[NTLK] Interesting historical snippet.

James Fraser wheresthatistanbul-newtontalk at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 5 17:22:11 EST 2013


--- On Tue, 2/5/13, Joel Sciamma <joel at inventors-emporium.co.uk> wrote:

> It looks like there were ideas
> floating around to make the Newton more connected:
> http://www.macworld.co.uk/ipad-iphone/news/?newsid=3418625

At first glance, it does look like Apple dropped the ball on this one.

However, Larry Tesler talks here about why Apple decided not to try to combine a Newton with a phone for what might have been one of the earliest smartphones:

> Another omitted story is that early on, I hired a business 
> anthropologist, Eleanor Wynn, to interview customers and find 
> the right application for Newton. She concluded it would sell 
> best to police and fire departments, medical clinics, and other > vertical markets. Tchao, Capps, and others did not want to hear > this. They rejected the study, ran their own focus group, and 
> concluded that the Newton should be a Sharp Wizard-like 
> organizer for mobile professionals. As it turned out, Eleanor's > study was right on the mark. She had accurately predicted the 
> eventual market in which the Newton was most successful.

> There were consistent messages from both studies, though: (1) a > cell phone should be incorporated; (2) natural handwriting was > essential--the customers were adamant that they would never 
> learn a stylized script. We ignored (1) because it was then 
> uneconomical. We believed (2) and struggled to make handwriting > work, but the PalmPilot later proved that customers would 
> indeed learn a stylized script. 


I'm not sure Larry Tesler necessarily made the wrong decision, seeing as how the Qualcomm pdQ wasn't all that great when it did come out:

> The original Qualcomm pdQ wasn’t very good–I later described it > as “a Palm glued to a phone.” It had all the functionality of a > Palm 3 PDA and a typical CDMA phone of the late 1990s, but 
> virtually no integration between the two sets of features. As I > recall, you couldn’t even dial the phone by looking up a 
> contact on the Palm and tapping the number. 

And, apparently, didn't sell all that well, either:

> The only real advantage was that you got to carry one big 
> device instead of two smaller ones. Needless to say, it sold 
> poorly.


Perhaps more to the point, by the time the pdQ made its appearance in the summer of 1999 (the below excerpt is from a Businessweek column dated July 18, 1999):

> The pdQ phone indicates the strengths and weaknesses of the 
> superphone approach. The phone, which will come on the market 
> this summer as Qualcomm negotiates deals with carriers, is 
> expected to cost between $500 and $800, 


..the Newton had been in its grave since February of the previous year.

I wonder what would have happened if Qualcomm -had- partnered with Apple, only to have Apple pull the rug out from under them?

According to the first tinyURL link above, Qualcomm ended up selling their handset division sometime around 2001 anyway.  However, it sounds like their decision to do so was based on poor sales, and that Qualcomm was able to exit the handset business in a relatively leisurely manner, selling the division to Kyocera.

Imagine, instead, being the head of Qualcomm in Q1 1998 and getting a phone call from Steve Jobs telling you that, by the way, the platform you'd hoped to pair your company's phone with was no more. :/


James Fraser

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