Thoughts of the Future of PDAs

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Date: Monday, July 30th, 2001, 12:36
Category: Archive

You might want to check out the following article in Unstrung (“When Can iPAQ My PC and Cell Phone Away?” It contains some interesting speculation regarding potential PDA evolution and some of the factors that may steer it.

The most valid point is that a lot of us need the functionality of our mobile phones and our laptops, and we will continue to carry at least those two devices (maybe in addition to a PDA) until somebody makes a single device that can replace the two or three that we are currently using.


You might want to check out the following article in Unstrung (“When Can iPAQ My PC and Cell Phone Away?” It contains some interesting speculation regarding potential PDA evolution and some of the factors that may steer it.

The most valid point is that a lot of us need the functionality of our mobile phones and our laptops, and we will continue to carry at least those two devices (maybe in addition to a PDA) until somebody makes a single device that can replace the two or three that we are currently using.

Put together a list of the things that you really need and use on a daily and weekly basis. Now consider how the PDH (personal digital hub) of tomorrow might be configured to meet the needs that you will have. I see the guts of a TiBook (everything except the optical drive, keyboard, mega-wide screen and second speaker) built around a small nearly rimless touch screen. Yes, it is a tablet, but it has all of the I/O ports that one might need, runs the latest version of OS X, and by using VPC for OS X it runs just about anything else that you might want it to as well.

The combination of voice recognition and handwriting recognition along with a full-sized touch screen would make such a device at least as easy to use as the PDA’s of today. Add a wireless LAN, keyboard, Wacom tablet and just about any screen that you happen to run across and you have a full-fledged workstation.

There should be a choice of snap-on FireWire optical drive modules, each of which contains its own battery. Any USB keyboard, mouse or pointing device will work, but portable folding Bluetooth keyboards (also with their own batteries) will make on-the-fly data entry a lot easier.

The aforementioned Bluetooth technology allows the user to make voice activated calls using a cordless headset that interfaces with a wafer-thin mobile phone module. Sure, the whole package is not as small as your Ericsson phone, but since you almost always have your PDH in your briefcase, backpack or immediate vicinity anyway it works out pretty well. You can always use the headset with any other Bluetooth phone if you do happen to be traveling light.

Battery life is still a toughie. Ditch the big screen and optical drive and you save a bit. Switch to a lithium polymer battery integrated with the casing and you get a bit more. Start plugging in Microdrives and USB and FireWire devices and using the Bluetooth stuff like crazy and your battery life goes down the drain. All of the external modules having self-contained batteries helps, but it will probably need to handle 8-10 hours of normal use on a single charge to achieve world domination. (Oops, wrong company!)

Can the basic device be built and sold profitably for less than 4 figures (including the folding keyboard)? I don’t know. Would tons of people want one? I don’t know that either, but making it pretty useful at a low price point and building in such a large degree of expandability and compatibility from the very beginning could make the potential market very large indeed.

What if there was a portable VGA 15.2″ TiBook sized screen with a VGA connector, protective cover/stand and its own battery? With the screen on the tray table, the cordless keyboard on the lap and some Bluetooth cordless headphones Apple could make one heck of a follow-up to the middle seat commercial. No sir, that is not my Walkman, it’s the DVD-burning, conference-call making, wireless networking, voice and handwriting recognizing digital extension of my brain. More useful than any laptop, more powerful than any PDA, it is my digital creative enabler, the node through which all of my electronic communication, relaxation and creativity flows.

I want it now.

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