[NTLK] What the Newton "essence" is?

From: <zendrew_at_mac.com>
Date: Sun Jun 04 2006 - 12:50:49 EDT

I think what separates the Newton from other PDA devices is that the
other devices all seem designed as portable replacements for
functions performed equally well or better on a standard personal
computer, while the Newton was designed (at least in part) to replace
and augment the functions of paper products. More than any other
device, and despite its shortcomings, the Newton succeeds in
recreating the useful qualities of paper and pen, augmenting them
with the obvious advantages of having data in digital form. Here are
the Newton's killer features, to me:

Battery life (& non-volatile memory). The Newton (like a pad of
paper, or a book) doesn't have to be stuck in a cradle after just a
few hours use. And as a bonus, if I run out of juice I can just swap
in some AA's and be on my way. Try that with a Tungsten.

HWR. The recognition engine on the PocketPC, for example, is actually
not bad, but the interface for editing (corrections, copy/paste,
etc.) can't touch the Newton's. And the screen surface of these
devices (unlike the Newton or paper) generally has no bite, or
texture, so it's a bit like writing on a sheet of ice.

Screen size. Written input on a modern PDA is frustrated at least as
much by the tiny dimensions of the writing surface as the quality of
HWR. I'd certainly love a thinner, lighter Newton, but I'd honestly
prefer a larger, not smaller, surface than it already has.

Readability. I suppose some dedicated eBook readers (especially the
ones using E-Ink displays) are better than the Newton in this regard,
but no PDA is even close. And speaking of eBooks, no other device
that I know of has any software as good as the Newton's simple,
intuitive eBook reader, allowing one to annotate pages exactly as you
would in a paper book, by underlining passages or making notes in the
margins (such as they are--again, more screen space would be even

The OS & apps. There's much too much to say about this to fit here,
but I can give one example. I'm a sysadmin for a computer lab. I use
Cardmedia to create entities in Names for the workstations &
peripherals I manage. Using Moreinfo to link these cards to Notes,
other Names, Dates. etc., I am able to maintain a complete history of
every task I have done for each item in my lab. Every update, PMU
reset, service call, to-do, etc. can be seen instantly and linked to
any other info. Even if I took the time & effort to recreate this
structure on another platform, I wouldn't have the previously
mentioned Newton advantages, especially as regards portability &
written input.

I would definitely love a handheld with more bells and whistles, but
not at the cost of the above features. For instance, color would be
nice, as would more processing power but not if I have to give up my
Newton's multi-day battery life. Similarly, I'd love less bulk, but
the Newton is certainly portable enough for me, given the advantages
its screen offers me over the competition. And though I definitely
would love my Newton to be truly usable for web & email functions,
I'm nevertheless currently much too reliant on the Newton's unique
capabilities to consider moving to another device. What I do with my
Newton I can really only do on my Newton, whereas I can always use my
laptop for web & email. Still, I readily concede that more portable
versions of those functions (especially email) are really essential
to a lot of other people.

Just for fun I'll add this: there is a eBook reader coming on the
market that is tantalizingly like what I envision an updated Newton
should look like: the form factor of the iRex iLiad http://
www.irextechnologies.com/shop/products/iliad.htm (minus a lot of
unnecessary buttons) would be perfect for an updated Newton. (BTW,
any chance of Einstein ever running on this device, M. Guyot?)


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Received on Sun Jun 4 12:50:52 2006

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