Why or why not will an Apple branded PDA work?

  • Posted: 27 June 2001 03:37 PM

    One of the most popular rumors over the last, I don’t know, long time is that of an Apple branded PDA.  A number of people have even mentioned it in our thread on MACWORLD predictions:

    http://www.macobserver.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=149&forum=1&0

    But I would like your input on the validity of even the *possibility* of this rumor.  Could Apple be successful with a product like this?  Or is the appropriate question can Apple succeed without such a product?  What about a phone/PDA combo?  I think, if done right, Apple could produce a kick-butt PDA.  But I’m not sure what constitutes “done right” which is largely the problem.  So, I ask the question of you, our faithful forum visitors; could an Apple branded PDA/phone/cool-thingy be successful?

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  • Posted: 25 June 2001 11:16 PM #1

    I think it could be successful if it could be synced with PCs as well as Macs, and if it had some killer features that other PDAs do not.  (For example, low cost AirPort-compatible wireless internet access to connect to your base station.  This is available for Handspring Visors but is about $300. [Edit: I’m not how it works or if it is compatible with AirPort… I’m just pretty sure it said 802.11])

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  • Posted: 25 June 2001 11:19 PM #2

    I found the wireless product in question. It appears as if it would indeed work with AirPort:  [url=http://www.handspring.com/products/sbmodules/xircom_wirelessdetails.jhtml]http://www.handspring.com/products/sbmodules/xircom_wirelessdetails.jhtml [/url]

         
  • Posted: 26 June 2001 05:02 AM #3

    anyone who owns a Newton realises that the reason newton was killed was that it was possibly too expensive for users and certainly too expensive for Apple. Apple is now in a much better state than in Newton times, but it would be MADNESS to make the same mistake twice. Palm are on the verge if GIVING AWAY $2.5million worth of unsold stock, Handspring aren’t making money, Psion aren’t making money, Compaq and HP are both producing machines AND selling them - but are they making money? Judging by Compaq’s sale of ALpha to Intel - nope. The Newton was such a fantasic computer - so much better than a modern Palm as to be almost unrecognisable, but I’d hate to see Apple make an expensive mistake. I think that the lessons learned from newton should be incorporated into OSX in such a way as to facilitate the design of even better sub-notebooks and, possibly, notepads. Airport is vital to this.

         
  • Posted: 26 June 2001 06:11 AM #4

    I think that an Apple-branded PDA would work if it: 1)fixed the mistakes of the Newton (weight and size,) 2)had the ability to communicate wirelessly with Macs, 3)could work with PC’s too, 4)had a kick-ass OS, and 5)had a way for users to input text more easily than with that awful Grafiti or with a keyboard. I’m too young to remember when the Newton was around, and the only one I’ve ever actually used was this old eMate wrapped up int its box behind my step-Grandfather’s couch. I got it out and played around with it. I own a Visor Prism, and I must say that the Newton OS handily beats Palm OS as far as the GUI and text input. I know I’m not the only one who can’t stand Grafiti. Why should I have to buy a keyboard for my Visor just to input text at a decent speed? The idea of a PDA is to be small and portable. Any PDA isn’t all that portable if you have to lug a full keyboard around or have a flat surface for a foldable one. Anyway, I think that if Apple introduced a new PDA, the size and weight issues of the Newton would definitely be fixed-Apple would have to compete with other PDA’s. Cheap built-in wireless communication would have to be included, or some cheap way to add it later must be implemented. Right now, I would have to pay a couple of hundred for a module that would give me a wireless modem, but I don’t know if that module would allow me to wirelessly sync with my desktop. Either way, it’s too expensive. The ability to work with PC’s is a must because Windows dominates the computer industry right now. The kick-ass OS would already be there because the Newton OS is already better than Palm’s. An updated one would kill the Palm OS for sure. Finally, Apple’s handwriting recognition software, if finally perfected, seems much more practical and less time consuming than Grafiti. If all of these areas are fulfilled, I think an Apple-branded PDA would definately be a success.

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  • Posted: 26 June 2001 06:13 AM #5

    I think that Apple would be better served by adding something to the existing PDA’s rather than trying to re-enter a market that is struggling at this time.  Part of the problem in the PDA industry is that they have not given us a reason to upgrade and they last forever.  I’ve owned a Palm for 3 years and love it, but they have not come out with anything that makes me want to purchase another.

    Having said that, Apple seems to be able to come out with new products the day after I purchase one that makes me want to purchase again.  So maybe Steve and Co. can make do something in the PDA market - but I wouldn’t do it if I were them.

         
  • Posted: 26 June 2001 07:27 AM #6

    No, no, no, no!
    Making a move into the current handheld market would be like re-inventing the DeLorean. (You remember, the Back To The Future car?) One of those things that “seemed like a good idea…”
    The Palm market has dried up. Demand for the products is down, probably to the lowest point ever.
    Why?  Lack of a killer app.
    Think about it, what application would make you run out and buy a PDA? The closest thing to a great app that I have seen is Filemaker Portable. A great idea, but limited in its usefulness.
    What about wireless internet? Come on! Can anybody honestly tell me that web content on those tiny screens is acceptable? If you want to browse the web wirelessly buy an iBook. If you just want text like sports scores or messages, buy a pager.
    How about using one as a phone or a GPS receiver? Why not just buy a phone or a handheld GPS receiver? You’ll spend less money buying separate items.

    What do you think? Am I totally off-base here?

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    Posted: 26 June 2001 07:32 AM #7

    The Killer App for a handheld is…  Taking Your Desktop With You Everywhere You Go!

    That’s what I want, but we need LEP screens, projected screens, or something else that makes it practical.  We aren’t there yet.

    The current Killer App, which has become a tad saturated, is the organizer.  Palms to that VERY well.

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  • Posted: 26 June 2001 07:34 AM #8

    Everyone has some great points here.

    But in response to the last poster. (Sorry. My screen cleared before I could see your name!)

    I think the problem with PDAs and stuff is that there are too many devices. People like one device. Take the implementation lately of the combination PDAs and cell phones. People want one thing. You got people carrying around briefcases with PDAs and cell phones and laptops and ebooks and calculators and ..... etc, etc

    I mean why can’t you just use a laptop. Why do you need the PDA as well? Sure size is a factor, but you said it yourself about surfing the net on those little screens. Not gonna work. And since it’s all HDML and not HTML, you aren’t getting any graphics and the speeds are slow.

    IF Apple really and truly wanted to seriously get into the PDA market—not that I think it’s the right time by any means—they should buy Palm or Handspring and market it that way by making it mac exclusive. Now, there’s a mix of apps for PCs and Macs. Steve Jobs should just stick with his computers and his retail store and not try to stuff himself too quickly.

    And remember. Newton didn’t work.

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  • Posted: 26 June 2001 09:10 AM #9

    On 2001-06-26 09:11, empeimaj2 wrote:
    I think that an Apple-branded PDA would work if it: [...] 5)had a way for users to input text more easily than with that awful Grafiti or with a keyboard.

    I’ve had a Palm V-series device for over 2 years now, and while I have definitely heard complaints about Grafitti, I don’t get it.  Grafitti is fast and accurate if you do a bit of reading (to find out the tricks) and practice for a few hours.  Maybe Palm could learn a lesson or two in this area from the Newton, or maybe not.

    Either way, though, I think it’d be folly for Apple to take on Palm’s headaches.  The priorities right now have to be (a) bring Mac OS X to maturity, (b) expand existing hardware sales as much as possible and/or bring the next killer platform to market, and (c) make those retail stores profitable.  There is no gain in spreading out into the saturated PDA market for Apple.

    —scott

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  • Posted: 26 June 2001 10:22 AM #10

    Hey, Scott. Scott here.

    Either way, though, I think it’d be folly for Apple to take on Palm’s headaches. The priorities right now have to be (a) bring Mac OS X to maturity, (b) expand existing hardware sales as much as possible and/or bring the next killer platform to market, and (c) make those retail stores profitable. There is no gain in spreading out into the saturated PDA market for Apple.

    I could not agree with you more, my friend. Let’s hope Steve Jobs knows that’s the right answer.

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    Scott
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    Posted: 26 June 2001 11:15 AM #11

    On 2001-06-26 10:34, scottk wrote:

    And remember. Newton didn’t work.

    Wha, wha, what?

    I certainly hope you’re referring to Newton as a business plan and not Newton as a technology. I’ve had an eBay-purchased MessagePad 2100 for over a year now (where they’re still in such demand that they’re able to sell near their former list prices) and every time it flawlessly recognizes my input or otherwise makes my life easier I want to give Jobs a good, swift kick in the nether regions for killing the platform. I love the screen size compared to the unusable Palm and if anything, would like to see bigger Newtons (albeit thinner) with Airport capability, USB, etc, etc…

    Unfortunately, that ain’t happening. The PDA market is a mess and Apple isn’t yet stable enough to be sticking out another tentacle right now (there’s enough for them to keep busy with X).

    Still, the NewtonOS is a thing of beauty and I know I’ll keep using the 2100 until the hardware goes foom.

     

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  • Posted: 26 June 2001 11:17 AM #12

    I’m sorry. I didn’t state that clearly. I definitely meant as a business plan

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    Scott
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  • Posted: 26 June 2001 12:05 PM #13

    Newtons are great.  Ours can read both both my left handeded and my husband’s right handed scrawls without any changes in user settings.  Can’t improve much upon that. 

    Apple could make the ibook with a newton interface so you could choose to write on the screen like newton or use it in the traditional way and of course make it lighter weight. 

    Or take a page from Microsoft and create a Newton OS to overlay the palm os and use the “cheap boxes” as a tool.

         
  • Posted: 26 June 2001 12:08 PM #14

    Yeah. I agree with Anonymous. I used a newton way back when and I really liked it. A lot more than my Palm.

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    Scott
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    God bless our troops in Iraq and everywhere.

    GO STEELERS. GO PIRATES. and GO PENGUINS (ummm, well ...)

         
  • Posted: 26 June 2001 01:57 PM #15

    I think Apple could make a PDA work for them.  Their are however a couple of things they must remember when creating it.  It can’t be the size of a newton.  It needs to be very small.  A PDA is only useful if it can fit in a pocket.  The newton wouldn’t even fit in most Cargo pants.  If its not that small, than a powerbook would be a more useful computer.  It also needs to run on OS x, and be able to sink most files.  It would work similar to Windows CE.  Except that it sould accully work!! Also Apple has a habit of makeing things really cool, but missing priceranges of the avarge person by alot.  If they had an entery level computer that did very little more that a visor, then a better verson that could do airport, and all these other cool things, that would be great. 

    As long as the size and price stay within reason, Apple sould do fine selling PDA’s.

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