CUPERTINO, California--Handheld computing gets a shot in the arm this week as Apple Computer (AAPL) unveils a new personal digital assistant with more than ten times the computing power of its predecessors.
Apple today announced the new MessagePad 2000, which features a 32-bit StrongARM RISC proccessor running at 162 MHz and 5MB of RAM, bringing handheld devices closer to notebook PCs in computing power. The StrongARM processor also uses less power than the previous generation of chips, which translates into 24 hours of continuous use, according to Apple. Many notebook PCs run between three and six hours maximum on a single battery pack.
The MessagePad 2000 is for the mobile business professional, "someone whose life revolves around email, access to a corporate network, the Internet, and lightweight document processing," said James Groff, general manager of Apple's information appliances group.
CNET reported previously that Apple was planning to roll out the revised Newton as part of a broader strategy of new products and price cuts on the PC market. Apple plans to ship the device in the first quarter of 1997 at a tentative price of less than $1,000, but configurations and final pricing have yet to be determined.
Apple claims that it has learned from past mistakes, referring to the introduction of the original Newton, when people were essentially handed a technology and told to figure out how to apply it. Today Apple is more focused on addressing the needs of specific markets and delivering products based on those needs.
The device already faces strong competition. In September, Microsoft launched its second attempt to enter the handheld computer market with an operating system called Windows CE. Companies like Compaq Computer and Casio have also announced they intend to build PDAs based on Windows CE.
Groff agrees that users want an alternative to a laptop. The MessagePad has grown a bit bulkier and has a slightly larger screen in response to customer requests, he said.
The MessagePad 2000 instantly boots up built-in email, word processor, spreadsheet, and Web browser applications running on the Newton 2.1 operating system. The OS is a pen-based system that includes handwriting recognition, now in its third generation.
All applications developed for other MessagePads will operate on the MessagePad 2000, giving a base of some 200 other applications for users to chose from, according to the company.
Other features include a 480-by-320-pixel LCD display with 16-level grayscale and backlight, two Type 2 PC Card slots, IrDA infrared transceiver for wireless data transfer to PC-compatibles or Macs, and a built-in microphone and speaker.
The Newton InterConnect port supports serial RS-4222 or LocalTalk connections, allowing for data transfer using a variety of communications protocols. A keyboard will also be included in some configurations.