RumorMill™: Another Hint an Apple Handheld May Be in the Wings

by Reads (20,936)

One of the most enduring rumors in the handheld community is that Apple Inc. is going to release an updated version of its Newton line, which was discontinued back in the 1990s. These have reached a new high recently as several unconfirmed reports have been published that say the maker of the Macintosh line of computers has been demonstrating a prototype handheld model to various people.

In what will surely add fuel to the fire, Think Secret, a Mac-related web site, reports that a company called Stone Multimedia Solutions is asking current and former Apple Newton users to fill out a survey about the device. Reportedly, the survey says, “We need to determine why the Apple Newton was not a commercial success and whether there is an interest in re-launching a new version of the Newton. Your comments will help understand why the Newton failed and if there is interest in re-launching a new, improved Newton.”

There is nothing concrete to connect Apple itself to this survey, but it could have hired this company to do some market research. On the other hand, Stone Multimedia Solutions seems an odd choice, as it isn’t a market research firm. Instead, it creates multimedia presentations and CD/DVDs for others.

Previous Rumors

In December of 2003, a writer for eWeek said in an article about handhelds that he had “heard of an Apple prototype making the rounds in Silicon Valley.” He gave no other details, though.

Last month, John Manzione from Mac NET v2 published what he says is a description of Apple’s upcoming handheld.

According to this report, the device will run an operating system that is described as being “OS X-like” and is quite possibly based on Linux. It will have an unknown amount of RAM, but it will also have the same type of miniature hard drive that is used in Apple’s iPod line of MP3 players.

Apparently it will use a clamshell design, with the screen on one side and keyboard on the other. Like many recent clamshell models, the screen can be rotated around and closed over the keyboard, allowing the device to be used as a tablet. Its Touchscreen will have a HVGA resolution, and it will use Apple’s Inkwell for handwriting recognition.

It will support both QuickTime and MPEG4. With an internal hard drive giving it far more Storage capacity that typical handhelds, Apple could be planning to position the device as a portable video player that also functions as a PDA.

Supposedly, Apple’s handheld will have FireWire, USB, and Bluetooth. Of course it will be able to synchronize with iCal, Mail, Address Book etc. on an OS X Mac, but Mr. Manzione reports that iSync with Windows will be available, too.

Mac NET v2 reports that this handheld will be available in July, though the price is not yet known.

Some History

Apple’s Newton line was some of the first handhelds, and the company’s CEO John Sculley even coined the term “PDA”. But the computer maker withdrew from the handheld market in 1998. However, at least once a year a rumor circulates that Apple is going to release a new line of handhelds to replace the Newton. Obviously, none of these have ever turned out to be true.

Rumors persist, despite the fact that Apple has said several times it has no plans to re-enter the handheld market. In June of last year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs told an audience at a trade show that his company will concentrate on making the Macintosh OS be able to synchronize with portable devices through its iSync software, rather than making a device of its own.

Thanks to engadget for the tip.

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