The iPhone of 2003

The iPhone of 2003

Pocket PCs like the MobilePro 200E made a big stir in 2003, but now look hopelessly outdated

Mobile devices are ubiquitous nowadays, and none has caught the public imagination recently quite as much as Apple’s iPhone. But what was the iPhone equivalent five years ago? A delve into the archive shows that it was the Pocket PC. I found a review of a new NEC Pocket PC from March 2003 that is frightening in the way it shows how the scale of things has changed.

The iPhone itself, now being dressed in pin-stripe and bowler hat for its new life as a “business” device, is really not that much different from a Pocket PC with a phone in it ­ with two remarkable exceptions.

The first, of course, is video. At a recent convention, semiconductor firm Broadcom showed me handheld video players capable of running full HD resolution video games for five hours, and all off a standard phone-size battery.

So the iPhone is still slightly behind the state of the art there, perhaps. But the contrast between the iPhone and the Broadcom chip today is completely eclipsed by the change in memory between NEC’s 2003 release and Apple’s latest 16GB iPhone.
I quote: “NEC’s new MobilePro 200E… with 64MB of memory. You’re unlikely to find more than that as standard on any Pocket PC and it gives you plenty of room for storing data and applications.”

Today, it would be quite a trick to find a device with only 64MB of memory. Chips that small simply aren’t worth fabricating ­ except, perhaps, as tiny corners of other, larger bits of silicon. And even then, what would be the point of using 64MB instead of 1GB ?

But of course, the real change in the market is the move of users away from PDAs to smartphones, and as a result the astonishing decline in the Palm platform. The recent launch of the new Palm device, the Centro phone, generated almost no excitement. Amuse yourself with Google, and compare the number of news hits for the Centro and the iPhone.

And then, just to round it off, see how many news articles about the Pocket PC can be found.

Happy hunting.