What it would do
Play MP3s and perhaps record/compress MP3s
What it would do
Many people seem to judge a PDA by whether it can play MP3s. Personally I think you are better off getting a dedicated MP3 player that is smaller than the Newton, has sufficient storage/bandwidth capacity, and most importantly can take the physical beating these sorts of devices tend to get (remember the Newton's wonderfully large, but fragile, screen?). In short, get something designed for it. Most people tend to listen to MP3s while doing something else (i.e. they aren't mindful of the safety of the player). Nevertheless this won't stop some (?most) people in their quest for an MP3 player for their Newtons. Indeed there may even be areas where it is useful to play MP3s on a Newton, despite this skepticism. Of course, this should not detract in any way from the technical achievements and contributions of those who have brought MP3 playback to the Newton.
The existing MAD player - The current MP3 player for Newton (MAD) plays MP3s from the Newton or can stream them off remote servers (e.g. over wireless). There are now supporting applications to generate Newton compatible MP3s and to upload MP3s via Apple's iTunes (like an iPod). Well done folks.
A place for MP3s: Compression and playback - As discussed, the utility of using the Newton as an MP3 player is a little questionable (at least to me). However, MP3s would be very useful on the Newton for storing recordings (e.g. of seminars and lectures). Voice can be compressed considerably more than music and remain intelligible. This would greatly suit the Newton with it's limited space and slow bandwidth (when transferring recordings to another machine). Indeed the use of Newton recording would come into its own were MP3 capabilities available.
How to do it
Ideally the MP3 compression and playback would be integrated below the system, and would simply be another sound format that the Newton could record/playback. It would be particularly advantageous if it were then automatically available to any (existing) package that accessed the Newton's sounds.
Compressing problems - It is doubtful that the Newton has the raw processing power needed to compress sound into an MP3 (especially in real time!). Indeed, this would probably only be possible if there were rough MP3 compression methods that worked more quickly and with less processing power, and where the concomitant reduction in quality and size would still be suitable for voice (although presumably not music).
Dreamy bit - An alternative would be to find a PCMICA based MP3 compressor and player that could be integrated with a parent computer's audio data streams, data, and interface. Audio in/out plugs on the card would be a bonus. Newton drivers for such a card would then open the advantages of MP3 compression and playback to the Newton. Of course such a card is unlikely to eventuate.
An MP3 Player
- An initial project to write an MP3 player was unsuccessful.
- The MAD Player - A port the MAD player (on a number of other PDAs) to Newton is at late beta stage.
An MP3 compressor
- Not under development