Rumours that Apple is planning to buy Palm-handheld manufacturer and Palm-OS licensee Handspring are still doing the rounds – although Apple has denied any such moves, and refuses to comment on future hardware or software plans.

Undeterred, Macworld polled its learned readership to discover its wishes regarding Apple’s handheld strategy. Palm is the leading handheld platform, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs has admitted that his company tried to buy the company a couple of years ago.

Most want new system entirely Most readers didn’t want Apple to manufacture and sell a Palm OS handheld – with 28 per cent instead in favour of the company developing a totally new PDA operating system based on Mac OS X. 16 per cent of readers voted for Apple to bring back the Newton handheld device and operating system. And an identical number didn’t want Apple to have anything to do with the handheld market, believing that the company “should stick to desktop and portable Macs”.

A tiny 9 per cent of voters believed that Apple should license the Palm OS. More (12 per cent) decided that Apple should instead buy Palm outright.

Yet more voters believed Palm licensee Handspring would be a better fit, with 16 per cent voting for Apple to buy this company. Apple would then also have the original developers of the PalmPilot (Handspring co-founder, chairman, and chief product officer Jeff Hawkins invented the Palm;. Co-founder and CEO Donna Dubinsky built the company that sold it; and co-founder and senior vice president of sales and marketing Ed Colligan marketed it).

Quick solution Most readers agreed that Apple should make-up its mind quickly. “A quick solution would be excellent,” said one voter.

“Just get on with it!” said another.

“It’s the future! It seems to me that Palm is successful, so Apple should cash in on that. Handspring would provide great synergies,” a voter commented.

“If Apple doesn't buy handspring, someone else will,” another voter replied.

Take a stand “Apple should show Palm and all the rest how it's done,” suggested one voter who wanted Apple to develop its very own OS X-based solution.

“The handheld war stands between Palm and Microsoft now. Apple should take a stand,” suggested one belligerent voter.

“I think apple should buy Microsoft, and make the Pocket PC compatible with the Mac,” joked another voter.

“If Apple put OS X onto another platform, it would improve the marketability of all Macs and OS X/Palm OS as the PDA standard computing solution,” said another.

“Steve Jobs kept the rights to the Newton,” remembered one voter. “Some combination of the Palm OS with parts of the old Newton OS might lead to a significant step forward.”

Hold back Others were less confident of this bold strategy. “Mac OS X on a handheld? Get real! An embedded version of Darwin maybe, but there's no call for Aqua on a handheld.”

“Considering Apple can't make OS X run even bearably fast on a 466MHz G4 with a graphics card, what chance does it ever have of getting it Palm based?” asked a disgruntled voter.

“Apple has never been very good at this stuff. It should stick to its core functions” one voter commented.

“Apple is not strong enough yet to diversify, and now the handheld market is looking just as shaky as the PC market,” agreed a cautious reader.

The middle-ground was covered by one voter who stated: “Apple needs to stay focused, and shouldn't buy either - but definitely should make some strategic investments in Palm/Handspring (financial and technical).”

One voter even posited a suggestion of what Apple’s handheld should look like: “House it in a lump of crystal plastic.”

New poll ready for your votes After the handheld poll, Macworld moves to Apple’s next-generation operating system, Mac OS X – and asks when people will feel ready to adopt it. Vote now!