunday, September 09, 2007

My Apple Toys

Just a few days back, one of my favorite fruit company, Apple Inc. just harvested a new batch of crops. And man are they droolworthy. Ipod nano is now plays video, the Ipod classic has ballooned to 160GB, and a brand new ... iPod Touch. And my long predicted and awaited and yearned and desired ultra portable Apple laptop is still yet to be found. :( Probably the biggest news from these announcements was that the iPhone's price was cut from $599 to $399. Man that really riled the early adopters but Stevie Wonder quickly issued a $100 decree to all early adopters to quell their displeasure.

Now, I am gonna talk a little about this little Apple toy of mine that I loved so much and still I could find anything to replace it with. The item is the Apple Newton 2100. For those who doesn't know what this is, the Newton is considered to be the grandaddy of all PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) .. preceding the Palm Pilot. But though it was such an "old" PDA, it does tons lots more than any other PDAs of today even do. This PDA was way way ahead of its time. Why did I like it?

1) REAL HANDWRITING RECOGNITION - not some stupid script recognizer. This is not a PocketPC "Transcriber". This was the real deal from back in 1997. And it is only the recent TabletPC that can really match it. When I saw a TabletPC's demo a while back showing how you can "scratch" your word away, I was thinking to myself "eh, I was doing this with my newton 10 years ago".

2) Great Calendaring. The calendar on the Newton was really easy to use and powerful.

3) Great Contacts Manager. Just one simple feature which so many PDAs of today still doesn't do. Enter your contact's birthday, and the Calendar will note it and remind you. No double entries required.

4) Expandability. This thing had 2 PCMCIA slots. This was back in 1997 and even today, some people are able to plug in a Wifi card and make it work. We all knew how long it took for Palm to integrate Wifi into their PDAs.

5) It does Internet. Remember, this was back in 1997. Doesn't seem long ago, but it was a huge deal then.

6) It doesn't erase it's data from its memory when battery goes flat. How many early Palm and PocketPC users had their data all erased when it runs out of battery? Remember again, this was back in 1997.

And so if such was the power of a PDA that was so ahead of its time, why did it fail? I put it down to 2 factors: 1) Size - it was too big to be placed in a pocket 2) It cost too much - easily $1800 SGD then (about $1000 USD).

And what has that got to do with the recent Apple announcements? Well, I have been trying to find a PDA replacement for years. Palm has basically given zero development time to their PalmOS and PDA in the past 2 years, and I am reluctant to buy their last PDA which was released for almost 2 years already. And being a Mac user, it kinda is tough for me to consider a PocketPC device because they aren't really supported by iSync directly. So what leaves me with waiting patiently for an Apple branded PDA. Now the closest to what a PDA Apple has done in recent years after canning the Newton, is the iPhone, and currently, it is not available for the Asian market. And since the US version is locked and not 3G, there's no way I could use it without any worries here. Thus, when iPod Touch was announced, I was seriously thinking that finally, my Palm T3/Newton replacement has arrived.

But alas! Things are not what they seem. Though iPod touch is essentially a iPhone without the telephony features, the contact and calendar features does not support input and adjustments. So basically, it can't allow me to use it like a PDA.

So my wait continues .... until the day the iPhone arrives to the Asian shores .... to clear my PDA blues ...

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