Cleaning out my Big Drawer of Geeky T-Shirts (the new one that came out of my recent Google visit just refused to fit), I ran across my original Newton Developers’ Conference t-shirt. I’m pretty sure there was only the one conference, and yes, I was there. As the shirt says:
A smart step for Newton.
A giant leap in technology.
And a long time ago.
I think that if Apple pulls off the iPhone/iPod Touch third-party apps the way they might (and I know that’s an “if”, not a given), they’ll do what they tried to do 15 years ago with the Newton – make a PDA that’s really mainstream. And, no,
I don’t think that exists right now. I see a lot of people with some kind of mobile device, but as far as I can tell, they’re primarily checking email, messages and websites. The majority of mobile users aren’t using most of the features, capacity and power of their devices.
What’s different? Quite a bit, including how much better technology is now than 15 years ago, and that the market’s in a very different state. Michael Mace wrote, several weeks ago: that
An elegant business model paired with mediocre technology beats an elegant technology paired with a mediocre business model.
and I think that the difference between the way Newton and iPhone hit the streets is a great illustration of that.
Apple’s learned a lot. I say: good for them. Many companies don’t. Here’s one opinion of the mistakes Apple made with Newton, and the critical difference between what they did then and what they do now.