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Microsoft Passed On iPhone-Like Device In 1991

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the late-to-the-party dept.

Businesses 184

theodp writes "Microsoft apparently could have been a contender in the smartphone market, instead of what WP7 is today. Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold says he tried to convince Microsoft to make an iPhone-like device more than two decades ago. 'The cost will not be very high,' Myhrvold wrote in 1991. 'It is pretty easy to imagine a $400 to $1,000 retail price.' So is Myhrvold bitter that cost-conscious and risk averse Microsoft opted not to pursue his vision? Nope. 'Hey, it was better than predicting the wrong thing,' Myhrvold explains."

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Ouch too bad (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39692843)

Microsoft has done sooooo bad those last two decades too, they clearly would have been a successful company if they pursued iphones.

Re:Ouch too bad (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693059)

Microsoft has done sooooo bad those last two decades

Right, everything Microsoft did before 1992 was wonderful...

Re:Ouch too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693193)


Re:Ouch too bad (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693269)

I don't know. It's pretty specious to claim "I thought of that" 5 years after the device hit the market and became what it is. Had he mentioned this in July of 2007 I'd be more likely to believe it. It just seems a little too self congratulatory to me.

Re:Ouch too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694209)

Check out the 'risto' from Usbourne's Book of the Future, released in 1979...

I still have the book somewhere and they even had a section in on how such devices could communicate with satellites so you'd never get lost. So a design for a digital cell phone with GPS released in a kid's book about the same time as MS was telling the world how awesome its BASIC was.

Beat than Nathan!

Oh yeah, and the widescreen TV thing was bang on, too. Shame the bit about having the Olympics on the moon hasn't come to pass...

Re:Ouch too bad (4, Insightful)

Myopic (18616) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694123)

The underlying premise of this article is that Microsoft, given the opportunity, would have built a device like the iPhone. I think that is preposterous. I think it is obvious that Microsoft would have completely fucked up the implementation, leading to another laughable product.

MS was probably right (5, Insightful)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692857)

Idea was before its time. See the Apple Newton.

No kidding (5, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692959)

In 1991 2G aka digital cell technology had just launched. So most cell service was still AMPS and anyone who tried data over that knew it was a painful, painful, experience, not to shit battery life of analogue phones. Plus computers were still very slow. The 486 was the king of the heap and man, even that was slow. It took forever to do normal tasks. I remember having my computer print something and wandering off to the kitchen to get a snack while I waited for it to deal with all the work of rasterizing and sending the document to the printer. Of course since mobile technology will always be less powerful you'd be luck to have 286 class hardware at that time. Finally the Internet, which is what makes people really like smartphones, was something that only people at research and government institutions knew about, it was not a big public thing.

For smart phones to work we needed three things to happen:

1) Data networks to get fast enough to make surfing reasonable. This pretty much means 3G. It was doable on 2G networks, I suppose, but pretty bad. It needed to be fast enough that a person's attention span wasn't exceeded by the load time.

2) Computers to get fast enough that even a slow computer is reasonable. Since a mobile computer will be many times less powerful than a full sized one, that means full sized ones first had to outgrow the era of always being slow. Wasn't until pretty recently that happened. We just needed chips to get shrunk enough that a reasonable amount of power could go in a tiny package.

3) Something to do with them, a network to get on. BBSes weren't going to cut it. We needed the Internet, and more we needed it to actually be useful.

None of that really happened until early 2000s. A smartphone before then would have been a flop because nobody other than a few geeks would have found it anything other than an unwieldy, expensive, useless gadget.

Technology has to progress to certain points before ideas are feasible. A good example of where it hasn't would be flying cars. Idea has been around forever, prototypes have been built, nothing has happened. Why? Because the technology isn't there. It isn't an idea problem, it is a tech problem. We'd need some major new propulsion/levitation tech before that sort of thing would be feasible.

Really, smartphones happened when they were ready, and the iPhone is not notable for that in any way. It was simply the device that made it cool for regular people. Blackberries had been popular with professionals and the government (especially the US government, they love them some Blackberries) for a few years.

Hell for that matter MS had smartphones, they just weren't very good.

Re:No kidding (2)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693029)

And most online data was text. You can send pages of text in a few seconds, even over a 9600 Baud link. 128Kbps was considered very fast back then. Heck, even today mostly text based transfers like Twitter updates or WAP web pages are fairly quick on 2G.

Even AOL cached icons and other graphics on the user's PC. Every few weeks they'd send down an update that had any new graphics.

Re:No kidding (1)

rthille (8526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693041)

That 486 being slow was probably more about system architecture and software. My NeXT machine at the time with a 68030 could rasterize and print Postscript as fast as the printer engine would spew pages.

Re:No kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693085)

And possibly just a slow printer (or slow computer-printer communications).

Re:No kidding (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693629)

Weird. I always hated having to use the NeXT machines in the office because they were so damn slow.

We have flying cars. (2)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693155)

They're just called helicopters. Helicopters do everything flying cars were supposed to do, they're just too expensive for the average person. Regardless of any new technology, the extra energy needed to overcome the force of gravity means that such craft will still be expensive relative to cars or trains.

Re:We have flying cars. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694109)

They're also much too difficult for the average person to fly, since they're fundamentally unstable.

Re:We have flying cars. (2)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694279)

Actually even if you use helis that are more stable (coaxial + gyros+ fly by wire etc) they'd be too difficult for the average person to fly _safely_.

Go look at the driving skills of the average driver. Many can't stay on their own lane or park properly!

So who in their right mind expects hundreds of them to fly together safely through cities with skyscrapers, and land successfully? You'd need technology that makes flying cars about as safe as lifts. Otherwise your city will soon be like a war zone.

You need AIs in charge of the car. Basically the redundant AIs would be like a non-suicidal horse that the driver controls. Try to ride a horse into a wall and the you'd find the horse rather unwilling to do so.

Re:No kidding (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693179)

Seriously? Not everything is all singing, all dancing. Look at how big bejeweled is on the iPhone vs on the palm pilot. Bejeweled worked fine on the old palm pilots as well as they do on the iphone.

In the 1970s, a UNIX server supporting multiple servers were *SLOW* by 1990s standards. But it worked well. Even across a 56k line.

Re:No kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693183)

MS DID in fact have smart phones, as did palm and a slew of others. None made it as easy to use as the iPhone (except the prada phone, but we won't get into that war. MS was more firmly entrenched in PDA's though - the iPAQ comes to mind from HP - great little device if you could stomach windows mobile. I couldn't, so it ended up collecting dust as a nifty toy that I found occasionally useful.

Re:No kidding (1)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693195)

The original iPhone was not 3G. By the way.

Re:No kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39694371)

Right, but it used EDGE (Enhanced data rates for GSM Evolution), which was not around in 1991. And even the predecessor, GPRS was not implemented until later in the 90ies, I think.

Re:No kidding (2)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693323)

4) The Japanese had to have it for over a decade and find the pitfalls before a company in Europe would take it up, and then three to five years after that Apple gave it a try.
That's not as damning as it sounds. Millions of train and bus commuters in Japan provided a market for emerging smartphones that would have trouble selling in large numbers in the USA.

Re:No kidding (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693387)

The 486 was the king of the heap and man, even that was slow. It took forever to do normal tasks. I remember having my computer print something and wandering off to the kitchen to get a snack while I waited for it to deal with all the work of rasterizing and sending the document to the printer.

That must be because you weren't using W-w-w-Windows [] , Windows, Windows 386, and your thoughts weren't coming together real quick.

Re:No kidding (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693419)

it would not have been a flop at the price point of 400. if it had been accompanied by earlier data networks rollouts then it would have been really, really sweet deal. however I got a suspicion that price point was overly optimistic(a psion with online capabilities that would have had feasible usage pricing would have been really, really, really popular, not just for geeks which would have provided a big market too).

gsm networks had 9600 bps data links, while slow the speed wasn't the main problem, paying by the minute - now that was a problem, the same problem plagued wap introduction later and made it useless and by the time gprs hit the scene(2001) as by then serving simple html was much more sensible than serving the silly wap non-spec. the thing which made smartphone use cases really was by amount of data pricing(or just plain unlimited). but even 100mbytes per month for 20 bucks was pretty good at one point, you could do a LOT of IM(irc) and news feed reading with that - compared to not having anything it was really, really great.

nokia communicator was launched in 1996 and did most of the stuff in this ms proposal. it was pretty nice and a wanted device - however the only way you could afford to really do telnet or simple web browsing(think lynx) with it was if you got nokia to pay your phone bills. there were a bunch of other carryable weak-ass pc's around during that time too. however as said the stuff was just insanely expensive for regular people or even regular geeks.

Re:No kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693635)

All of those things could have been done with existing technologies, since they only need text. The things you couldn't do are the ones you (or the article) didn't mention, the ones which really made smartphones popular; video, music and graphical games.

Re:MS was probably right (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692981)

and mid-1990s Microsoft Pen computing tablets. Capacitive touch screens made all the difference.

Re:MS was probably right (2, Informative)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693019)

Idea was before its time. See the Apple Newton.

The story is ridiculous. What network would the phone run on in 1991? 0.1G? There was no wifi, no Bluetooth, no 3G or even 2G. In 1991 the cellphones were giant bag phones that could only display a phone number. No text messaging, no email, no Internet.

Microsoft had been making touchscreen phones for 5 years before the iPhone came out. Started as PDAs running Windows CE, then windows mobile 5.

Microsoft had a good run but they just didn't keep up but dont feel bad, Palm was huge in 2005 and now they are gone and Blackberry is almost gone. This shows you anyone can run the cellphone game, you just have to have a good OS and apps people want.

Re:MS was probably right (1)

teg (97890) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694007)

Idea was before its time. See the Apple Newton.

The story is ridiculous. What network would the phone run on in 1991? 0.1G? There was no wifi, no Bluetooth, no 3G or even 2G. In 1991 the cellphones were giant bag phones that could only display a phone number. No text messaging, no email, no Internet.

Indeed. At the time, smart phones were not adjacent possible [] . They were not until a couple of years before the iPhone. Then Microsoft tried, along with onder vendors. Microsoft had Windows Mobile, Nokia had Symbian which had many of the same possibilities iPhone had. They just didn't work nearly as well, which was why the iPhone was such a milestone and influenced everything after. E.g. my Nokia N95 did all the iPhone did (except touch) and more, but it was painful to use and the features felt more like "check!" than aiding you in what you wanted to do.

Re:MS was probably right (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693157)

I would agree. an iPhone like device would have sucked in 1991.
Lack of multi-touch displays would really have limited to very basic gestures, it would probably just be click interface.
Most people didn't have internet access in 1991. If they did there wasn't to many non-geeky thing to do on it.
Apps would need to sync with a PC over slow serial connections.
The apps would not be much more then a Calendar, a note book and an advanced clock.
For its price you will have a hard time convincing a person to use it over a wristwatch, and a day planner.

Think of a Palm Pilot but only bigger and slower and less memory.

At the time you had a PC. the Laptop will be a generation behind (286's when the 386 are popular), usable but noticeably slower and really expensive. A mobile device is actually 3 generations behind the PC, So your 486 PC may have a mobile device that does what an XT 8088 can do.

Today for the most part these gaps still exist expect for the laptop is only a 1/2 generation behind a PC. But say you have a Core i7 desktop your iPhone 4s would be about the same as a core duel processor. Today this isn't that big of a deal because we have seen a slowdown in software inovation that uses the newer processors. New Computers run the same stuff as old computers but just faster.

Re:MS was probably right (1)

Rob Y. (110975) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693781)

In 1991, it wouldn't have been Internet based at all. Back then, Microsoft was chasing Compuserv, attempting to build their own proprietary Microsoft Network. They were still at it in 1995 when Netscape hit.

Re:MS was probably right (5, Insightful)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693231)

This is just a desperate, insecure attempt by Myrvold to convince us that he's some kind of technology innovator. But if he had the idea for an iPhone like product back in 1991, before Apple did, then why the hell didn't he build an iPhone once the technology to do so became available? Instead, what Myrvold did do once he got rich as CTO of Microsoft is to create Intellectual Ventures, a company that generates billions of dollars of revenue by buying up patents and then shaking down other companies. In other words, he's a patent troll. He's trying to say, 'oh yeah, I could have done that. I'm innovative'. No you couldn't, and no you're not. All you are is just a patent troll, a parasite on the real innovators, and a total douche for trying to pretend otherwise.

Re:MS was probably right (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693689)

The worst part is that the elements described in the article aren't anything Apple 'invented'. The iPhone was neat when it launched, but it bad plenty of predecessors, some even by Microsoft. There is no reason the iPhone even needs to be in this article unless there's a mass delusion that it was the first smartphone.

I think you're right.

Re:MS was probably right (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693425)

The idea was really very much before it's time, so much I'm almost ready to call bs on it.

This proposed device from 1991 includes GPS location service. Sure GPS was under construction and worked somewhat, but it was not fully operational until 1994. A bit premature to think it can be put into a handheld consumer device before that.

It proposes to use a slot for removable media: I don't remember any removable media other than floppy disks from that time. It may have existed in a lab, but not so much out of that.

Did affordable, reliable touch screens exist already?

Rechargeable batteries that lasted longer than an hour?

They call for an online manual - great, when almost no-one even has a mobile phone, and mobile data barely exists, and coverage of mobile networks is patchy to boot. And the Internet as we know it didn't exist - the www had only just been invented.

Oh well the technology was definitely simply not ready for the device by then. That's one of the reasons it took a while between that chimera and the launch of the iPhone. And why MS rightully rejected putting money into the idea. Obviously so did all the other tech companies (if you seriously talk to MS about a project, then you'd certainly also talk to others as well).

Re:MS was probably right (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693483)

Idea was before its time. See the Apple Newton.

Honestly, given the level of detail in the article and the single, brief sketch shown, there's no indication that there was anything for MS to have "passed on" in the first place beyond a very basic concept. Nothing appears to have been implemented.

This is basic, first-draft future-concept sketch stuff. Reasonably insightful for the time, but not much more.

There's nothing here that would have been close to an iPhone if implemented with 1991-level technology (or even what they would have expected to have been available in the forseeable future at that point). 1991 was a long time ago. Remember how simple your old millennial call-and-text-and-Snake mobile phone was? It was *already* the better part of a decade after 1991 when those first truly mass-market phones came out, and they're still basic by modern standards. In 1991, GSM had just started, and mobile phones were still large and expensive (to buy and run) yuppie toys and tools for professionals, very crude and very expensive.

See that "slot for removable media"? Remember that even in the late 90s (several years later), flash media (e.g. those first-generation MP3 players' internal storage, SmartMedia careds, etc.) was typically in the range of 32 - 64 MB, i.e. circa a single MP3 album. Don't know how much could be stored on early-90s media, but the 1989 Atari Portfolio had "expansion cards available in sizes of 32, 64, and 128 KB initially, and later available in capacities up to 4 MB".

So you could probably have stored 1 song's worth if you forked out for a very expensive 4MB card, but there's no way a portable device would have been able to decode MP3 in real time anyway. (Mid-90s desktop PCs required most of their processing power to do that).

Others hit the nail on the head when they say that such a device would also require the infrastructure to be in place to be useful. I note that someone else mentions that "CDPD" existed for the (primarily North American) AMPS system back then, but was it ever supported and widespread enough in practice to have been usable? (WP suggests that it never took off) What would the cost have been of using the data necessary for this phone?

Notice that the title is "Visions for Consumer Computers"- this suggests that it's something they see for the future (i.e. a decade-plus hence, not within the next couple of years), and there's nothing technical or concrete here. As I said above, nothing wrong with that, but let's not inflate it to more than what it was nor make it out to be what it isn't- it's a first-level futuristic brainstorming sketch that in some ways is quite insightful, but it's not detailed, and it's not anything that would have been practical- or at least worthwhile trying to implement- circa 1991. And MS certainly didn't "pass" on the forerunner of the iPhone.... at least, not here.

Re:MS was probably right (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693665)

Idea was before its time. See the Apple Newton.


As MS becomes more and more a visionless has-been. it tries harder and harder to re-write an ugly history of technical failure that was always papered over by huge financial success.

Hey, I also had the idea for an iPhone-like device back then. So did thousands of others. I also came up with the idea for temporal compression when I was not yet a teen (decades before there were personal computers, let alone digital audio and digital video). USB? Us again.

I could list things all day, but you get the point.

The majority of successful developments tend to happen when "the time is right" AND they tend to happen to those who have brains, energy, spirit, drive, enthusiasm, vision, hunger, desire to succeed, sufficient financial backing, courage and many, many other qualities. Oh, and luck helps.

I didn't have all the factors for success and neither did MS.

So my response is "who gives a shit about what you (Myhrvold/MS) failed to do? Apple did it and you didn't. I didn't either. Move on."

Besides, MS has a miserable history as a technology innovator. Even when they put billions behind new ideas, 95%+ fall flat on their asses.

Microsoft is not, never has been and in all likelihood never will be a technical innovator.

Microsoft is first and foremost a tremendous and slick marketing machine making it a huge financial success.

As for technical innovation: who needs more than 640k? Who needs the internet? Inferior-sounding drm-infected audio codecs will bring down open specifications like mp3! Good quality search engines are not a business prospect!

Their core ability is copy/buy/steal and tweak innovations from non-MS technical innovators and then apply the world's slickest and most hard-nosed marketing baloney and arm-twisting licensing machine (Intel taught them well) to make huge success by forcing mediocre products on the rather dim-witted masses and charging the through the nose for utter banality.

Besides, the ueber-rich thin-lipped marketing bespectacled pseudo-geek and the tubby sweaty chair-throwing monkey-man just plain make normal people nauseous.

Re:MS was probably right (2)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694177)


Myhrvold hasn't worked for MS for 12 years.

Where do you get that this is MS trying to rewrite history? It's entirely Myhrvold, plumping up his feathers.

Re:MS was probably right (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694191)

The only problem with your analysis is that you seem to contend that they're successful, with their marketing, on foisting their crap products on the "dim-witted masses". I don't see this to be the case. Instead, they seem to mostly fail in this. See the Zune and Windows Phone 7 (and all the other WinCE/WinMo devices before that). Xbox was mostly a flop too, and has only become successful because they kept pouring money into it to build it into something workable. And how many people really want Windows on their PC? Most people just use it because "it's the standard" or because the applications they need only run on Windows, and even this is changing as more applications make Mac versions (but here again, Windows usually wins because it's cheaper).

Most MS marketing is laughably bad. Remember the commercial for Microsoft SongSmith (check it out on Youtube)? Or the ridiculous MSN butterfly campaign?

The place where MS marketing seems to work well is not with the "dim-witted masses", who seem to be much more interested in Apple's marketing, but with the dim-witted business community. Windows and Office (and maybe Xbox) are the only things that make money for MS from regular people, but all their other successful products are aimed squarely at businesses: Server 2008, SQL Server, Exchange, Sharepoint, etc.

Re:MS was probably right (2)

multicoregeneral (2618207) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693723)

I was going to mention the Apple Newton, but you beat me to it. I actually owned one. For it's time it was great, even if it didn't do exactly what I wanted it to. It was a business device. More so than the Palm Pilot of the time. It was great, if all you wanted to do was keep up with contacts and write emails, but what I wanted at the time was more of a general purpose computer that I could hold in my hand. The current generation does that, but at the time none of these devices had a consumer focus. Flash back eight years prior, and there's a slim chance in hell they would even try to sell it to consumers. That's where the iPhone was great. Forget the technicals, and what the device actually does for a second. What made the iPhone successful was that it was a color Palm Pilot with the features that your mom would want. It's a subtle difference, but an important one.

Not quite an iPhone (1)

Elite Override (2602939) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692861)

It doesn't look all that much like an iPhone...although the feature set is similar. He was way ahead of his time though.

Re:Not quite an iPhone (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39692987)

Way ahead of its time? This thing is a PDA, like the Psion, the Newton (1992), and the Palm (1997). Everybody was thinking about these things at the time. Only Palm managed to make it successful.

To get an iPhone, you need, you know, a Phone function - which this "vision" didn't have. And mobile internet - ditto (it did have email, tho). And music. And apps. And. And.

"predicted the emergence of the iPhone down to the smallest detail, describing a 'digital wallet'..."? Guess what the iPhone is not? A digital wallet!

What a joke...

The PDA to PMP transition (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694201)

To get an iPhone, you need, you know, a Phone function - which this "vision" didn't have.

But did this "vision" include a Pod touch (i.e. PDA/PMP) function? Had Microsoft provided some sort of migration path between Pocket PC and Zune, Zune might not have failed as hard as it did.

Because They Already Made One? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39692863)

I haven't RTFA, but the summary is ridiculous: in what sense of 'like' were WM6 phones not 'like' an iPhone? In that they had proper support for handwriting recognition? In that they weren't marketed by Apple?

Re:Because They Already Made One? (1)

hxnwix (652290) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693255)

I haven't RTFA, but the summary is ridiculous: in what sense of 'like' were WM6 phones not 'like' an iPhone? In that they had proper support for handwriting recognition? In that they weren't marketed by Apple?

Your standard issue WM6 phone had 48 to 64 megabytes of RAM, a shit slow processor, and anemic graphics so horrid it couldn't update a full screen of 2D without tearing horribly. The interface was rendered with GDI and had no support for fancy effects such as zoom transitions and sliding. The widget set was entirely stylus oriented. Pocket IE was a terrible, terrible browser and would take minutes to render a page that would show up on a first gen iPhone instantaneously.

In comparison to the first iPhone, all WM and Pocket PC devices were garbage. I worked for company writing WM apps. When I first tried an iPhone, I immediately realized it was time to update my resume. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft's share of the smartphone market dropped to essentially nothing, and my former employer fired my entire department.

Re:Because They Already Made One? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694219)

Yep, the WinMo stuff was shit compared to the iPhone. A stylus? Seriously? What on earth were they thinking? I've got a WM device here I use for work (actually I never do; they gave it to me in case any big issues came up that they might need help with but I've never had to work with it), as apparently there's a lot of handheld industrial devices that use that crappy OS. I played around with it a little; it really sucks. Consumers don't want to use styli, they want a simple touch interface. MS simply tried to take their desktop UI and stick it directly on a 3" screen, and unsurprisingly, no one liked it.

Penguin clock (2)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692871)

The drawing of the device shows a clock that looks like a penguin in the bottom left. Maybe it ran Linux? :D

Re:Penguin clock (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39692903)

Maybe you should learn a bit about computing history, fucktard.

Re:Penguin clock (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692909)

Linux existed in 1991. But Tux only in 1996. So what, I wasn't very serious in my post.

Re:Penguin clock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39692965)

There there, the medication will kick in shortly.

Re:Penguin clock (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693013)

Dude, you forgot your pills.

Hindsight is 20/20 (4, Insightful)

acidradio (659704) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692873)

OK so the idea may have existed in 1991 but was the technology to make it work "like" an iPhone as we know it there? NO! Without the wireless data (or really data at all!) it is useless. In fact nobody really even knew what the Internet was back in 1991. This is like having an idea for a helicopter but no motor to power it (a la Da Vinci). They may have had CDPD data back then but it was pretty slow. But without the Internet how could you really share with anyone? Was everyone supposed to use, oh, Compuserve?

Some may argue "yeah, well they could have at least bought the idea and held onto it until it was feasible." That's like if I bought the idea for a warp drive or transporter and held onto it until it becomes feasible. So many other things have to be invented or perfected before anything like that could work. I don't think I'm going to be around long enough for that to happen. And maybe Microsoft felt the same way in 1991 when presented with that iPhone-like idea.

Re:Hindsight is 20/20 (0)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693031)

OK so the idea may have existed in 1991 but was the technology to make it work "like" an iPhone as we know it there? NO! Without the wireless data (or really data at all!) it is useless. In fact nobody really even knew what the Internet was back in 1991. This is like having an idea for a helicopter but no motor to power it (a la Da Vinci). They may have had CDPD data back then but it was pretty slow. But without the Internet how could you really share with anyone? Was everyone supposed to use, oh, Compuserve?

If they had decided to make something like the iPhone, they would probably have also undertaken the research and development necessary to make a network for it to run on. Also, who's to say it wouldn't have taken the internet in a whole new direction? Had something like this been built back then, the internet may have turned into something like a bunch of semi-walled gardens that you could jump around to rather than a place where you can just roam around.

Re:Hindsight is 20/20 (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693615)

If they had decided to make something like the iPhone, they would probably have also undertaken the research and development necessary to make a network for it to run on.

MS was nowhere near as big as it is today in 1991, and they certainly wouldn't have had the resources to even *consider* doing anything like that on their own. And even if they had, it would have taken years for *anyone* to develop things to a stage where they would have been good enough to do an "iphone" like device justice, and years more to have the infrastructure actually built.

But remember that the first Internet-enabled mobile devices were created around the turn of the millennium (i.e. the better part of a *decade* after this mockup was created) and they were still very crude WAP-based things.

So it wouldn't- and couldn't- have happened in 1991, and even if MS had been very insightful about the future, it would have been silly for them to put all their resources into an "iPhone" in 1991. As I said elsewhere, this guy's concept appears to have not that much to it- it appears to be primarily a futuristic concept sketch rather than anything workable at the time. Credit to him for that, but no more. He didn't- and couldn't have- invented the iPhone in 1991.

Re:Hindsight is 20/20 (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693977)

Seriously, Microsoft hadn't even released 95 by this point, and this guy is talking about them hedging risks by not going after a mockup iPhone that early?

Re:Hindsight is 20/20 (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693317)

who says it would have needed the 3g mobile internet we take for granted today, way back then, you'd be looking at internal radio networks (mini LANs) and the devices would be used for email, simple text documents and some spreadsheet work.

Mind you, back in 2001 we had mobile internet phones, they weren't brilliant but they did what was needed [] via WAP.

Not that interesting... (3, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692893)

It doesn't seem that interesting to me that someone had the idea. Once you have computers and computerized contacts, calendars, media, etc., it's not *that* clever to say, "Oh, it would be cool if we could put all this into a handheld device.". Further, there were lots of working versions of this before the iPhone. You can see precursors in Windows phones, Blackberries, Palm devices, and even Apple' own Newton device.

The real issue is the implementation. You need the technology to be able to make the thing. You need fast enough processors, long-lasting batteries, nice LCD screens, and small storage devices that can hold a lot of data. In 1991, the technology to make an iPhone didn't exist yet. And then beyond that, once you have all the technology, you need someone to put it all together into a design that people find useful, and that was the only innovation of the iPhone. Apple didn't originate the idea and they weren't the first people to have access to the technology, they were just the most successful in creating a design that people liked.

You forgot two important things: (3, Insightful)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692995)

You need a critical mass of the public on a global network, and you need a suitable UI. The latter is really Apple's innovation with the iPhone/iTouch/iPad. By the mid-to-late '90 we had wireless devices with touchscreens that fit into pockets, but they were all heavily textual (even though they had icons and graphics) in the way that they operated and they were also all reliant on a desktop metaphor of some kind. Apple's Newton, if you look at the UI, was the closest thing we had to a truly mobile UI, and while it was way ahead of its time and even has some things I'd kill to have back on an iPhone today, it was also still all about office metaphors: sheets of paper, sliding drawers, envelopes and trash cans, and so on.

Even those that want to make fun of Newton basically have to admit that in terms of practical usability when walking (i.e. in motion, outdoors) down the street, there's a world of difference in usability between a connected Palm or Windows PocketPC device from the pre-iPhone era and an iDevice. That's Apple's big contribution, what Microsoft did absolutely incorrectly. After all, the basically *had* an iPhone (so did Palm) by the early '00s. There's no technical reason that Windows phones couldn't have been made similar to iDevices in their usability, especially with high end models having faster processors and more memory capability; it's just about UI/UX design. Apple does it. Microsoft did it once a long time ago (partially) and has ignored it since, until Metro—which is much less about some radical improvement in Microsoft-running device hardware as it is about the first real UI/UX design Microsoft has attempted in years, directly in response to iPhone.

Re:Not that interesting... (2)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693477)

To solve a problem, you need to do three things: (1) come up with a solution, and (2) implement it. But we sometimes forget that there's another step there. This could be step (0), identifying which problem to solve in the first place.

It's like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Getting the answer is actually fairly trivial, but figuring out the right question to be asking in the first place is really hard.

Jobs and Apple became very, very good at solving the problems of product design and interface, and actually building the things. But one of the things that really set Jobs apart as a CEO was his remarkable ability to understand which problems to solve. I remember watching the Apple keynote talk where he introduced the iPhone, and thinking, "yeah, whatever. A phone where I touch the screen instead of physical buttons? I like tactile feedback. This is just a gimmick" He'd managed to solve this problem and build the device, and it never occurred to me that it would be something that would appeal to anybody other than the fanatics who need the newest, shiniest, slimmest offering from Apple. Microsoft had been playing with touch technology for years but never thought to put it in a portable device. It took years for RIM to recognize that the iPhone posed a threat to Blackberry. It wasn't obvious to anybody that something like the iPhone was what people wanted- not to consumers, and not to the highly paid CEOs who are paid millions of dollars because, supposedly, they are able to understand this kind of thing. Even after he'd built it and told everyone it would change everything, it wasn't obvious. Jobs knew otherwise, and he understood it enough to make developing the iPhone and iOS Apple's top priority over Mac and OS X.

Re:Not that interesting... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694413)

I don't disagree. I was just lumping "identifying which problem to solve in the first place" with the other two steps. Part of it is having the right idea. The rest is in the implementation-- making sure that you're solving the right problem, and that you're solving it in the right way.

My general point was that we tend to think that the idea is everything. "I've had a million dollar idea!" or "I had the idea for the iPhone years before the iPhone was released!" Ideas are important and all, but to some degree, they're a dime a dozen. The ideas might be very clever or very obvious, but the devil is in the details, and success if often about the execution.

I've had many friends come to me and say, "Hey, I have an idea for an iPhone app," or "I have an idea for an idea to compete with Facebook." I'm keep trying to explain to people, "Yeah, it's great that you have an idea. Everyone has ideas. Do you know how to make it happen? Do you know how to make it work?"

It was about execution, not about the concept (2, Insightful)

f97tosc (578893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692905)

Sony-Ericsson actually DID release iPhone-like devices (e.g. P800,P900) before Apple. They did not sell very well, at least not compared to iPhone. They just weren't as slick. And Microsoft isn't exactly known for releasing very slick products either - so even if they had released it it is far from obvious that they had been successful.

Re:It was about execution, not about the concept (0)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692979)

The problem was that those Ericsson phones were more like techdemos than polished products.

Re:It was about execution, not about the concept (3, Informative)

Dot.Com.CEO (624226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693061)

I strongly disagree. I had a P800 and a P910 later on. They were BY FAR the best phones I've ever owned, considering the expectations of technology at the time. They had working email on a huge screen, an amazing input system (and I'm talking Graffiti here, it was truly amazing and I really miss it), they looked great and the battery lasted for ages. Why Ericsson gave up on UIQ I'll never know, but I'm sure it was the wrong decision. Whatever alternative plan they had, it didn't work out. Going a bit off topic here but, in my opinion, Nokia's Symbian S60 was also a great OS for people wanting connectivity on the go. Thing is, people didn't know they wanted to be connected until iPhones and, to a much lesser extent, Blackberries. I have great love for e-series Nokias of 3-5 years ago, and I'm sad to see them disappear. Build quality, form factor, yes even software, were excellent for what they were supposed to be.

Re:It was about execution, not about the concept (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693315)

I had a P990, so maybe expectations were lower at the time of P800. I didn't say that it wasn't advanced for its time, I said it was unpolished. Like, for example, some functions were only available when you opened the keyboard, others only when you closed it, even though it only overlapped about 1/10 of the screen. JME was slow, and there were almost no native apps because Ericsson decided to make their own version of Symbian incompatible with the original one. Handwriting was also an example of a clever technology that almost worked, but the touchscreens of that time simply weren't accurate enough for that. On top of that, it didn't follow any standards, had its own charger, memory card etc. It was good hardware made slow, laggish and uncostumisable and counterintuitive by crappy design.

Re:It was about execution, not about the concept (1)

Dot.Com.CEO (624226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693487)

Yes, the P990 was really not good enough. I remember being disappointed by it, and ultimately not buying it. The P800 though was simply amazing for the time.

That's the thing that people often don't get (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693039)

about iPhone/Android (but especially iPhone). As a thought experiment, take an iPhone 4S and stick Linux+GNOME 3 on it. Could totally be done in theory. Would render the device crap. Who would want/use it that way? It would be pointless, just a hack-because-I-can device, even if it had a full working carrier-connected TCP/IP stack. Same thing with getting, say, Windows Phone 6 onto it, even though it would be blindingly fast and have tons of capacity.

iOS is what makes the iPhone, more than anything else. You could take the iPhone, replace the capacitive touchscreen with a resistive one and pair it up with a horrific plastic stylus of the Palm sort, cut the processor speed in half and the memory capacity by an order of magnitude, and you'd still have a great device that was competitive in the marketplace for many users and that would have run circles around WinCE and Palm in 2006.

The fact that Apple also went for capacitive, pen-free, fast processor, and decent chunk of memory was more about the user experience than it was about hardware specs and expanded "capabilities," and it's that fabulous user experience got die-hard Palm people like me into AT&T stores when the iPhone launched going "Holy shit, this is like visiting the future!"

Re:That's the thing that people often don't get (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694271)

As a thought experiment, take an iPhone 4S and stick Linux+GNOME 3 on it. Could totally be done in theory. Would render the device crap.

Straw man much? You could say the exact same thing about replacing iOS with OS X. Ever tried to use a Mac with no mouse? It's nearly impossible... OTOH, replace iOS on an iPhone with cyanogenmod and what would you get? :D Okay, I'll admit it's a matter of personal preference, but your post reads like it was written by a giggling and squealing schoolgirl. Yeah, Jobs did a better job dumbing-down the interface for non-nerds. Personally, I was just fine with my PalmOS and Blackberry devices long before the iFad started. I even knew some people who were thrilled to death with their iPaq running winCE or whatever (though I've always lacked the patience for using Redmond's stuff for more than a few minutes at a time) . Not everyone needs teh shiney sparkley to get useful things done. :)

Way back then (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692915)

Way back then cellphones were big, ugly analog devices, with poor coverage, and very expensive to use compared to today.
Ifyou try to introduce some concept before the infrastructure is ready it fails.

A home computer of that time probably had 2 megs of memory and a 40 meg hard drive (Amiga 600)

No way (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692929)

Microsoft wasn't even able to make a decent desktop OS at that point. I was using an Amiga back in 91 and laughing at all the IBM'ers. You should have seen them when they'd come over and see a multitasking operating system in action. MS was struggling trying to tear IBM's monopoly away from them and they had their hands full with that. It wasn't until win95 that they really started to dominate, before that only businesses loved them. As far as I can remember Multimedia only existed on the Amiga or some really expensive hardware like Silicon Graphics. MP3 players didn't even show upere until late in the 90's. Imagine a mobile intel 386 chip in a phone. Really I think Apple hit it about the right time with the right type of OS which is of course why they suceeded so well. Even then all the geniuses in the media were disparaging it sold millions. Jobs only looked like a genius because of his lame competition. As they say, in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.

Re:No way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39692985)

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is locked up for being insane.

Re:No way (1)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693237)

Imagine a mobile intel 386 chip in a phone.

As a sidenote and a bit of trivia, according to Wikipedia the 950 and 957 BlackBerries had a 386 chip. :)

Yeah, of course. But how about services? (2)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692941)

What was MS versions for iTunes, iPhoto, iMovies, OS X at that time?

iPhone success isn't just it has big multi-touch display and just one physical button (- volume and power) what to use.

It was that Apple had released iTunes, gathered, Music, Movies and others there and allow easy automatic syncing to 4-8GB flash memory what first iPhone had.
It was full blown browser and email.

Apple knew that to get successful phone, you need to have services ready for its users. Not way round like Microsoft usually does that product is "ready" but services lacks few years behind.

for once MS was right (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39692957)

no one wants a MS phone!

Not an 'iPhone'. (4, Informative)

Junta (36770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39692997)

Basically, it was a smartphone. It might've been the first if they pursued it, but then again, the Simon being first didn't buy it much in the long run: []

Having a smartphone on the market in the early 90s didn't really matter. Internet in early 90s didn't matter one bit to the mass market. The first browser wouldn't even exist for two more years. Until the relatively late 90s, most people didn't even bother with the internet. Without a large market demanding internet (and appropriate cellular resources to actually service that demand), there is no possibility of an 'iPhone'. This is no more an 'iPhone' than numerous smartphones that cropped up before the iPhone (and enjoyed moderate success too). What the iPhone specifically brought in its initial successful incarnation were two things. One, a web browser/interface that could reasonably render and navigate 'desktop' websites instead of being limited to crippled mobile sites that few sites bothered with at all or put something useless up. Two, the marketing momentum of their brand value from the iPod success.

Patent troll alert (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693005)

Nathan Myhrvold [] is the most prominent of all patent trolls [] .

Drawings like this where pretty common all through the 80s.

Drawings are easy, products are harder (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693017)

That's a nice drawing in the article, here [] is another take on a possible smart phone.

It was before its time (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693021)

Hardware was not ready for such a product in 1991. However, Microsoft did have a similar chance in 2007. There were smartphones before the iPhone, the big novelty of Apple's product was the multitouch capacitive screen, which MS invented for Surface. They just didn't think about shrinking it down for use with a phone.

Something to celebrate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693045)

Yes, let's celebrate Microsoft's failure to innovate!

Me Too! (1)

rbannon (512814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693049)

Count me in on this one too. In fact you can count on everyone to have an idea that later came true, but they failed to implement it. The failure to capitalize on our ideas is as old as time itself, and everyone here is a prime example of this. I have countless stories of trying to get something to work (I was trying to implement a Dropbox like service in the 80s) and then seeing it fizzle out---the sad truth is that harebrained ideas are just that, and this guy had no clue on how to implement and Microsoft was right in dismissing his idea. Yes, my Dropbox idea in the 80s was harebrained too!

Blame avoidance (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693089)

MSFT: 'Hey, it was better than predicting the wrong thing,' Myhrvold explains."

AAPL: Think Different. Be insanely great.

Totally different philosophy and outcome.


Re:Blame avoidance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693707)

Yeah, not to mention different times which means that there were different technologies and different markets. If the differences were really just some frigging motto, why didn't we have the iPhone in 97-98? Could it just be that the technology of the time would have been cumbersome and the market too weak?

It astounds me that, to this day, we still have to beat that dead horse because certain Slashtards can't get their heads out of their asses.

Not ready then (1)

kabdib (81955) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693093)

I was at a start-up doing a wireless data platform for the Newton and Windows-based computers, circa 1994. Things were not ready for data even then; data was expensive, the modems were very bulky, and everything was extremely slow.

We got /some/ mileage out of a very space efficient data protocol layered on TCP (which actually doesn't need much tweaking to be a pretty reasonable protocol for wireless networks). But I'd say we were about five years too early, which is a killer for a startup with limited funding.

2003 a finnish start-up made an iPhone-like phone (1)

colordev (1764040) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693111)

it was an internet ready touchscreen phone build and revieved by the press [] . Too bad that start-up was trying to reach success in finland where all people were mentally fixated into only buying Nokia phones. And so that MyOrigo company with it's MyDevice phone soon found it's way into bankruptcy.

Full screen apps (4, Insightful)

hey (83763) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693139)

Notice that the apps are not full screen. Too desktop-ish.

It would have sucked (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693145)

The technology just wasn't there to create an very usable iPhone like device in 1991. The first Palme (the Palm 1000) was released in 1996 (at $299 each). The data-enabled Palm VII didn't come out until 1999 (at a cost of $599 + $15/month and data was super slow)

The Newton was released in 1993 and it while it was innovative for the time, was large and clunky and few would say that it was "iPhone like".

And none of these devices had a phone built-in which would have made them bigger and more expensive. In 1991 my portable cell phone came in a small bag to make it portable (between cars, it's not something I'd take to the movies).

Re:It would have sucked (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693701)

And can you imagine who _small_ it would have been having to run DOS/Windows? Even back then, they knew the "hammer" they had and that everything would be pounded into looking like a nail or be eliminated from the market. "Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure" by Jerry Kaplan tells the story of his company GO Inc and their fateful trip with Microsoft at the time of this supposed Microsoft iPhone like device.


Nathan Myrvhold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693207)

This guy is a serious self-promoter. Makes Eric Raymond look like an amateur.

Microsoft blew it. (3, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693229)

Windows mobile was really pretty great for when it came out. It had decent integration with office, a more extensive library of programs then any competing system, and a similar structure to windows in many respects. It even had a registry.

But MS blew it. They didn't take the platform seriously and they left it to rot on the vine.

That said, lets not forget that what is really making apple so strong here is itunes. And that isn't MS's mistake so much as it is the content providers. Apple is eating the publishing industry and nibbling on MS, motorola, and a few other companies. But indifferent to apple's successes, MS screwed up on windows mobile.

Way before 1991 (3, Insightful)

fiziko (97143) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693289)

Look at the tablet and portable phone technology from any incarnation of Star Trek or other popular sci-fi. The concept has been around for decades. The technological infrastructure to support a device that appeals to the general public didn't exist until very recently. Look at the wireless data speeds and network demands of today's smart phones: there's no practical way to have gotten them on the market sooner.

Handheld PC-clones of the 90's (2)

shoppa (464619) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693305)

In fact there were many companies making battery powered, wireless connected, handheld PC-clones in the 90's.

Where I saw them, they most commonly were used on local wireless networks in industrial/warehouse/trucking settings but I also know they were being used in some retail and manufacturing settings. The wireless local area networks back in the early 90's were in reality not much more than radio channels with analog modems.

They had small text displays and ran MS-DOS applications that were hardcoded to the proprietary wireless network. Certainly nothing like a real network stack.

Part of the difficulty is that AFAIK they were never usable as phones and barely usable as data network devices in the wide-area sense. The "data network" concept with cellphone networks in the early 90's was exquisitely awkward in the US, with the most common access method being to have an analog modem hooked up to the cellphone network (which was all analog in the early 90's and just beginning to move to digital in the late 90's) and you called your ISP's phone number. That was really super sucky.

Certainly Windows CE had some concepts that were more high-minded than the custom-built MS-DOS applications, but in most ways it was even more sucky to the end user (who just wanted to run the same application over and over again, scanning barcodes, taking inventory, etc.) I think it's not even ironic that even Apple is having a hard time making inroads into these single-purpose applications with their multi-purpose iPhone/iPad platforms; the specialized platforms being used in this area for the past 20 years are not sold on computing buzzwords or brand cachet but on pure utility.

lets assume it is true (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693339)

Roll back to 1992. How fast were data connnections for mobile devices at the time? How many people had cell phones? 7M according to: [] versus 327M now. The market wasn't that big, the data would suck, lets be realistic touch screens would not be very good back then as would the resolution (heck computers were probably running 1024X768 so what would a cell phone sized screen be?).

I love how whenever someone comes out with something that pushes the edge of what is economically feasible someone pipes up and says "but I had a screen in my lab 10 years ago that was this good" or whatever. Yeah you had a single screen, with a team of grad students to operate it at a cost of 10's of thousands likely.

Another one that happens is people say "yeah but we'd get a large amount of volume and the costs will go down fast". How fast? How many of the 7M people with phones already would be willing to drop their old phone and drop another 1k or so on a phone? In the mean time you bleed red ink in hopes that something good will happen ... later ... somehow. Heck MS revenue was only 2.7B for 1992, they now do ~70B. It would have cost them a large portion of their revenue (not even counting whatever their actual profit is on the revenue) to develop the phone and a large number of people. Instead they locked down a virtual monopoly of desktop OS space which at the time was a much, much larger market. Good choice IMHO.

Many similar devices existed (1)

billcarson (2438218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693373)

Around 2000, I had one of these. []
Technically speaking, it could do the same as a modern smartphone can do nowadays, but these things didn't catch on until there was faster mobile internet access.

So? (1)

xyourfacekillerx (939258) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693505)

It's not like the idea alone wasn't pitched around to a thousand companies since 1980. And then after TNG came out, and it was technically feasible to produce such a device, and everyone thought about how to make one, it's not like a WORKING idea didn't emerge which was pitched around to a thousand companies since 1991.

So I'm not sure the point of the post. Is it MS fucked up somehnow? Is this some attempt to bash MS? Cos MS always fucks up, according to Slashdot, right? That's why I get minus points, called a troll and flamebait, when I say something pro-MS around Slashdot? (Or when I complain about being mislabelled a trolll and flamebait.) I mean just cos MS passed up on it doesn't mean a thing about MS since a t housand other companies also passed up on it. MS didn't fuck up, they just didn't have the benefit of the retrospective determinism we have now looking back to then - the truth is such a device had no business existing in 1991 and would have been a bad BUSINESS move. MS was struggling just to push its core competency (OS and dev tools) at the time, remember? They didn't have the power to buy up patents in unproven markets with technologies that were hardly worth the effort at the time?

So really, what is the point of this post? Cos really all I get walking from it is "MS Sucks somehow, reason 0xFF49"

Retail price 400-1000? (1)

geogob (569250) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693553)

'It is pretty easy to imagine a $400 to $1,000 retail price.' says the quote. Why do I find that absurd? He could simply have said "I have no clue how much it might have cost". That would have been a bit more honest, I think. Lets think about it for a second. Not only is this bracket very large, it also enclose most of the iPhone configuration sold on the market today. Looking back at the price of other similar devices at that time, I think 400$ is a laughable underestimation. Moreover if you had hopped to achieve a form factor similar than today's smart phone. I would have said more over 1000$, probably closer to 2000$.

I also have a hard timing finding how this could have fitted in with the product lines and philosophy of Microsoft at the beginning of the '90.

1991: HP95 Palmtop PC (2)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693571)

In 1991, HP introduced the HP95 palmtop PC, a small pocketable computer running DOS. Within a few years they would also release the HP100 and HP200lx. These units were quite popular and did much of what smartphones do today, except of course the phone part. They could do email, spreadsheets, WP, etc, and wince they ran DOS, could do just about anything available, include running Windows 2/3, Word, even web browsers, Usenet clients, Telnet, FTP, etc. They were an important forerunner to the PDAs, Psions (Symbian), Palms, etc which in turn gave rise to the first real smartphones. They also themselves mutated from DOS palmtops to run MS WinCE, which were the forerunners of Windows Mobile PDAs and smartphones.

Not this again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693573)

MS had smartphones years before the iPhone. Not one year, not two years, windows CE which was for portable 'iPhone like devices' came out in 1996. 11 years before the first iPhone.

MS sucks at marketing. They could have had the exact same device as the iPhone 4s in 1996 for free without a contract and somehow figured how to make it run at 4g speeds and give it all the apps the iPhone currently has (magic I know) and still not sold more than a few thousand.

MS more interested in crushing GO Inc (2)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693653)

Read the book "Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure" by Jerry Kaplan and tell me that Microsoft had any real interest in developing hand held devices and was not in the game to crush the those creating the market? Pen for Windows or whatever they called it was mocked up and presold and marketed to destroy GO Inc. After they succeeded there it floundered. Just as Windows CE was created to keep Palm from growing into a desktop threat and then floundered, like how MS IE was created to destroy Netscape Navigator and then floundered.

So it is no surprise they would not attempt to create anything like Myhrvold might have envisioned because it wasn't needed to crush GO Inc. They were not concerned with Apple and its Newton(another GO Inc product spin-off) when it came about shortly after the GO Inc and Microsoft partnership.

I also don't believe Microsoft would have been willing to create the required OS platform for such a device to be successful. Again, read the book as it explains how even back then, it was all about Windows and pushing EVERYTHING and EVERYONE to that OS/env platform.


Bullsh*t (2)

multi io (640409) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693667)

Wait, so Myhrvold conceived an "iPhone-like device" by imagining some kind of gadget that had a clock, contacts, calendar and email? By that standard, Palm Inc. not only conceived, but actually designed and built an "iPhone-like device", called it "Palm Pilot" and sold it by the millions. Hooray.

Old News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693669)

MC Uses Time Machines Irresponsibly already gave Bill Gates his iPhone in 1973

Step one... (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693743)

...have a billion dollar fortune 50 company be in existence for 30+ years.

Step 2: Dig up any one of the hundreds of thousands of people who worked there who had an idea once that someone in the company shot down, bonus points if its a CxO level character and full bonus if its someone that lots of people have heard of.

Step 3: Profit? Does anyone think that a smartphone like product in the days before cell networks were fleshed out, could carry data at more than an actual snails pace and a nascent internet would be of interest to anyone at all for any reason? Yeah, me neither. People dont buy smartphones because they spontaneously polish your knob at random intervals, they buy them to access apps, data and content. And none of that existed in 1991 and probably wouldnt havent flown in 2001 either.

So microsoft was smart to tell Nathan 'no' when they did and they'd have been smart to do it ten years later. The infrastructure simply wasnt there. The iphone succeeded because they offered a full content solution bundled with it (itunes, app store) and we had a well developed internet infrastructure for it to fit into.

Cart, horse.

Microsoft would have been even smarter to not try and foist a windows based offering when they did do a phone. I dont really want windows on my PC, and I sure as hell dont need it on a phone. We already have two working phone operating systems. Lets put our time and money behind those instead of creating more 3rd and 4th options that'll never succeed. Ask RIMM, Nokia and HP about it, they've experienced the joys. Oh wait, dont ask Nokia, they were stupid once in this regard and chose to fix their stupidity by choosing the #3 option. Sell any of their stock that you're holding while its still worth something.

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39693841)

All of these companies are stupid for not building my spaceship idea. meh.

Different world back in 1990 (1)

gorfie (700458) | more than 2 years ago | (#39693847)

I'm sorry, but the technology was very different back in 1990. I remember a world with gray-scale gameboys and $2000 386 machines with 40MB hard drives boasting a screen resolution of 640x480. Phones were mounted to cars or carried around in bags.

Imagine a hand-held touch-screen device using technology from 1990. It would be bulky and heavy. It would run very hot. It would have terrible graphics capabilities and you wouldn't have a popular market place for developers to share their work.

It would have failed miserably.

yea ok (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39694273)

they could have bought a vuege idea and a picture, the reality of it though is in 1991, that thing in the sketch is about as big as JUST the battery of my celphone, chips were thich enough to measure with a ruler, and LCD's were still garbage and still expensive. So what they passed on vaporware, its not like having a phone like that helped the ones who actually developed something similar (IBM)

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