Return of the Newton

It’s been thirteen-or-so years since I got my first Newton. The PDA industry has still not produced a tool with a better interface for note-taking, tracking appointments, or making quick sketches. I’ve still never lost data in a Newton. (I’ve owned two iPaqs, both of which have died losing everything onboard on multiple occasions. That just isn’t cool. The fact that they’re useless pieces of junk for anything that a decent cellphone can’t do doesn’t help.)

So folks are buzzing about the imminent death of the iPod (my iPod died a couple of months back; it was its second trip through the washing machine that did it). I actually agree that everything is going to merge into the cellphone, and I hope that Apple will be the company that makes that cellphone. And I think they can do it. Anyone who can reduce the pocket/purse clutter we all live with and the number of things we can forget to take with us when we leave the house, or recharge when we’re at home, without losing functionality or convenice, has a winner on their hands.

Here are some things iPods do well:

  • Stores Data
  • Transfers Data to/from Computers
  • Navigates Large Lists
  • Plays Music
  • Runs a decent time on a single charge (unless playing video)

Here are some things iPods do less well:

  • Output audio to other devices (e.g. car stereos)
  • Output video to other devices (e.g. TV sets)
  • Transfers Data to/from other devices (e.g. cameras)
  • Allow you to view organizer data (appointments, contacts)
  • Record Audio
  • Watch Video

Here are some things iPods don’t do that you need to carry other crap around to do:

  • Make/Receive Cell Phone Calls
  • Make/Receive VoIP Phone Calls
  • Instant Message
  • Video Conference
  • Allow you to record organizer data (appointments, contacts)
  • Transfer Data to/from common data storage cards (e.g SD Cards)
  • Take Pictures
  • Take Notes
  • Draw Pictures

So imagine that Apple produces an iPod with a larger screen, bigger battery, solid state storage only (no hard disk), an SD card slot, a microphone, a small camera, and the the best pen-based UI ever developed (i.e. the Newton’s). It can basically be a Nano in a Video iPod case using the space previously used for the hard disk for more battery capacity.

All of a sudden they have a Newton (who cares if it’s really a Newton underneath, as long as it has the UI?) that they can actually sell.