by John Clark
Dear Mr Amelio and Apple Engineers,
Make me a MiniMac, a MacPalmtop, a Hero or a PowerPalm and sell billions of them to the rest of the world.
I need a new portable computer, not a fancy high-powered one but a small-sized one, a big Mac “Zaurus”, as it were, only greatly improved for true functionality and ease of use, Mac Use.
Have you noticed that Apple has added an $80 optional keyboard to the Newton? Doesn’t this tell you something? Doesn’t this suggest that the Newton needs a built-in keyboard? And a lot more.
I keep having this vision of a new product from your R & D labs that combines the ideas for a smaller, lighter, MUCH easier to carry, computer with color active screen, a mouse-pointer-button/trackpad and a Macintosh Operating system (not the Newton OS) just like the ones in the bigger desktop Macs and the Powerbooks, only much scaled down to just larger than the size of the Newton Message Pad and a bit wider than the Zaurus and Psion PDAâ€™s.
With the functionality of System 7.1 or a lesser System 8, it wouldnâ€™t need anything so grandiose as the Quickdraw GX or any of the advantages of System 7.5 or higher. Perhaps System 8 would be great here if it is smaller or minimalized. Plus, if possible or desirable, the wonderful screen with the map-drawing and picture drawing/handling capabilities of the Newton Message Pad. It might be nice to be able to draw a quick map or ink-handwriting right on the screen, but this is definitely not necessary. Neither is handwriting recognition.
Then, attach a nice keyboard and accommodate a very high speed modem (28.8k or the new 34.4k) possibly with Cellular communications capability built in or PC Card.
PC Cards are a necessity, of course, possibly type 2 size cards, 20MB storage, for keeping files and documents and exchanging them with the desktop macs. (You should build PC card functionality into the new desktop computers, don’t you think? — it’s just another hole in the front of the machine). Of course the PC Cards could be used for the Modem and ethernet and whatever else they do, while making the MacPalmtop lighter and more functional.
When I say smaller, I mean slightly larger than the Zaurus and definitely smaller than the IBM ThinkPad 701. When I say lighter, I mean 3 pounds or less. Preferably 2 pounds or even one and a half pounds. Durable and pocketable.
And let’s get away from green screens, too. The color active matrix screen would be small enough (8″) that it shouldnâ€™t take too much current. A color active matrix screen would set a new standard for the PDA. And the new technology is here (or soon here) that allows for backlit color screens with the equivalent of the active matrix sharpness and clarity, and low current drain. And I’d love to draw pictures on this color screen and sign my signature to my letters, though, as I said before, this isn’t necessary.
This MacPalmtop, or PowerPalm, would have some graphics capabilities (like Clarisworks’ basic draw/paint program) but not so capable as to be able to run PhotoShop or huge art, 3D, or animation programs. The purpose for this computerette is to serve the needs of businessmen and authors of all shapes and talents. It would have a good word processor, I recommend Clarisworks 2.0 or a minimalized 4.0. It would handle good spreadsheets and databases of considerable size. Maybe I’m talking about a much smaller DUO Powerbook without a spinning hard drive.
It would interface with any computer via infra-red/ethernet or it might have an HDI 30 SCSI port or Firewire port to allow external Hard Drives for storage of many or huge documents, and scanners for faxes, and for transfer of software or files. I think it might have a video-out circuit to allow for an external monitor unless that circuit would make the MacPalmtop too big to include it. It would be a real plus to be able to view what you’re doing on a larger screen, tho.
It would have no spinning/moving parts; no floppy, no Hard Drive. It’s only a word processor, database, spreadsheet and communications device with lesser draw capabilities, not the next super PPC Macintosh. It would have huge, on-board, non-volatile RAM, perhaps 64 MB or 128MB or maybe much more. And it could have an insertable ROM chip which could keep this computer updated with the latest Operating System and/or startup software. Startup would take 3 SECONDS. Hallelujah! So if I have a hurried note to take, my MacPalmtop would be there for me. NOW! While the idea is fresh! I really need THAT!
It would weigh 2 pounds (twice the weight of the Zaurus) or less, and run 60 hours on 4 or 6 AA batteries. Specialized and very expensive batteries are not cool at all. Alkaline AA cells are now rechargeable, after all.
Important! It would have a prominent or very-close-to-the-edge SPACE BAR that the thumb actually HITS when a space is needed! The keyboard, closed, would be 80% of the normal size keyboard (keyboard width, when closed) and, best yet, Apple could admit that there is technology out there right now that can be copied: namely the Thinkpad 701â€™s enlarging/retracting keyboard, or a folding keyboard somehow, which would give this cute MacPalmtop a human-sized keyboard for practical word processing in the heart of the forest or on the mountain top. Only make the overall computer smaller and definitely weigh less (remember it would have no mechanical drives and less heavy, readily available AA batteries). It would plug in to the wall with a very light AC adapter. (Could you just build it in, please?)
I want to put it into my large pocket. I donâ€™t want to have to coddle it and pad it and worry about it like I do my heavy, delicate Powerbook 180.
It would have a serial port for a printer and/or an IR ethernet transmitter and it then would include, along with the power adapter, an IR receiver to hook it up to the printer. You guys figure that one out. Make it simple and reliable and able to be hooked up to (able to transfer files to) an SE30 or later.
Then, at last, there would be a real user-friendly alternative to the horrible mini word processors, also known as PDA’s, out there now. Have you ever tried to use the Sharp 9600 or that Zaurus? Utter junkers, they are! And even their top of the line in this category, The Zaurus (and ALL the other PDAs like it) is very hard to use; My thumb never did hit the space bar, NOT even ONCE, when I tried typing with the â€œnotesâ€ function, and I couldnâ€™t readily figure out how to do anything else on it. Getting around it was so very DOS, not intuitive at all. I mean how does one operate a computer wthout a mouse, anyway? But it is small, and it is a word processor so I actually bought one. I really wanted, I needed and still need, something like it. However, the Zaurus really sucked and I quickly returned it. I want the Mac version, please. One with a mouse/pointer or trackpad. Something that you would expect from Apple, and from the year 1997. Heck, can you do it in 1996? I would be willing to pay 1000 dollars, up to $2000, maybe more, for this scaled-down powerbook, this scaled up Newton. Why shouldnâ€™t this be the major new product for Apple or for Power Computing? I think it would really, really, really sell. I think this is the PDA that would actually sell the billion units that Apple promised for the Newton long ago. This MacPalmtop would be the perfect traveling internet access computer. It would not be a Newton, it would be a Mini-Mac!
One more thing: Apple’s naming and numbering conventions are so confusing to me that I find I canâ€™t set my sights on one product to dream about and put in my budget. When they only had a few computers I could set my dreams on the Mac IIci. I studied and knew what it was. But now that they have so many fine options to choose from they need to be named in a logical fashion, perhaps according to what is inside of them or according to a simple naming convention, or according to when it came on the market. MacPalmer 2, then MacPalmer 3 which is better and more expensive than the MP2. And the top of the line, this year, the MacPalmer 7. Next year you would come out with the 8, 9, 10, 11 and the 12, not the 15 followed by the 6 or worse, the 4000pu and the 4035xpl. And in the year 2001 you would come out with the MacPalmer 38 and 39. Donâ€™t confuse us, please. Confusion kills dreams. Please avoid 4 or 5 digit numbers to name something. PLEASE make it simpler to remember, simpler to dream about. Make the names special, even as the product is special. Power Computing, the clone-maker, had a good idea in using the processor number to name the computer outside. But you should romanticize the name. Powerbook is a good romantic name. Duo is a good name. It told me something about the product. 5300ce is terrible. Great product but terrible name. It doesnâ€™t follow from its predecessors, too many irrelevant-to-me numbers. The Mini-Powerbook called “Typhoon 3”, or the Hero 2, 3, and 4 would be better. Everybody loves a Hero. And then the Hero 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and straight up the number line. Don’t confuse us. Give us something memorable and easy to dream about. This is what I would like to see from Power Computing or Apple.
I am desperate to have something simpler and lighter and much more
Mac-like in the Palmtop computer area. The standard powerbook is overkill. The MacPalmTop is the answer! Mr. Amelio, are you listening?