Small, beautiful, fast and economical - Apple's new PDA

If Apple was to launch a palm sized PDA, what would it look like? What would it do? What wouldn't it do? Will Knight, reporter/designer/consumer champion, has a look at the possibilities

As soon as Steve Jobs unveiled the curvaceous new iBook at this year's Macworld Expo, hoards of Mac fans began screaming for more. What they really want now is a hand-held iMac to complete the set -- an iPocket dressed in Apple's five fruity colours. So here is a rough impression of what the new "iPocket" could look like. It must be stressed, however, that this purely speculative and that at no point during our inquiries did Apple actually reveal anything to us. Fruity formula... It is unlikely Apple will stray away from its fruity translucent formula for the iPocket's design. One expert says, "Apple's whole awareness has been re-invented by the iMac and there is no way they're going to go back to some square grey thing. I guess it will either be ingenious or just over-hyped." Mac enthusiasts, who it seems can't get enough of see-through blueberry and tangerine echo this sentiment. Editor of applelink.com Joe Ryan, believes the future is undoubtedly brightly coloured and ergonomically formed. "The iMac style is very recognisable, so why go backwards," he says. "Innovation is the million dollar question. I think an iMac PDA would probably look something like the iBook, but it would be great if they could have a detachable keyboard or something." The iPocket would be blessed with the same economic design principles as its siblings -- only much smaller -- and those relatively modest specifications must bring into question the sort of technology an Apple PDA would sport. That is not say the Macintosh faithful won't hope for everything under the sun. William C Stratas, President of Planetcast.com and self confessed Apple-addict, says he "would like it to have wireless connectivity with water-resistant shell/keypad and drop-proof shockproof enclosure. Plus a microphone/speaker to handle Internet voice-mail." Nothing too extravagant then. A Psion spokesman believes Apple's pricing of the iPocket will be crucial. "There are so many different technologies that could feature, but they will all be dependent on cost. Apple has a significant interest in the education market and more expensive technology may not be important there," the spokesman says. There are also suggestions that Apple may experience various other difficulties moving into the PDA market. For example, although hand-held computing is moving towards greater wireless integration, some have expressed doubts that Apple would excel in this area. The source at Psion suggests Apple's recent absence from this market could prove a stumbling block: "The most progressive wireless PDA technology is coming from European companies. Although Apple pioneered PDAs with the Newton, they haven't done anything since then. It depends how critical wireless technology is to Apple's target audience." A possible solution would be to use Bluetooth technology. Although in it's infancy, this is an area of growing importance for the PDA market and Apple is clearly taking an interest. MacWireless, an independent California based company dedicated to producing wireless technology for Macintosh computers admits this is something it is looking into. "We are looking into what we can do with Bluetooth for Apple users," says a spokesperson. "If they [Apple] come out with a PDA, then we'll see what we can do with that." I want to see what the iPocket looks like.

Part 2

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