The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Back to the Future

What does it say that I, a committed handheld gadget early adopter, now have only a cheap cell phone? And that I am considering adding a separate, cheap, Palm PDA?

I.e. what does it say about the market for handhelds, PDAs, SmartPhones, etc., that I am considering - heck, actually have - and going back to my cell/PDA configuration of more than a decade ago.

My current cell phone is a Motorola V197. Essentially the cheapest cell phone that i could get, unlocked. It has minimal address book functionality, and that's about it.

I don't currently have a PDA, apart from the limited functionality of my cell phone. I was shopping today, and am probably homing in on the Palm Z22 (99$, "technophobe") or TX (270$, WiFi).

I am, or at least was, an early adopter. I got a cell phone before they were popular or digital - as a modicum of safety for climbing. I purchased the first Palm PDA.

My wife and I agree that our best cellphone ever was our Kyocera SmartPhone. A good enough phone, and a good enough pen-based PDA. I negotiated two job changes using text messaging and the pen on that phone.

But I have been disappointed since then. My most recent disappointment was my AT&T Tilt (HTC 8925). Now, the device formfactor itself was not a disappointment - but its lack of durability was. A minor fall to a carpetted floor broke the screen. Googling reveals that such problems are common, and that the warranty seldom covers such damage. I am reluctant to replace this rather expensive but apparently unreliable device. Moreover, in at leas one way oit is overkill: I never used the slide out keyboard, at least not after the first day. Pens rule!

Which is probaby the problem: I love the pen interface. I hate the mini-keyboards; and I especially hate the pseudo-keyboards of numeric pad phones. But there are almost no cellphones, bar the HTC family, that have a decent pen interface. An always out keyboard wastes precious screen space.

The iPhone is cool, but Steve Jobs apparently has a thing against pens, since his erstwhile rival promoted the Newton.

I naturally gravitate towards Linux devices such as Nokia's web tablets, but, again, they have no pen interface. Nor do any of the numerous Linux ports to PDAs and SmartPhones appear to support pens.

So, this leaves me with non-phone PDAs, mainly PalmOS and Windows Mobile 5 and 6.

Hence my reversion "back to the future": back to carrying a separate phone and PDA. The only saving grace is that this time around, the PDA may have WiFi or GPS. It's a pity that the PDA won;t be able to dial the phone via bluetooth.

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