Boost for e-reading? Apple supposedly bringing back the Newton—or at least a PDA

NewtonE-reading may benefit if a report in AppleInsider is accurate. Apple, creator of the Newton of yore, will supposedly take another stab at PDA-like machines---this time using multitouch technology. Oh, for the above to be true. Give me a straight PDA as an option, please, not a cellphone, not just an entertainment device. And be sure it can handle the .epub standard, not merely PDF and HTML. Here's to nonproprietary standards, reflowability and more e-book-related features than browser-style software can provide right now! Below is the lowdown from Insider on the reborn Newton, believed to be set for release in the first half of 2008: "For the past 18 months, well-respected sources tell AppleInsider, a small team of Apple engineers have been at it again, this time tapping the company's revolutionary multi-touch technology as a foundation.... "With the initial iPhone now out the door and two successive models well underway in Apple's labs, it's believed to be full steam ahead for the modern day Newton project. Like iPhone and the iPod touch, the new device runs an embedded version of Apple's Mac OS X Leopard operating system.

“Externally, the mutil-touch PDA has been described by sources as an ultra-thin “slate” akin to the iPhone, about 1.5 times the size and sporting an approximate 720×480 high-resolution display that comprises almost the entire surface of the unit. The device is further believed to leverage multi-touch concepts which have yet to gain widespread adoption in Apple’s existing multi-touch products—the iPhone and iPod touch-like drag-and-drop and copy-and-paste.”

So, gang, do you think this report is true, and what suggestions would you have for Apple as it supposedly reinvents the Newton—other than belying Apple DNA and going for an open approach for an e-book format, hardware and software alike?

(Big thanks to Mike Cane for the spotting.)

4 Comments on Boost for e-reading? Apple supposedly bringing back the Newton—or at least a PDA

  1. oh please oh please oh please oh PLEASE let this be true…!

  2. One can only hope.

    An OS X based Newton is certainly–at least from a hardware POV–easy enough. The iPhone and iPod Touch are ARM-based, which is a perfect candidate for a revived Newton. The HWR engine still lives in OS X as Inkwell. With modern network support (802.11 and BT) and iSync, most of the current issues with using an old Newton go away.

    The problem is the software. The Newton OS is long gone–even the source is allegedly lost. The object soup data model which made Newton so interesting isn’t present in any Apple code base that I’m aware of, and the pen-based UI–while perfect for its task–would strike too many users as too strange, as it did the first time around.

    So while an Apple tablet isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, it wouldn’t be a Newton. Though Id probably still buy it. :)

  3. If anyone can get the user interface right it will be Apple. There would be so many uses for a tablet that can display pages in just about any format – think of all the students carting around bags of textbooks, notes, dictionaries etc etc. Think of the space my husband will reclaim at home if I get rid of all the textbooks, notes, reference books etc!

    I hope the point Cerebus raised about the software doesn’t kill the idea before it gets going. This could be the Next Big Hit for Apple, following on the success of the IPod.

  4. It’s true. I’d lay money on it.

    But there is a difference between ‘set for release in 2008’ and ‘it was first released in 2008’ and that is: whether Steve Jobs determines if this product is marketable at a saleable price-point.

    Apple was working on a PDA slate in 2003, as Jobs admitted in 2004…after he killed it. PDA sales have been tanking since then, dropping like 50% each year, no? (if we don’t count smart-phones). And with the iPhone costing $400, this would more likely go for $500 or $600…”I could get a laptop for that!”

    On the other hand, Intel is desperate to sell millions of their embeddable ‘Silverthorne’ chips and the Silverthorne successors. These are tiny, power-thrifty, x86-architecture CPUs due to come out in the first half of 2008. They are at the heart of Intel’s MID internet tablet design, an initiative that usual-sweetheart MicroSoft is not, apparently, participating in: all the MID prototypes Intel and its hardware-partners have been showing run a flavor of Linux (a version of Ubuntu, I believe). Intel would be mad-happy to have Apple join in, and produce an OSX version.

    Indeed, Intel might want this so much, they might offer Steve Jobs super-low discounted prices on laptop and desktop chips, if only he would allow this OSX-MID tablet to reach market.

    And since it’s x86, it would run osX with less trouble than the ARM-variants in the iPod Touch and iPhone.

    And yet, PDAs are dead meat. So, look for this to be a wifi device internet tablet — a grownup iPod Touch which is sold mostly as a cool device to watch videos. If the other rumors come true, and the iTunes Store starts renting movies, this would be the device for it.

    So I think it all comes down to price. And my guess is that if Apple can manage to retail these for US $600, Steve Jobs will give it the green light. If however it would cost $700 or higher, it would be shelved. $500 and they have a moderate seller; $600 and they have a niche product that *might* be worth it if Intel sweetens the deal with lowball chip prices for laptops and desktops. $400 doesn’t seem possible, given that the iPhone sells for that now.

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