Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Today was the big day — With great fanfare Apple announced their new tablet computer — the iPad. It was pretty much what all the pundits were expecting — maybe even a little less. I was reminded of a similar level of hype around the launch of the Apple Newton back in the early nineties. The product was positioned as a game changer — a whole new paradigm of computing. I bought into the hype and splurged on the first generation Newton. It had wonderfully snappy performance as long as you had nothing on it, but it really bogged down when you loaded it up with, say, your full address book. I bought a few accessories including the monstrous 2 MB card (I believe it was something like $175.00). It was a little big — too wide to comfortably hold in one hand. But It did have a wonderfully grippy surface — one of the first products to have a rubbery coating on its plastic shell. Created in a dark grey-green color, it was released without its ultra cool batman hinged screen cover (that had been revealed in prototype photos) — a real shame. Its much vaulted handwriting recognition was a little ahead of its time and proved to be its Achilles heel. After a couple of generations the product was quietly withdrawn.
The diminutive Palm Pilot walked away with resounding success a short time later and the category was eventually ceded to Palm, Compaq and HP for the next decade. Eventually the Smart phones took over this functionality. I recently found my old Newton — alas, the battery holder is lost so I can't fire it up and see the old monochrome, pen-interface.