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Personal digital assistants today basically offer the same functions: calendar, contact file, maybe wireless Web capability. Sure, some are faster or prettier or even a bit more functional, but the basics are the same. But what about the PDA of tomorrow? American Way asked Flextronic’s vice president of product design, MALCOLM SMITH (at right), to give us a preview.

AMERICAN WAY: What’s in store for PDAs in five years?
Malcolm Smith:
The whole idea of a personal digital assistant — think about that name — will change. It’s likely there will still be that device that people carry with them, although much more universal, broader in scope — phone, entertainment device, camera, calendar, instant text messenger, Web surfer, etc. And maybe other single-function PDAs embedded in things like watches and shoes.

AMERICAN WAY: What effect will wireless communications have?
If makers standardize, the whole wireless experience will become just like a utility. You can now plug into a wall anywhere and get power. It’ll be the same for wireless, with that same level of constant connectivity. You’ll walk by a Coke machine and your device will say, “Are you thirsty? Have a Coke on us.”

AMERICAN WAY: What’s coming that we haven’t heard about?
I think most consumers don’t know a lot about location technology. With GPS location devices and radio-frequency transmitters, you can locate things very easily. What would you want to locate? Big things at first, like trucks carrying cargo. But what if your PDA could find your car keys or your sneakers or even your kids? Once clever people think of ways to use all the coming technology, it really redefines the personal digital assistant.