Can Apple Create A Real Handheld Market?

JK on the Run offers this interesting article:

We need a real handheld computer, who will build one? Apple of course

So who will make the first “real” handheld computer?

Apple. There are very few companies who can design and produce the handheld PC like I’ve indicated in this article, in fact there are only two. Microsoft is one and I believe that if the Redmond giant ever took on this task they would produce a killer handheld PC. Let’s face it, they are operating system experts and they control the office document space with Office so they could integrate this into a handheld in a dynamite way. I’m talking embedded Office to go with the embedded OS on our super handheld. That opens so many exciting possibilities that it makes my pulse race when I think of all of that potential. Unfortunately Microsoft doesn’t make hardware more complicated than a mouse or keyboard and they’re not going to make any type of “WinHand” device. They have too many anti-trust worries whenever they take on something like this and I don’t think they’d do it.

That’s why it has to be Apple. Cupertino now has the hardware design, communications experience, OS kernel expertise to produce an awesome handheld computer.

As I stated in the Comments there, I don’t think Apple is the only company. Palm tried something new with the Foleo, but their imagination just didn’t stretch far enough. There’s the Asus Eee, which is an unknown quantity when it comes to quality of software and just how bulletproof their variant of Linux is. But really, the Asus Eee is just the Same Stuff made smaller and vastly less expensive. It’s not a re-imagining of anything.

What made the Foleo different is that it really did focus on mobility. It was the first device that was built on the question, “What do people do away from their desks?” In other words, the old architectural rule of Form follows function. The first rule was to offer a full-size keyboard. Once that hardware issue was settled, it moved on to the software end of things. It was the limited thinking of software function that then probably dictated the choice of CPU and amount of storage. One limited vision created another limited vision.

Apple has shown the world it has the ability to do mobile devices right. The iPod and the iPhone are true re-imaginings of devices that existed before Apple entered their territory. While every other company accepted the ground rules that had already been established, Apple rejected them and started with a clean sheet of paper.

I don’t think Apple would be so bold to enter the market with a Tablet computer. I don’t think anyone has yet shown there’s a big enough market there. There are lots of improvements that Apple could bring to such a device, but the limiting factor will always be people’s desire for a keyboard (hello, Foleo!). (Even with absolutely error-free handwriting recognition, there are times I’d rather have a keyboard. I’ve written entire articles with past Palm PDAs using nothing but Graffiti. I wouldn’t want to handwrite full articles using my “pen-on-paper” script. My words-per-minute output would be atrocious. When I did that kind of thing back in the pre-computer days, I’d wind up quickly abandoning paper and running for the typewriter keyboard. Some people like handwriting things. I don’t. I save that for editing.)

If Apple wanted to test the marketplace to determine if people would buy a handheld computer, there’s some steps they could take right now:

1) Update the iPhone to work with a Bluetooth keyboard

2) Offer mobile blogging software for the iPhone

3) Offer text editing software for the iPhone

4) Offer photo editing (basic size rescaling & cropping) software for the iPhone

And then see what happens.

It’s a niche within a niche — people who do blogs — but it’d be a cheap test bed too and also display to non-bloggers a few of the possibilities of ultra-portable computing.

The cluetrain would run on this track:

Station 1: I didn’t know you could do that with an iPhone

Station 2: I have to get that for myself

Station 3: I love this!

Station 4: Damn, I wish this iPhone was bigger!

Even those who were scarred in the past by trying to use Palm PDAs and Pocket PCs as mobile productivity tools would take notice.

But I don’t think Apple would do that. Apple — OK, Steve Jobs — doesn’t like to do things halfway. (Even if a half way measure would be absolutely great for some people.)

That’s why I still think Apple will introduce a Flash memory-based Apple subnotebook at MacWorld Expo in January. No, it wouldn’t be a handheld, but it’d be easily totable. And once people get in the habit of carrying a very light, very thin computer with them just about all the time, it opens up other possibilities.

Like a real handheld.

Did you just read this post? Now click here.

Previously in this blog:
New MacBooks = Optical Drive Bye-Bye
The Asus Eee Effect?
Wow. I’m Really Out Of The iPhone Loop!
Is The Foleo Completely Dead Now?
Size-Off: Foleo Versus Powerbooks
Ed Colligan’s Worst Nightmare
The Palm Foleo Disaster: Part Two
Apple Wins The Internet Video Wars
Quote Of The Day: iPhone
Apple And H.264 Internal Chips: I’m With Cringely
Do New Apple Keyboards Hint At An iPhone Keyboard?
iPhone Death Star Upgrade Coming
Splaying The Code Guts Of The iPhone: TV-Out & Filesystem
Microsoft, Palm, And Nokia: You Better Be Freaking Out!!
I Don’t Think You Understand Just How Incredible The iPhone Really Is!
Some People Catch On Later Than… Everyone Else.
iQuote Of The Post-iDay
I’ve Fondled The iPhone!!
Does Apple Hold The Key To Breaking Open Computing Everywhere?
The iPhone Is A First-Generation Pocket Mac
A Pocket Keyboard Fit For The iPhone?
OS X Widgetry And iPhone Possibilities
Applenomics, Or Why Steve Jobs Will Now Hate Me For Ever And Ever
Bravo Nicholas Carr!

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