iPhone 0.9

January 29th, 2007

TUAW points us to a a choice Newton video, from 1993. In spite of some dated production qualities, this video could serve as a template for marketing the greatest features of the iPhone. Syncing, address books, To Dos, “instant messages.” Lots of features ripe for comparison with the iPhone and other modern devices. It even “squirts” (beams) like a Zune!.

The best part of the video? In the midst of all this enlightened modern living, the video shows a man scribbling away on his Newton while talking on the phone. A pay phone! If only they could somehow combine those two devices! I also like the knowing look and raised eyebrows one worker gives to another just before she “beams” him a message. A subtle suggestion that Newton might actually get you laid.

I never used a Newton much, although I occasionally had my hands on one at work for some debugging purpose. Some of the design considerations really pop out, like the fact that the Newton was almost entirely “soft button” based, much like its nascent offspring. The soft QWERTY keyboard is even reminiscent of the iPhone’s, except that with the Newton it was only intended to be used when the handwriting recognition made a mistake.

Which it did. A lot. Many people consider the failure of adequate recognition on the Newton, and the basically functional compromise of Palm’s “Grafitti” to have been the death blow for the gadget. Amid all the happy music and smiling people, you can tell the issue was weighing heavy on Apple’s mind, too. Halfway through the video the topic changes to “handwriting tips” and more or less stays on the subject for the rest of the promo.

If Apple presents iPhone along with a promotional video that is half devoted to teaching users how to workaround the device’s bugs, then we’ll know it’s doomed.

4 Responses to “iPhone 0.9”

  1. Gavin Says:

    When Apple created the company Newton Technologies Inc., around the same time they were talking to NeXT, the Newton OS 2.1 was really good at recognising handwriting. So much so, that you could specify exactly how each character was written, how closely spaced your words were, cursive, printed or mixed. And if I remember correctly, you could even check a button for guest use.

    Combine this with a 166MHz processor in the MessagePad 2100 and you had a fast, responsive system with tried-and-true software supporting you. As of the MessagePad 2000 the printed buttons on the bottom were configureable, and the orientation could be switched to widescreen by menu option.

    Apple still owns all of the technology that came from the Newton. Ink, part of Mac OS X since Jaguar, is a direct descendant of Newton technology. Universal resources, such as address book (Names) and calendar (Dates), are things in Mac OS X pretty much taken for granted, and hardly realised as born from the Newton.

    Steve Jobs may have had a dislike for the Newton (“scribbly little thing”), but perhaps it was for the stylus, not the idea itself. Yep, I’m a Newton fan, and I tried to persist with it right up through Mac OS 9. Mac OS X killed the Newton, not Steve Jobs.

  2. Tom Harrington Says:

    I think I still have that video around somewhere on VHS. I like how in the email demo, the message clearly reads “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog”. That was the best demo they could come up with?

    One bit of trivia that’s often forgotten these days is that Palm’s Grafitti was originally an application you could buy and install on your Newton (or other PDAs of the era). I didn’t want to admit it was necessary on the 1xx series Newtons, but once I tried the demo I had to have it. Not in the “this is fantastic, I’ve gotta have it” way, but in the “I have to have this if I want to make this device useful” way.

  3. Bob Peterson Says:

    I still own two 2100s. With wired network card (wireless cell cards only worked in California). I still love my babies, even if I don’t haul them out of their safe spot much.

    And yes, at least “Sphinx of black quartz judge my vow” would have been a bit more interesting than the fox saw.

  4. Andy Lee Says:

    You wrote:

    A subtle suggestion that Newton might actually get you laid.

    I’m reminded of this:

    “How will this software get my users laid” should be on the minds of anyone writing social software (and these days, almost all software is social software).

    Chris Hanson referenced it on his blog a few days ago, but I was first pointed to it last year, by a former boss. I wonder if a new term could be coined — “laidware” or “bootyware” or something.

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