PDAs on Parade!
Monday, October 17, 1994 by Dave Winer.
Judging from the mail, people seem to be much more interested in PDAs than IBM's and Apple's operating system conundrum.
[At the last minute, Roger McNamee from Kleiner-Perkins said: Nothing disappoints me more than Apple's inability to articulate the message that its products are better. I just put a Windows machine on my office desk for the first time ever. What a nightmare! In two months, our tech consultant has put more time into making that box run with a fairly diverse spread of software than he put into an entire network of Macs over the prior year. The thing is, I can't imagine doing anything important on a Windows machine.]
Here are comments from Amy Wohl, Bobby Orbach, Gary Pearce, Jean-Louis Gassee and Michael Markman. And thanks to everyone else who commented.
Jean-Louis Gassee, Be Inc, email@example.com, a Psion 3a user
Once you own and operate a competent PDA, it becomes a lot more than a PC peripheral. I carry my PDA everywhere, not my notebook.
I like the small size and I miss some communication functions, but I can connect my PDA to my Mac, do drag-and-drop transfers between volumes on the network and the PDA. My PDA has printer drivers for HP compatibles and LaserWriters and will print directly connected, or on the network, or to file.
The MagicLink looks interesting, but it's way too big for me to carry it with me. It must fit in a suit pocket.
Bobby Orbach, Orbach Inc, firstname.lastname@example.org
When a PDA becomes as useful as a cellular phone or a Gameboy, then the world will embrace the technology. We don't buy technology because it's cool, we buy it for its usefulness or because it's fun.
Gary Pearce, Steam Radio, email@example.com
It is perfectly possible to use the limited handwriting recognition to compose and reply to email provided the s/w is written in accordance with the abilities. Sadly little is. Developers were jollied along in the belief that the internal handwriting recognition was the answer to the maidens prayer. This was because, by current computer industry standards it is _very good_. This is akin to current toaster industry standards where the latest cooking controls are _very good_. My toaster still burns the second slice every time and it annoys me.
I think the Online Services thang deserves a topic for itself. There are some very strange things going on there.
It is possible to take Newton technology and produce a true PDA. I would urge you to look at the Isaac project conducted by Dr Lars Philipson at the Univ of Lund in Sweden, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Wohl, email@example.com
I think I agree with Randy. A PDA isn't a PC and shouldn't be. Today's PDA's are just early attempts to think about what would be useful, highly constrained by what we're familiar with and not at all brave or radical enough. I think I'm going to return to science fiction to think about what I want a PDA to look like and do.
Michael Markman, Apple, firstname.lastname@example.org
Randy, on this issue, I think that you and Dave are both right. Although, I believe Dave is considerably more right than you are.
The fallacy of your point-of-view is this: PCs first appealed to people who wanted, but couldn’t get direct or dedicated access to mainframe or mini time. (I want my OWN computer, dammit.) Over time, they also appealed to people who had no idea that a computer could be useful on a personal basis. PCs sold to people who were not in a position to purchase their own mainframes or mini-computers.
Now and for quite sometime, the buyers of PDAs will be the early adopter, gadget-freak segment of the PC installed base. A PDA isn't sold to someone who can't get time on a PC. It's sold to someone who won't lug his PC (or even his notebook PC) everywhere.
Peripheral may be a loaded word. If 'partner' better serves the egos of people involved in developing and marketing PDAs, then fine.
Thanks for the comments, Amy, Bobby, Gary, Jean-Louis and Michael!
Inbetween programming work, meetings and other fun, I'm working on the next essay, currently titled Bill Gates vs The Internet. Watch your mailboxes. If anyone has an Internet address for Bill, please send it to me at email@example.com.
Also check out Jim Carlton's piece on Apple in this morning's WSJ. I think there's more to the story than Jim covered.
As always, if you aren't interested in this kind of stuff, send me email and I'll happily delete your name from the list. And it's OK to forward this email anywhere you like. The list is expanding -- I'm always happy to add new names.