Sunday, March 05, 2006

The PDA is dead. Long live the PDA.

What would you call a device that's about 2.5" x 3.5", has a 4" diagonal screen and 2/3 the horizontal resolution of a VGA dispaly, has handwriting recognition, and runs a wide variety of software?

I'd call it a PDA. But that market is dead, really dead. Try looking for a Tungsten E2 stylus sold directly by Amazon (vs. vendor partners). Ok, try some other big vendor. You may find some Tungsten E styli (I think, mirablu dictu, that the E2 uses the E stylus), but you probably won't find any marketed for the E2. That's an ex-parrot of a market.

So what can one make of this?
Next Version of Tablet PC's Said to Be Lighter and Smaller - New York Times
March 3, 2006

Microsoft and Intel plan to announce next week that several industry partners will make small, light versions of a tablet personal computer, people close to the two companies said yesterday.

The machines, which have been the subject of considerable speculation, will be tailored more for consumer entertainment than the larger tablet machines running Microsoft's Windows that were introduced in 2002. The larger tablets, typically with 12-inch screens, sell for about $1,500 and are used mostly by doctors, lawyers, architects and other professionals in office settings. A tablet PC has a touch-sensitive screen that allows input with a pen.

The new models — a category called ultramobile personal computers — will have smaller screens, seven or eight inches, and sell for $1,000 or less, depending on options.

The machines will have the handwriting recognition software of the standard Windows tablet personal computers, and include wireless technology for browsing the Internet. But the new tablets will also have multimedia capabilities for playing music, movies and games in some models.

Intel will supply the chip technology for the ultramobile PC's, and they will run a version of Windows Tablet PC software....

They will be hefty, at about two pounds, and have a limited battery life of three hours or so between charges, the Microsoft consultant said. A new generation of low-power chips, extending battery life to six hours, will come next year. Later models, he added, will come with screens of four inches or so.

... A Web site set up by Microsoft,, stirred interest with vague assertions that a coming mobile technology "will change your life." Then, bloggers found and posted a video advertisement for Microsoft Origami mobile technology.

Intel has its own Web site,, suggesting the ultramobile PC's will be able to handle movies, music, games, television and the Internet.

The rumored video iPod is supposed to deliver than 4" diagonal (about 2.5" x 3/5" square with a 16:9 aspect ratio). Sounds a lot like what Microsoft is promising for ... late 2007. It's hard to believe they could be that far behind. To me it sounds like what they're promising is a PDA that runs XP. Wow. I'm so impressed by the radical evolution from the PalmPilot. Except, of course this device will play movies.

As to what's promised this year, I am so utterly unimpressed. The big news is that the much celebrated large slates have failed miserably. A vertical physician/architect market is not going to delight Dell. It's time to declare failure and kill those suckers. Ever try to read with one at the breakfast table? I rest my case. A laptop makes far more sense. So this year, instead, we get something that's still too big for a pocket or purse and has a when-new battery life of 3 hours?! Wow, that's such a dud.

If this story is true Apple is about to make a zillion dollars with a one year headstart on the 4" diagonal platform. I suspect, though, that Microsoft and their partners can't possibly be in such an utterly dismal situation.

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