Apparently the Newton doesn't fall very far from the Apple tree.
AppleInsider is reporting that Apple has a project underway to develop a minitablet computer based on the OS X operating system it has developed for the iPhone and the iPod Touch. The site is calling it "the return of the Newton," referring to the much-maligned but cult-favorite PDA that Apple sold in the mid-1990s.
The report describes a "slate" style device that's about 1.5 times bigger than an iPhone, with a high resolution display and the same touch-screen interface that's found on the iPhone. AppleInsider thinks we might catch a glimpse of this device at Macworld in January.
If true, this would appear to be Apple's take on Intel's MID (mobile Internet device) concept, rather than a PDA like the Newton. There's simply no market these days for the traditional PDA, as even basic mobile phones can do everything a PDA can do, just with more style. But there's not a huge market for UMPCs or MIDs at this stage of the game, either.
Apple's OS X and multitouch interface are definitely unique takes on the UMPC/MID concept. Many of the devices demonstrated by Intel and its partners last week at IDF required a stylus for navigation, reminiscent of PDAs. The wide-screen slate design reported by AppleInsider would allow for some interesting applications. This would also have a larger screen than either the iPhone and iPod Touch, and the size of the screen could make it easier to use the touch-screen keyboard in landscape mode, something that's on the wish list of many iPhone users.
Momentum is building around mobile devices designed for everyday folks, but I'd still be surprised if Apple were to launch its third multitouch device in 12 months sometime next year. Is there enough interest in handheld Apple gadgets right now to justify the iPhone, the iPod Touch and Newton 2.0?
The timing reported by AppleInsider--release in the first half of 2008--does coincide with the launch expectations for Silverthorne, a low-power Intel processor designed for just this type of device. Intel executives were tight-lipped last week about their chances of working with Apple on Silverthorne-based devices, probably not wanting to get sent to the principal's office for talking out of turn about Apple.