Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Palm Pilot Is Dead! Long Live the iPod!

So I have always hated Apple vehemently, and this mostly stems from the fact that Macs seem to be the same thing as Windows machines, but just prettier and with less warez (more expensive from beginning to end). "Could all these Windows users be wrong?" I guess that was always my thinking. Anyway, I still hate Apple and its fascist way of doing business (from the number of background processes that iTunes runs to the EULA for OS X), but after more than six months of working exclusively on a Macbook, I have to admit that I was wrong about the Windows-Mac difference. Windows (at least XP Professional, and definitely Vista) is just wrong. I will not substantiate this (though I'd start by talking about multitasking, then get into the details of the UI), since I want to write about something else...

When I was leaving Argentina, I decided to sell my last great PDA (a Compaq, I mean HP IPaq rx3700 or 3750 or something) with the idea that I was going to the US and I'd get one cheaper there anyway. I found nothing. There are no more PDAs. Palm has stopped making PDAs and only makes phone. The Sharp Linux PDA was gone (surprised?). The ridiculous eBook Reader category (which will be dying a slow death over the next few years) is just absurd. I want to put something in my pocket (I don't even own a briefcase, Amazon!) with some subset of my stuff, connect to WiFi, read books, etc... but the category was gone. No more PDAs anywhere, unless you are setting up a service for order-taking in a restaurant.

Then at some point during my stay in Venice (don't ask, yes it's sinking) I decided that I had to buy an iPod Touch, if only to read PDFs (GoodReader is the most important app you'll ever buy for an iPod Touch, and also the best value for the money), and I'm blown away. The iPod Touch is a PDA (and 8GB is a lot of text). The question that Microsoft and Palm hit against was, How can we get developers to make apps for something that is not a phone? They couldn't, so they just killed the PDA category. Apple, brilliantly, has side-stepped the issue. If you want a phone -- with all the absurd problems of vendor lock-in that anywhere-Internet-access gives you -- you buy an iPhone. But if you're okay with doing things like synchronizing (check out the New York Times app for the iPod Touch) and downloading (check out the offline Wikipedia here, 2GB for everything!) and just not being connected whatsoever, you can buy a $200 iPod Touch (well, here in Europe you pay out the nose, but isn't it eurocool?).

And so, Apple has solved the problem of how to get people to develop applications for a PDA. They don't. They develop apps for the iPhone. If your iPhone happens to not be a phone, you can still use the apps. Whatever you do, just don't call your iPod Touch a "PDA." Unless you have to explain it to, say, your Mom...

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