Apple Secretly Working on Handheld Devices

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Date: Friday, May 24th, 2002, 13:48
Category: Archive

It has been rumored, for almost as long as rumors have existed, that Apple is secretly developing a handheld computer to augment their product lineup and to round out the “digital hub” that Steve Jobs has been vigorously promoting for the past few years.

Every few months there is a flare up of the age-old “Apple is making a PDA” rumor with critics quickly pointing out that Phil Schiller (Apple’s VP of Worldwide Marketing) said “We are focused on the personal computer space, not the handheld space, and that’s that” in a now-infamous May 2000 SJ Mercury News interview during WWDC. Other nay-sayers remind us that, even though he tried to purchase Palm (twice), Steve Jobs “hates” PDAs.

Despite the words to the contrary (which could simply be mis-information to keep us off the scent) PowerPage sources have spotted a number of small handheld devices in and around Apple’s Cupertino campus. The devices have been field tested by various staff members over the past few months. It is important to realize that these aren’t simply re-badged Palms or Palms with silly clear enclosures – they are real Apple iron.

It should also be noted that these devices are most likely one-offs, hand-built to test a particular industrial design or form-factor, they still appear to far from ready for mass production.

Following are some of these interesting points from PowerPage sources on the topic of the Apple PDA:

I must emphasize that I DO NOT know what the hell the device is, (could be a TV clicker!) but I can say that the pda’s I have seen, remind me very strongly of the fake on Spymac last year, and it’s very close to that picture, except, the one’s that I have seen, do not have any chrome knobs, like the spymac version has.

I am still seeing many handheld devices around here in varying Apple plastics, some looking like the images of the purported “iWalk” that spymac posted last fall, minus the chrome knobs. And for a fact they are not “Palm OS” systems in Apple fabric. It seems to be a project that the engineers are working on, the camera in the top of it reminds me of the new sony clie type of hardware. Can’t yet say if it will ever be released, just know that it is happening, and they are walking around the campus using them.

I’m not sure if it’s really true, but there are a few more of those handheld computers roaming around the campus in Cupertino. They are black, and without chrome buttons on the outside, just as previously described…the one I saw was a color screen that was REALLY sharp, not the same old PDA in 256 color or grey. The case of the one I saw was black and the Apple dial was white.

I think that there are a some other elements to the system as well, I think a GPS antenna plugs into the top, and I think it could be a phone as well, I’m just not sure of that cause I have seen a few of them in different configurations. The phone feature plays the audio though the headphone jack on top of the device, there is no speaker inside.

I thought that there were 4 ports on top, Audio, PCI (type of thing), and USB, and one other that looks like an audio out, but I couldn’t tell.I think that they also had a camera that sort of plugs into the top, that’s flat and thinner than the box itself.

it looked like it wasn’t ready for prime time yet, might just be an experiment, sometimes the plastic is custom made, and sometimes the stuff I see isn’t for release at all. I must say though, this particular device looks like something I have seen them working on for the last year or so, so maybe it’s ready.

What’s your take?

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