Quite some time ago, a friend at Apple had a small object quickly waved in front of him, and was told “this is going to be the coolest thing ever”. I believe the person responsible for this tiny little leak was fired. Later, when the rumors started leaking out about an Apple PDA, I realized why Dashboard had been released unfinished as a major feature in Tiger, with UI guidelines that flew in the face of every aspect of Mac app design: it was really intended for making fullscreen tools for a small-form-factor device, and they wanted people tinkering with it early. What that device would be, I wasn’t sure. Like many, I keep hoping for a new Newton, but that’s just not likely.

Will I buy an iPhone? Definitely not at launch; not only do you run the usual risks of 1.0 hardware from Apple, you also add a bunch of cutting-edge technology that may not survive outside the lab (anyone remember another Jobs favorite, the single-sided optical drive that shipped with the NeXT cube?), and all of the friction and finger-pointing of a partner product.

Doubts? The first thing that jumped out at me watching the mocked-up demo videos is that I’ve never seen a handheld computer with such fluid animation and quick response to user input. Yes, we all know that all of the Internet and carrier stuff will have delays, but I’ll be quite surprised if the photo, music, and video browsers are as quick as shown, or as smooth about transitioning between portrait and landscape modes. It has to be that smooth to work well with no tactile feedback, which means that whatever custom version of OS X it’s running must have real-time features that are missing on Macs.

What was most conspicuously missing? Any mention of .Mac mail, .Mac sync, iDisk sync, etc. Why? Because .Mac is currently a mess, and its sync is unreliable. It’s been that way all through the Tiger release, despite Apple’s push to get developers to add the sync API into their applications. I’ve heard that things are a lot better in Leopard, but who knows what will be in the final release.