Macworld UK users may have expressed their desire for a Mac OS X handheld, but BusinessWeek Online columnist Charles Haddad thinks Apple should stay out of the handheld market altogether.
In his latest ”
Byte of the Apple ” column Haddad says that Apple has been there and done that with its Newton. Though it was the first commercial handheld computer when it was released in 1993 and years ahead of the market, Haddad says the Newton was fatally flawed.
“It had the feel, both in size and weight, of an electronic brick,” he says. “You could barely hold it in your hand, and it couldn’t connect with the rest of the computing world.”
The columnist says it was a “mercy killing” when Apple CEO offed the Newton in 1996. And he says that it would a “big mistake” for Apple to try the handheld market again with its own device.
“To think Apple could swagger into this highly competitive arena and take meaningful market share is based on a false assumption,” Haddad says. “Just because Apple makes dynamite PCs doesn’t mean it could do the same with other computing devices. That’s like saying Palm or Handspring could suddenly make a winning PC. Indeed, Apple’s history suggests otherwise. Newton isn’t Apple’s only failure outside PCs. How soon we’ve forgotten the sad chapter of Pippin, a thankfully short-lived attempt by Apple to build an interactive-TV device.” (He also points out the ill-fated eMate, the portable computer designed for students.)
He also feels that Apple shouldn’t attempt to buy a current company that makes handhelds. Buying companies outside your area of expertise is a “tricky and time-consuming business,” he adds.
“Apple should stick to its knitting, digitally speaking,” Haddad says. “Jobs needs to concentrate now on shoring up his core PC market in a slumping economy. It’s also critical that Apple wins back leadership in the education market. And it’s better not to refight battles already lost.”
However, he does think that Apple has an important role to play in handheld computing. He thinks that the company may announce an “iTunes” equivalent of handheld connectivity software that would simplify Macintosh connectivity with handhelds while expanding their power.