Journal, Technology

8th Anniversary SNUG

Another year, another anniversary for the Stanford Newton User Group. Our numbers reached 10 this year, as Peter, Flash, Glen, Jacob, Rosie, Wayne, Rob, Lewis, Kevin, and I came to Printer’s Inc. to celebrate the device that refuses to die.

What is it about Newton technology which makes it so beloved by its users? Perhaps the Newton represents an example of a technology that remains fresh and cutting-edge, nearly 4 years since its cancellation by Apple. There still isn’t a handwriting recognition system out on the market (InkWell, where art thou?) which is as elegant or as good as the Newton’s Rosetta/Mondello HWR. Transcriber on PocketPC is getting there, but it’s still not as intuitive as the Newton’s HWR system. Graffiti? Uh, I don’t think so.

People are using their Newtons as web servers, WABA interpreters, and museum pieces (“Organic. Inorganic” exhibit at SFMOMA). There’s even work being done on getting the Newton to support ATA Flash Cards. All this is being done by a legion of Newton owners and developers years after the technology was left for dead.

Certainly, something will come out that will supplant the Newton, but when and from whom? Microsoft and PocketPC still don’t get it (though they might get close, if they keep trying). Palm hasn’t been selling anything fundamentally different since the Pilot 1000. iWalk from Apple? Elaborate hoax, those SpyMac pranksters. Handheld computers haven’t really gone beyond a calendar and address book. I’m beginning to feel that the market is being squeezed out by mobile phone manufacturers. I’ve been saying this for quite some time, but the next few years are critical for handheld companies. Act now, or become commoditized and marginalized.

End of mini-rant. Rosie and Wayne were showing off their latest hardware prototype. It’s under wraps right now, so you’ll just have to wait until they release their PR. Suffice it to say, I’ll be getting one!

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