A real PC, in your hand
by Andrew Robinson
I have a dream. Ever since 1998 I have wanted my Newton MessagePad back. Back before Palm, we had this not-so-little but oh-so-great device that made my laptop redundant. It did email, limited web browsing, spreadsheets and word processing, and had pretty good pen-based input. I’m a committed laptop lover, so when I say my Newton replaced it for most things, you can understand what I mean. Good handwritten input, small, portable, great battery life, modern networking… these things are what I miss since Apple killed my beautiful MessagePad, and I’ve been jonesing for a handheld like it ever since.
Palm you say? No way. The arcane squiggles and strokes that make up the Graffiti input on a PalmOS device is maddening for me. And the PalmOS was never very good at things we want in a handheld device — pictures, music, movies, really good email and web — things that a full-on computer is good at. Enter the Origami project from Microsoft and various hardware vendors.
The Origami device, now known as ‘Ultra-Mobile PC’ (www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/umpc/default.mspx) might get me back to what I was missing: a fully enabled PC in a handheld device. Now, I haven’t seen this up close, as Microsoft, Samsung and Intel all made these devices fully public last week, as of writing. However, their promises make it look like the real deal with good handwriting recognition and a fully realized operating system to run music, surf the web, do all my email and watch the Desperate Housewives episode I just bought from iTunes. Since it’s a ‘real’ computer, like my laptop or desktop, with a color screen, wireless networking and running the same software I use for work, I might be able to actually leave my laptop at home when I go on vacation or give a presentation to a meeting.
Of course, it’s ugly as all get out, but it’s not made by Apple so that’s expected. It runs That Other Operating System, so I’m planning on virus prevention and a little frustration in it’s use. But I’d have that with any Windows PC so it’s really the handheld part, the pen-input, and the long battery life that I’m looking to love. If Apple decided to make an ultramobile Mac, I’ll be ecstatic, but until then I might have to give the Ultra-Mobile PC my ‘Almost a Newton’ award… as long as it lives up to it’s promises.
Andrew Robinson has been working in the IT field in Tokyo, in businesses ranging from small to international enterprises, for over ten years.