Apple's iWalk PDA tiptoes out?

Apple is rumoured to be launching a handheld computer at the Macworld Expo next week

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs may be preparing to launch a handheld computer at the Macworld San Francisco next week, according to reports. Anonymous pictures and video of a device purporting to be Apple's new iWalk PDA have appeared on industry Web site Spymac.com.

The pictures show a PDA somewhat larger than a Palm and clad in white and silver livery similar to Apple's iPod MP3 player. The video demonstrates the iWalk's handwriting recognition, with words scribbled onto the screen being converted to text in seconds, and shows the device working in both landscape and portrait configuration. Although pictures of portable devices labelled iWalk have circulated on the Net before, this is the first time one has been seen built to production quality and working in a variety of modes.

According to Spymac, the device has audio in and out, FireWire and a large port that may be connected with Apple's own Gigawire interface. The operating system isn't PalmOS, as some had speculated, but appears to be a version of OS X -- or at least to share a similar interface. The screen is bigger than most PDAs, and there's a jog dial at the bottom of the front that further strengthens the similarities with the iPod.

Apple will be announcing several new products -- including, it is believed, a flat-panel iMac -- at Macworld San Francisco next week, but is not commenting before then. The company's previous foray into personal digital assistants, the ill-starred Newton, also had a large screen and handwriting recognition, but unreliability, size and cost prevented it becoming popular.

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