Thursday, April 27, 2006

My New Toy

Before Palm, there was Psion--a British PDA in the form of a miniature laptop. It went through a series of models, most of which I at some point owned and used. Being hinged along the long edge plus some very good design--perhaps combined with a little black magic--gave a keyboard on which it was possible to touch type, at least if you left out your little finger.

Psion lost out in its competition with Palm, abandoned the consumer market, and I switched to a Sony Clié. It was an elegant palm style (and Palm OS) pda, but in important ways inferior to its predecessor. Typing on the Psion was easier than writing by hand, typing on the Clié harder.

Somewhat over a year ago, Nokia announced two new smart phones, the 9300 and 9500. Like my old Psion, they are in the shape of miniature laptops. Like it, they run on the Symbion operating system. Unlike it they are cell phones as well as PDA’s, capable not only of making phone calls but of browsing the web on a 600x200 pixel screen.

Both were triband phones in the European frequencies. Eventually a U.S. version of the (smaller) 9300 became available and I got one.

It is better than my Clie and more useful than any other cell phone I have seen. It is significantly smaller than the smallest Psion. But ....

Being smaller means a smaller keyboard. Whatever the magic spell Psion used to make its little keyboards work, Nokia has not licensed it. It is a very nice machine, but less useful as a portable word processor than the machine Psion brought out seven years ago.

So if anyone from Nokia is reading this, what I want next is ...

Enough increased size to make a keyboard I can (just barely) use for real typing. A 600x400 screen, about equivalent to the smallest size of ordinary computer screen. I am willing to live with something a little bigger than most cell phones. It would still be a lot smaller than a laptop.

Surely I can't be the only one.


At 11:25 PM, April 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The closest thing I've seen is the NEC MobilePro "palmtop" computer with a 640 x 240 resolution and a full (but small) keyboard.

At 11:26 PM, April 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 12:20 AM, April 28, 2006, Blogger David Friedman said...

The NEC doesn't sound like what I want. It weighs 1.8 lbs--more than half the weight of the lightest laptops and more than three times the weight of hte Psion Revo.

And it isn't a cell phone, so can't browse the web.

At 5:11 AM, April 28, 2006, Blogger said...

Are you familiar with the T9 word prediction software that runs on various cell phones? There are other types of the same technology, but the gist is word prediction based on word possibilities given the numbers you have pressed on the cell phone. You could type "Great technology" by pressing 47328 8324665649 although it would have figured out technology after probably four numbers.

If with nine keys you can type quickly with your thumbs, why not create a mobile device with a slightly larger "keyboard" of nine keys plus a handful of extra buttons for spaces so as to accomodate the use of four fingers (no pinky)? The other buttons would cover things like next (in case there are multiple possibilities), spacing and toggling to numbers or other types of input. It would be a modified 10-key keyboard.

Of course, the advantage would be that it would only take one hand to type on (the other freed up to hold the device, for example). Anyone who is familiar with ten-key input understands that with three fingers plus your thumb, you can input some serious data. I imagine there would be some learning curve, but maintaining the form factor would be huge (or small in this case). To me, this idea is a no brainer and I'm just waiting to see it implemented.

At 5:24 AM, April 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Doesn't your son work for google? Therefore, doesn't that mean that he can snap his fingers and call forth new technology into existence?

Time to remind him of your extensive, excruciating toils in the diaper-changing business and call in a favor. (By now, he'll know enough to appreciate your troubles...)

At 8:56 AM, April 28, 2006, Blogger SheetWise said...

We're going to have to wait for OLEDs and PLEDs to evolve into touch screens. That might take an eternity in computer time -- say, 18 months or so ...

The manufacturers obsession with miniaturization gets carried away when they package their products. I always get a chuckle when friends show me their new notebooks that are thinner and lighter than anything ever seen before -- and then put them in their 40 lb. carrying case with extra batteries, external drives, cables, adapters, printers ...

I say just put it all in one package -- and include a REAL keyboard.

At 12:32 PM, April 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time to remind him of your extensive, excruciating toils in the diaper-changing business and call in a favor. (By now, he'll know enough to appreciate your troubles...)

The problem with that assertion is that he has something more immediate to compel him - I think one of his responsibilities is getting some stuff to work on a Treo 650 - a device he already owns himself.

At 1:10 PM, April 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool toy.

Also, if anyone is listening, this is what I want:

A single email-like inbox on my phone, that in a glance shows me, all my missed calls, voicemails, emails, and other messages.

I've never seen a cell phone that you can look at and see a list of voicemails, who called and when.


At 3:49 PM, April 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I long ago settled on a phone being a communication device. Therefore, no word-processing, gaming, or any of that other stuff. Did the Blackberry, then HP's pocket PC phone (awful), then the Seimen's pocket PC phone (was better), then finally settled on the Treo 650 and I love it.

...But, only because we have Exchange Server at the office and use Good Technologies ( for total, complete, and flawless wireless real-time synchronization of all email, contacts, calendar, tasks, and notes.

It's cool, for instance to go to Best Buy and Circuit City and Fry's investigating the latest in flat screen HDTV models, taking notes on the treo. Get home, open Outlook, and there are your notes, ready to go Googling and such.

I also just got one of those Sony TX series notebooks. 3 lbs with the battery. 6 hrs. in addition to WLAN, it has cingular's WWAN with Edge technology built in, so I can get full-on internet almost anywhere at a speed that's only slightly less fast in practical terms as an average DSL.

To the other guy who mentioned this, I also got a new, light case and don't carry a spare battery.

At 2:04 PM, April 29, 2006, Blogger Patri Friedman said...

Doesn't your son work for google? Therefore, doesn't that mean that he can snap his fingers and call forth new technology into existence?

Ha! As if.

There are large teams of people working long hours to call forth our new technology. And the infrastructure they leverage is infrastructure for running large parallel computations and runing large networks of servers.

I have no powers to summon hardware into existence.

At 4:19 PM, April 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Palm portable keyboards are really pretty good. They can interface with Palms through IR or (I think) bluetooth, and they're light (coat pocket rather than jeans pocket, but so are the combo PDA phones and you have two jacket pockets - this also gives you a full size keyboard). I imagine there are equivalents for your Symbian device.

I think that you're not "the only one", but that the market segment you represent is small - I think that the reason that the early Palms dominated (over Newton, Psion, etc.) is that Palm realized that most of the market wanted a tool to suplement their laptop, not replace it.
Disclaimers: no association with Palm or any other company in the industry - just a humble prognosticator.

At 3:15 PM, May 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read your specifications, and I think HTC Universal might be just what you need. 640x480 screen and a plethora of other nice features. It's not that big either. Note: I don't own one (though I'd love to) so I'm not speaking from expirience. Find more about it here.

At 9:46 PM, May 01, 2006, Blogger David Friedman said...

Šimun Selak suggests HTC Universal.

It does look nice, although I can't tell how usable the keyboard is from a picture. But it's apparently not available in either the U.S. 3G frequency or EDGE or 850, which means it doesn't make much sense in the U.S. yet.

At 6:45 AM, September 04, 2008, Blogger red said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:47 PM, September 08, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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