Feeds

Celebrating the iPhone's Newtonian past

Devices share more than a gravitational connection

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

As Apple begins handing out its wunderkind one can't help but be reminded of its last foray into mobile computing: the Apple Newton.

It's easy to dismiss the Newton as the iPhone's retarded uncle, to blame its failure on dodgy handwriting recognition and an undeveloped PDA market. But to do so is to belittle a device which was as revolutionary and innovative as the iPhone claims to be, and whose failings may yet plague its descendent.

The iPhone is being touted on the basis of its new interface, based around multi-touch technology. Multi-touch is nothing new. This article is being typed on a FingerWorks keyboard that uses the same technology Apple has put into the iPhone to provide much the same functionality. The Newton featured, if anything, an even more innovative gesture-recognition interface which caused scribbled-out words to vanish in a puff of smoke, and deleted documents to be rolled up and thrown into the bin, all with suitable sound effects.

Both devices were a triumph of usability. Using the Newton was as easy as using a pad of paper. The iPhone may offer more functionality, but accessing functions was just as easy on the Newton.

The innovations in the Newton went well beyond the user interface. Applications could talk to each to other and even access each other's data records (known colloquially as "soup"), and the broad range of third-party applications available were seamlessly integrated to the point where it was hard to identify where one application finished and other began.

The iPhone won't support third-party applications - it hasn't so much as a Java Virtual machine to its name - but Apple is promising downloadable enhancements, and additional capabilities, which we can expect to be well integrated into the experience.

The difficulty of inputting text certainly didn't help the Newton, though initial reports seem to indicate the iPhone shares some of the pain there. What killed the Newton was its price, and its size.

When creating the Palm Pilot Jeff Hawkins famously had a wooden replica of the device made. He understood that size was everything when it comes to what people will carry around with them. These days selling a phone which won't fit into the front pocket of a pair of jeans is next to impossible, as Nokia discovered with the 7700 (and 7710).

The Newton was way too big to fit into all but the most expansive pocket, reducing it to briefcase-or-folio-accessory. At knocking a thousand dollars it was also way too expensive. Executives might carry a bag with them, but the iPod generation wants pocketible gadgets that won't break the line of their baggies.

Far be it for us to suggest that the iPhone will go the way of the Newton, but we'll keep some space on the shelf, beside our Newton MessagePad, just in case the iPhone turns out to be a pretty face on a too-big box.®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Next Windows obsolescence panic is 450 days from … NOW!
The clock is ticking louder for Windows Server 2003 R2 users
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.