Date: Wednesday, April 16th, 2003, 00:00
Above are some sketches of my idea for a new Apple mobile device. Note,this is purposely not attempting to look like an Apple security breach- these are just my ideas and not a rumor.
Right now Apple is following the pattern of naming the Pro usercomputers “Power,” as in PowerMac and PowerBook, and the consumermodels as “i,” iMac and iBook, and iPod. So to fill out the offerings Iam referring to this sketch concept as the PowerPod. Everybodyseems to have great hopes for the iPod to grow into a multifunctiondevice, so I am looking towards that in spirit if not fact.
What I am thinking of is basically a PowerBook reduced to its smallestpossible form factor, but trying to use the technologies that Apple isalready using today as much as is possible. So, I am thinking it willrun MAC OS X just like a full-fledged Macintosh, and be able to use thefull range of technology used by the other Macintosh offerings.
First we are going to loose the keyboard, the clamshell paradigm, andgo back to something more similar to the MessagePad 2100 form factor.We are going to leverage the Inkwell technology to drop the keyboard onthe go, and use a screen that takes pen input. This will be a littlesmaller than the tablets now being introduced in the Windows world, butmore mobile.
The critical dimension is about 5″ by about 8″, 3/4 inch thick at themost, better if as thin as an ipod. Small enough that you can hold itgripped between your thumb and fingers resting in your palm and addressit with a pen in the other hand. The screen will be a wide screenformat, software rotatable. I am not sure of the pixel density, but Iam thinking 800×480 would be a minimum to be useful for Web browsingand email on the go.
To get it this small I think Apple should leverage the iPod hard drivefrom Toshiba. 20GB is available now – not long ago PowerBooks werecoming with 15GB hard drives so the size is workable. 40GB iPods are onthe horizon as the drives have been mentioned on the Toshiba Web site,so larger drives could be readily available. No built-in optical driveof course, and the battery should also borrow from the iPods technologyin the quest to make it smaller with a long runtime.
The screen perhaps could be one of the new types which don’t requirebacklighting in bright light (Organic LEDs, or OLEDs -Ed) for the sakeof battery life. Seeing them on PDAs they never looked as good as aPowerBook screen so I am a little doubtful about that.
Now a little Mac slate will be useless if we can’t connect it in theusual way, so I propose it have the usual slew of PowerBook ports withsome small modifications. First and foremost – DVI. This thing shouldhave 32MB of video memory, enough to drive the 23″ Cinema Display. Itshould use the most energy efficient chip set from ATI or nVidia withbattery consumption taking precedence over Quake frame rates. Theyshould be able to have it go into a low energy mode while only drivingthe small on board display.
The DVI port will allow it to drive projectors and with Apples DVI toADC box, to connect to their handsome LCD monitors. Now you have areasonable platform to work with in the office. Next, one USB port.That’s all you need on the run, and after you have it plugged into yourApple monitor you will have the usual two on hand. One combo FireWire,and Power supply port. Thats right, just like the iPod it will rely onthe FireWire port for its power supply connection, but unlike the iPodthe PowerPod’s Firewire power supply plug will feature a pass throughsocket to plug in an external device at the same time. We areleveraging a good technology to save space.
Then a combo Ethernet/modem port. Yes, you know you can plug an RJ11plug into a n RJ45 socket – it just fits in the middle. Rather thanwaste space for two sockets that are rarely used at the same time whileon the go, they are replaced by an auto sensing socket that handlesboth functions. Next is a sound out jack, and elsewhere on the unit aheadphone jack. All these ports will line up, iBook style along the topback edge of the unit rather than the side.
In the wireless world it should probably come equipped with Bluetooth,and have the usual Airport option. Now it has all the connectivity of apowerbook, it is running a full version of OS X and it is connectableto a full size screen for legitimate work at a desktop. On the go itwill have all the connectivity of a PowerBook and a fraction of theweight and size. The pen based interface with Inkwell will be more thansufficient for on the go web browsing and email, and the ability todrive a projector or large monitor for Keynote presentations is thereas well. It is also bound to open up the market for small keyboards, aswell as portable mice.
There are three modes of use then. One as a tablet or slate, orwhatever you would like to call it. The second as a “desktop” connectedportable. The third mode would be using a dock, or base station ala thePowerBook Duo. This would provide an elegant way to plug your PowerPodinto your desktop workstation and avoid making all the individual cableconnections. Rather than the vcr tape paradigm used for the Duo, Ithink this is another opportunity to leverage existing technology – theLCD iMac to be exact.
Using the iMac as a mule for a docking station is a natural. ThePowerPod unit can settle into a holder on the adjustable arm where allthe ports on the back could plug in. The units small screen would befacing out and could still be used as a small monitor with all thegreat adjustability of the iMac. It should not weigh too much more thanthe iMacs large 17″ display. The base unit would supply power, andcould have built in DVI to ADC hardware allowing you to connect theApple ADC displays directly to the base. The base would also have anoptical drive, and an additional 3 1/2″ hard drive, both items thatcould be optioned up in different configurations including a DVDburning superdrive.
All the other usual ports could be present in the usual locations atthe back of the hemisphere base. An alternative method of making theconnection would be a broad docking connector across the bottom,similar to the Duos connector. The upside of this is you could offerdirect access to the PowerPods motherboard for possible system upgradeswithin the base – a slot? The down side is creating new, morecomplicated technology.
That’s the concept. The segment of PowerBook users that have alwayssought out the smallest possible machine has always been a strong andfaithful contingent. That combined with the almost obsessively faithfulNewton users, and the Japanese users may spell a market large enough tomake this a viable product. What do you think? How would you use such adevice? What processor do you think it should carry? An energy thriftyand speedy G3, or a balls out Final Cut Pro busting G4? How about Ramexpandability – slots add size? How about the price point – what shouldthe PowerPod alone come in at – less than a 12 PowerBook? What should aunit plus a base station be – about the same as a 17″ PowerBook?
Description of sketches above:
Left: Here you can see the iMac based docking station in thebackground, with the Powerpod docked into the adjustable holder. Isn’tit cute! A tinsy winsy iMac! This station would offer serious desktopconnectivity. A viable workstation depending on the processor onboard.
Middle: This shows the unit standing up on the integral stand. I amimagining dented stops in the stands range which would give you severalviewing angles. This would allow you to connect your desktop cables tothe ports along the top back of the unit. Kind of crazy to work
on sucha small screen, but with a larger monitor attached it makes a goodplace to stow your mail window and iChats buddy window.
Right: This shows the unit laying flat with its integral stand folded.I am imagining it would have a screen cover of some sort – similar tothe MessagePad 2100 that folded around and flat against the back of theunit so it could be out of the way completely.