Posted by: Frank | July 12, 2008

How Ironic

I can’t help but be amused by the irony. Apple, by way of John Sculley, created the term “Personal Digital Assistant” (PDA), and now Apple is the company selling a device in the iPhone that finally surpasses that original vision, and they still refuse to use the term PDA. That term was stricken from the Apple lexicon when Steve Jobs returned to Apple and killed the Newton.

More irony, long ago Bill Gates was talking about digital wallets in his book “The Road Ahead.” Neither Windows Mobile nor it’s predecessors have achieved that vision, but now Apple has with the iPod Touch. With the iPhone 2 upgrade the iPod Touch becomes the thinnest PDA on the market, thin enough to be a digital wallet.

With the launch of the iPhone 2 software, available both for the iPhone and the iPod Touch, the iPod effectively became a PDA.  This afternoon I upgraded my 8 GB iPod Touch to the iPhone 2 software and have been installing and playing with applications ever since.

A killer application for me is the eReader ebook application. I have long been using eReader on my Windows Mobile devices to read books, but the iPod may now be my favorite ebook device simply because the screen is so good. Swipping my finger across the screen to turn a page seems natural, though I am thinking it would be nice if I could just press the button on the iPod to turn the page.

I will have to wait for the other killer app for my iPod, eWallet. Ilium Software has made an iPhone version of this app that I have also been using on my Windows Mobile devices for a long time, but for some reason it did not get into the App Store in time for Friday’s launch. Hopefully Apple will correct this in the near future. I use eWallet to store all my passwords and other information I want to keep secure, and I have versions of it running on my Eee PC and my Phones, and I am able to synchronize the data across all these platforms.

The one thing holding the iPod Touch back from being nearly the perfect PDA is text input. The on-screen keyboard just doesn’t cut it for me and I wonder whether Apple will allow third parties to create alternate keyboards, perhaps adding T9 capability like what I have on my T-Mobile Shadow.

And this is the final irony. When Apple first invented the PDA they were brave enough to introduce handwriting recognition, and while it was not very good when it first came to market, by the time the Newton was killed the HWR was pretty good. You can in fact still purchase a descendant of that original HWR engine by buying Calligrapher for Windows Mobile. If Apple were to allow a version of Calligrapher to be sold for the iPhone, the PDA would come back full circle back to where it was born, and in the end that would be the most ironic of the ironies.


  1. Very interesting I don’t currently have an ipod or the new iphone, but I saw AT&T’s version yesterday and I really like it alot. I want to know more about them.

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