Thoughts about iWalk

Dhiren Patel
Thu, 03 Jan 2002 15:34:40 -0800

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .,1282,49463,00.html


Jeff Bone wrote:

> The most amazing thing about the iWalk, IMO and based solely on the
> stuff from spymac, is that Apple seems to have learned nothing at all
> or at least forgotten what they'd learned from the Newton debacle
> (and its coda, the GenMagic debacle.)
> Form factor.  Form factor, form factor, form factor.  Every single
> focus group, user interaction, feedback forum, etc. that anybody
> working in PDAs participated in back in the day came up with "form
> factor" as the #1 dissatisfaction with the units.  (Other things were
> pricepoint, speed --- mostly instant-on, battery life, and ability to
> integrate and quickly sync with their desktops.)
> And thereby hangs a tale.  Most people wanted pocket-sized units.
> Some smaller number --- but still a considerable audience --- wanted
> bigger units, a kind of active notepad.  Sculley, in his infinite
> wisdom (and influenced by technological and cost constraints) split
> the middle.  Problem is, you *can't* split the middle.  Designing UI
> and ergonomics for pocket-size devices is a *fundamentally different
> task* than designing for screens that are larger in an absolute
> sense.  The Newton form factor --- which the iWalk appears to mimic
> in a general sense, i.e. bigger-than-pocket size --- fails to be a
> PDA, because it's too big to ensure that you'll always carry it ---
> an absolute necessity for a PDA to be useful.  It fails as a notepad
> because it's too small to use for that purpose.  It's a form factor
> without an application, one that nobody wants or needs.
> This scenario was repeated by General Magic, who (despite intense
> user feedback *and* pressure from their partners) never ran Magic Cap
> on a releasable pocket-size device.  Indeed, GenMagic made it *even
> harder* to scale MC down to pocket size due to the intensely
> graphical nature of the UI.
> Jeff Hawkins' genius was simply that he listened to the users and
> delivered what they asked for:  pocket-size, under $300, instant-on,
> synchronization, fast-and-dirty PIM functionality.  All the rest of
> the stuff the others emphasized:  free handwriting recognition,
> pretty UI, more elegant technology under the hood, bigger screen,
> etc. etc. was the 20 in the 80/20, and the users didn't want it.
> It looks like Apple is repeating most of the old mistakes:  too big,
> not instant-on, emphasis on pretty UI and glitzy tech like free
> handwriting rec (probably recycled from the Newton), etc.  The users
> didn't want it the last time around;  not sure they'll want it this
> time, either.
> I wish somebody would get off their duff and make a reasonable
> notepad.  I'm not going to replace my Palm with such a device, but I
> might well replace my notebook.
> jb
> PS - the form factor argument is a fascinating example of how
> physical / real-world constraints can influence and define
> applications.  Another favorite of mine is the argument about whether
> keyboards will *ever* be replaced as an input mechanism:  my answer
> is no, because the way we interact with /via keyboards is a
> fundamentally different and novel thing, a highly parallel and
> suspendable thing, and nothing --- not speech rec, not handwriting,
> not even thought rec --- allows or *can allow* for information
> creation in quite the same nonlinear fashion.  (Chording comes close
> but IMO that's just an alternative kind of keyboard.)
> jb