The Rumor Mill

Smaller Than Your Palm

- 2000.09.12

Reasoning that if you can't join 'em you should beat 'em, Apple is jumping back into the PDA market with a vengeance.

For the first time since killing off the Newton line on 27 Feb. 1998, Apple will offer something smaller than a PowerBook. In this case, the unnamed product will be far smaller than any Palm or PocketPC ever - small enough for you to wear.

Working with IBM, which is moving toward 200 dot-per-inch flat panel displays, Apple can duplicate the 160x160 screen of the Palm on a 1.2" square, 133 dpi 24-bit color screen. That's small enough to wear as a watch.

In fact, sources speculate this product will be called the iWatch (or possibly Mac Tracy) and will be designed to be worn on the wrist. Rumors are it has a screen saver mode which makes is appear as a watch, either analog or digital and in a variety of styles.

The iWatch is purported to be based on the Transmeta chip and OS X in ROM, a technology which Apple is just putting the finishing touches on.

To keep battery consumption at a minimum, Apple is resurrecting bubble memory technology, something almost unheard of since the mid-1980s. Although slow compared with other popular media, the high data density of Apple's new microbubble technology will allow them to store 1 GB of information on a bubble disk built into the watch.

The entire device will be sealed just like a waterproof watch, and the battery is expected to last 4-5 years.

Communication will be exclusively via AirPort, a technology supported by all current Apple computers. In fact, the AirPort antenna will be built into the iWatch's strap - clever!

The only drawback our sources have indicated is that the minuscule screen only allows input of a single character at a time. However, Apple will supplement this with voice input using IBM's ViaVoice software. Just like Dick Tracy, we may soon be talking to our watches.

But it gets better. Using a built-in minicam, we'll actually be able to carry on videophone conversations with anyone on the Internet (well, at least Mac owners with the right hardware) or with their own iWatch - as long as both iWatch owners are within proximity of an AirPort base station.

Our insider says we'll really be blown away with pricing, which is projected at under US$100. That's right - Apple will somehow sell the whole iWatch for less than the AirPort card itself.

I guess they're going to make it up on volume.

The iWatch should be available fifth quarter 2000.

- Anne Onymus


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