or Connect
AppleInsider › Forums › General › General Discussion › Apple said 'no thanks' to cellular Newton PDA in the '90s
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Apple said 'no thanks' to cellular Newton PDA in the '90s

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
In an interview with Charlie Rose on Wednesday, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said Apple turned down an offer to incorporate the company's radio technology in the Newton PDA, a move that would have created a proto-iPhone smart device.

Newton
Apple's Newton Message Pad 2000 with expansion slots. | Source: Aaron Eiche


During the interview, Jacobs told Rose (via VentureBeat) that before smartphones existed, he pitched an idea to Apple that had in it the basic underpinnings of the now prolific mobile technology: a Newton PDA with embedded Qualcomm radio for cellular communication. The idea was rebuffed and Jacobs took his plan to now-defunct PDA maker Palm, which ultimately partnered with the company to create the Qualcomm pdQ.

While largely a forgotten device in a sea of mobile electronics from the 1990s, the pdQ is arguably one of the first smartphones to hit the consumer market. The application driven OS and mobile capabilities were a precursor to modern products like Apple's iPhone and offerings from Android handset makers.

At the time, Apple chose to go another way with the Newton, offering customers expansion slots for customizable connectivity options instead of building in a dedicated radio, which would have added heft to the already large device. Even Qualcomm's offering, seen as a kind of hybridization of the PDA and cell phone, was gigantic compared to today's standards.

From a CNN feature from 1999 regarding the pdQ:

The unit itself is fairly large for a cell phone. At 6.2 inches tall, 2.6 inches wide and 1.4 inches thick, it is too large to fit into a shirt pocket comfortably. It can slip into the pants pocket of a pair of khakis, although a belt holster would be more appropriate. Weightwise, it comes in at around 9.8 ounces, but isnt uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time while talking.


Compare those specs to the iPhone 5's svelte chassis standing 4.87 inches tall, 2.31 inches wide and 0.3 inches thick with a weight of 3.95 ounces, not to mention the bevy of cellular and communications radios, 4-inch Retina display, speedy A6 processor and advanced microchips Apple was able to cram into the small aluminum housing.

Still, Jacobs' story offers a look at what might have been given Apple's strong performance in the smartphone market that many believe was brought into the mainstream with the first iPhone in 2005.

Jacobs will be kicking off the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week with a keynote speech, replacing the usual speaker Microsoft's Steve Ballmer.
post #2 of 24

 

That was the secret mainstream iPhone, right?

post #3 of 24
Did you read Defying Gravity, the story of the Newton's development? The development team definitely wanted both kinds of connectivity (what would come to be wifi and cellular data) in the device, but were hobbled by factors such as (1) it would've made the unit cost about $4000 at the time and (2) such a device presented a threat to the Mac department, who didn't want yet another pirate flag raised against the leading product (the way they'd done themselves against the Apple II earlier, and seeing how tablets and smartphones now replace certain computer functions, with good reason... not that that's an excuse for hobbling the project politically). http://www.amazon.com/Defying-Gravity-The-Making-Newton/dp/0941831949
post #4 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by jjm3 View Post

Did you read Defying Gravity, the story of the Newton's development? The development team definitely wanted both kinds of connectivity (what would come to be wifi and cellular data) in the device, but were hobbled by factors such as (1) it would've made the unit cost about $4000 at the time and (2) such a device presented a threat to the Mac department, who didn't want yet another pirate flag raised against the leading product (the way they'd done themselves against the Apple II earlier, and seeing how tablets and smartphones now replace certain computer functions, with good reason... not that that's an excuse for hobbling the project politically). http://www.amazon.com/Defying-Gravity-The-Making-Newton/dp/0941831949

 

While the technology has obviously evolved greatly to make all of this possible (at a much lower cost), it seems that Apple evolved in some important ways, namely being willing to cannibalize their own products (ideally in a controlled and systematic way.) Today I have no doubt that they won't mind terribly if the iPad ends up replacing the Mac. For many users it likely will in fact. I'll go further and suggest that iPad is a closer manifestation of what Steve Jobs originally wanted to achieve with the original Mac: A very consumer-oriented, sealed, non-expandable, easy to use computing appliance.

The state is nothing more than a criminal gang writ large.

Reply

The state is nothing more than a criminal gang writ large.

Reply
post #5 of 24

It probably would've been a good idea for Steve to instruct his people to patent such a variation "just in case". Ah, history... You are difficult to face in retrospect.


Edited by SpamSandwich - 1/3/13 at 4:32pm

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

Reply

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

Reply
post #6 of 24
Ballmer is not giving the CES keynote? That sounds like the bigger story.
post #7 of 24

A little mix-up in the timeline on this story.

 

Apple brought out the Newton in 1993 and there were only three national wireless data networks, CDPD (data over analog) and two data only networks ARDIS and Ericsson's Mobitex (max speeds 12kbps).   All slow by today's standards.

 

Motorola was licensed by Apple to make wireless Newtons using all three technologies, but Motorola only brought out the ARDIS version, a product we called 'Marco' before Steve Jobs came back and killed the Newton product line.  I remember manufacturing about 8,000 - 10,000 units, and demonstrating in a handful of countries (USA, Canada, Australia...)

 

Motorola also brought out a General Magic OS/ARDIS version.   While the products could demonstrate transmitting a voice message, they never had two-way phone capability.

 

Qualcomm's 2G CDMA data network, IS-95 wasn't available until after the Newton was on life support. 

 

Paul Jacobs has been a great industry visionary, and I'm sure he would have loved to put a mobile radio in a Newton, but it couldn't have gotten much past wishful thinking.  There wasn't a reliable national network that could support hundreds of thousands of devices.  And, even then it wasn't economical to develop products that couldn't be massed produced.

 

JF


Edited by digitalFlack - 1/3/13 at 4:57pm
post #8 of 24

Funny

 

I saw him at CES last year and drank the Windows 8 Koolaid.   The product manager's daughter was playing football with Elmo on Kinnect, great demo.

 

I still believe that eventually Microsoft will get it right. Remember Windows 95, Win 3.0, 386, Win CE, NT, Vista, Win 7, et cetera?   Eventually, like AT&T and Bell Labs, companies with a lot of money and R&D will get it right.  Let Apple, Palm and General Magic be the risky pioneers.... and take the arrows!  Most die, some carry on.... if they have Steve Jobs.

 

MS has Kinnect and Xbox in their favor.   Google has goggles and glass... and advertising.

 

Place your money

 

JF

post #9 of 24
Originally Posted by digitalFlack View Post
I still believe that eventually Microsoft will get it right. Remember Windows 95, Win 3.0, 386, Win CE, NT, Vista, Win 7, et cetera?

 

So you can fail thirty billion times, plunging the entire industry into darkness along the way, basing your software on stolen intellectual property as long as, at some point in the nonexistent future, you "will get it right"?


MS has Kinnect and Xbox in their favor.   Google has goggles and glass... and advertising.

 

Place your money

 

100% on Apple and let it ride.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalFlack View Post

I still believe that eventually Microsoft will get it right. Remember Windows 95, Win 3.0, 386, Win CE, NT, Vista, Win 7, et cetera?   Eventually, like AT&T and Bell Labs, companies with a lot of money and R&D will get it right.  Let Apple, Palm and General Magic be the risky pioneers.... and take the arrows!  Most die, some carry on.... if they have Steve Jobs.

 

Your statement carries the implication that there's some small, young, innovative startup (Apple) that is paving the way and taking all the risks in some new markets while the older, larger, stable industry vanguard (Microsoft) waits to get it all right and eventually take over the market. If this is your implication it is a rather interesting analysis given the following:

 

  • Apple has a current market cap TWICE Microsoft's (and Google's)
  • Apple revenue is TWICE Microsoft's (and more that 3X Google's)
  • Apple PROFIT is about 2.5X Microsoft's (and about 4X Google's) and margins at least as good as MS (and better than Google's.)
  • It appears to have growing market share in phones and strong and (so far) stable and large market share in tablets

 

And, finally:

 

  • Apple isn't exactly FIRST to any of the markets it's been playing in (music players, smart phones, tablets, digital music/movies/books, TV, etc.) It is, in a few cases, a relative latecomer. It is simply doing it better than was done before.

 

These facts actually put Apple in the position of the one sitting back and letting others be the risky pioneers on many things while waiting to swoop in with a better execution of a product, service, software, ecosystem that ends up taking over the market.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalFlack View Post

MS has Kinnect and Xbox in their favor.   Google has goggles and glass... and advertising.

 

And Apple has a pretty strong OS+App ecosystem.

The state is nothing more than a criminal gang writ large.

Reply

The state is nothing more than a criminal gang writ large.

Reply
post #11 of 24
I had a Newton and often wished it was paired up with or included a phone. Sigh! It wasn't to be. Notice, too, that the Palm device did not create the smartphone market.

Like the Newton, it was a concept simply ahead its time. The market was not ready for either.
post #12 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalFlack View Post

A little mix-up in the timeline on this story.

 

Apple brought out the Newton in 1993 and there were only three national wireless data networks, CDPD (data over analog) and two data only networks ARDIS and Ericsson's Mobitex (max speeds 12kbps).   All slow by today's standards.

 

Motorola was licensed by Apple to make wireless Newtons using all three technologies, but Motorola only brought out the ARDIS version, a product we called 'Marco' before Steve Jobs came back and killed the Newton product line.  I remember manufacturing about 8,000 - 10,000 units, and demonstrating in a handful of countries (USA, Canada, Australia...)

 

Motorola also brought out a General Magic OS/ARDIS version.   While the products could demonstrate transmitting a voice message, they never had two-way phone capability.

 

Qualcomm's 2G CDMA data network, IS-95 wasn't available until after the Newton was on life support. 

 

Paul Jacobs has been a great industry visionary, and I'm sure he would have loved to put a mobile radio in a Newton, but it couldn't have gotten much past wishful thinking.  There wasn't a reliable national network that could support hundreds of thousands of devices.  And, even then it wasn't economical to develop products that couldn't be massed produced.

 

JF

Yes, you've got this completely right. This would have been completely impractical at the time (virtually a practical impossibility)

The story headline makes it sound like apple really "blew it" by "passing up" an obvious, instant "opportunity".

post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

In an interview with Charlie Rose on Wednesday, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said Apple turned down an offer to incorporate the company's radio technology in the Newton PDA, a move that would have created a proto-iPhone smart device.
 
During the interview, Jacobs told Rose (via VentureBeat) that before smartphones existed, he pitched an idea to Apple that had in it the basic underpinnings of the now prolific mobile technology: a Newton PDA with embedded Qualcomm radio for cellular communication. The idea was rebuffed and Jacobs took his plan to now-defunct PDA maker Palm, which ultimately partnered with the company to create the Qualcomm pdQ.
 

 

That brings back a few memories.

 

But proto-iPhone? I don't think so. I think it would have created a more expensive and only marginally more functional flop. There were more problems with the Newton platform than just the lack of wireless data. A lack of speed and memory, for one thing. I had the Newton 130, with all the bells and whistles. I had a PCMCIA modem card (I think it was a 3COM with a pop-up phone jack, which was pretty cool back in the day), and I could dial-up and access the web at 14.4Kbps speed and use the TCP/IP stack and clunky NetHopper web browser (which cost about $100). Again, the Newton was so slow and possessed so little memory that the evolving world wide web quickly left the Newton's web browser in the dust.

 

What it was like to surf the web on a Newton:

http://www.pencomputing.com/archive/PCM_11/nethopper.html

 

Being first to market wouldn't have meant anything because the resulting product would not have been a game changer. During the Newton era, 3COM (later spun off as Palm) showed that a non-wireless PDA could be plenty successful with the right combination of price, simplicity, performance and functionality. The PalmPilot (the original name for the Palm PDAs) took off not because it had a radio or a phone, but because it was more affordable, DEAD SIMPLE to sync with a computer (the Newton wasn't, something that Apple eventually got right with the first iPod), and did what it was supposed to do without horrible lag or humorously finicky handwriting woes, and above all, pocketable. Apple grew the Newton in size and speed and cost, topping over $1000 for a Newton 2000, but by then, the market chose Palm as the PDA of choice, leaving Microsoft and its OEM partners chasing 3COM's formula.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
Reply

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
Reply
post #14 of 24
I wish I could have bought an iPhone back in 2005, maybe AI can share where they bought theirs from?
iPad, Macbook Pro, iPhone, heck I even have iLife! :-)
Reply
iPad, Macbook Pro, iPhone, heck I even have iLife! :-)
Reply
post #15 of 24

Right on the money. I wonder why M$ backers don't get it. Third time lucky didn't work in the MP3 player market, and won't work in the tablet or smart phone market.

 

The iPhone was never supposed to get into the corporate environment, but it did on a wave of demand even the most conservative CIO couldn't resist. Same with the iPad.

 

Surface will flop because it's not a compelling value proposition. To make Office work acceptably you need a keyboard and mouse, and the keyboard offerings it comes with require a kickstand to support the screen, since the keyboard doesn't have the rigidity to lock the screen into a fixed position. That makes it into a laptop you can't use on your lap.

 

The biggest difference between Apple now and Microsoft 1995 is that Apple has good design to back up its market dominance. Microsoft only had corporate buy-in (initially riding IBM's coat tails), and lock-in by breaking standards (remember their battle with Sun over their non-standard Java?). While Apple sometimes gets this wrong too, on the whole, their products are standards-compliant, meaning they are substitutable if they don't perform (e.g. their mail clients work with most email servers, and you can replace the default mail client if you don't like it). I use a mix of Apple, Google and Mozilla clients and they all just work on my Mac (with very similar levels of standards compliance to my Linux box).

 

What the vast majority of corporate IT managers get wrong is they don't get the difference between a monopoly and a standards organization. In that respect we are a lot better off with Apple than Microsoft, who have imposed their own "standards" in the form of poor-quality servers that are hard to ditch when they don't work as you want them to, like Exchange.

 

IBM became a great company by looking after their customers; although they also used lock-in and tried hard to avoid standards compliance, there was some truth to "no one ever got fired for buying IBM". Their product generally worked and when it didn't they helped the customer solve the problem. What many CIOs don't get is that the sort of product Microsoft sells does not lend itself to that level of support. If it breaks big time, it's your problem, not Microsoft's.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MJ1970 View Post

 

Your statement carries the implication that there's some small, young, innovative startup (Apple) that is paving the way and taking all the risks in some new markets while the older, larger, stable industry vanguard (Microsoft) waits to get it all right and eventually take over the market. If this is your implication it is a rather interesting analysis given the following:

 

  • Apple has a current market cap TWICE Microsoft's (and Google's)
  • Apple revenue is TWICE Microsoft's (and more that 3X Google's)
  • Apple PROFIT is about 2.5X Microsoft's (and about 4X Google's) and margins at least as good as MS (and better than Google's.)
  • It appears to have growing market share in phones and strong and (so far) stable and large market share in tablets

 

And, finally:

 

  • Apple isn't exactly FIRST to any of the markets it's been playing in (music players, smart phones, tablets, digital music/movies/books, TV, etc.) It is, in a few cases, a relative latecomer. It is simply doing it better than was done before.

 

These facts actually put Apple in the position of the one sitting back and letting others be the risky pioneers on many things while waiting to swoop in with a better execution of a product, service, software, ecosystem that ends up taking over the market.

 

 

And Apple has a pretty strong OS+App ecosystem.

Philip Machanick creator of Opinionations and Green Grahamstown
Department of Computer Science, Rhodes University, South Africa

Reply

Philip Machanick creator of Opinionations and Green Grahamstown
Department of Computer Science, Rhodes University, South Africa

Reply
post #16 of 24

The time wasn't ripe. It would have been just another failed revolutionary product from Apple as the Lisa was. And Apple wasn't in the economical shape to bear that.

post #17 of 24
Quote:

Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post
 

During the interview, Jacobs told Rose (via VentureBeat) that before smartphones existed, he pitched an idea to Apple that had in it the basic underpinnings of the now prolific mobile technology: a Newton PDA with embedded Qualcomm radio for cellular communication. The idea was rebuffed and Jacobs took his plan to now-defunct PDA maker Palm, which ultimately partnered with the company to create the Qualcomm pdQ.


While largely a forgotten device in a sea of mobile electronics from the 1990s, the pdQ is arguably one of the first smartphones to hit the consumer market. The application driven OS and mobile capabilities were a precursor to modern products like Apple's iPhone and offerings from Android handset makers.

 

The pdQ wasn't one of the first smartphones. Smartphones like the Nokia 9000 Communicator predate it by at least three years.

 

The original smartphones used dial-up to access the internet and most supported fax. We've come a long way!

post #18 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by macaholic_1948 View Post
Like the Newton, it was a concept simply ahead its time. The market was not ready for either.

When I read stories like this, I wonder what other products are sitting in the labs "fermenting" waiting for the market and requisite technologies to catch up.

 

Maybe Apple has really great 3D augmented reality glasses being worked on by a few people in a lab. Or eInk infused cloth that changes colors.

 

Remember the Knowledge Navigator? Still not all here yet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bjve67p33E

post #19 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by macaholic_1948 View Post

I had a Newton and often wished it was paired up with or included a phone. Sigh! It wasn't to be. Notice, too, that the Palm device did not create the smartphone market.
Like the Newton, it was a concept simply ahead its time. The market was not ready for either.

That's not what killed the Newton.   What killed the Newton was that the big marketing push for the device was for handwriting recognition and it did that extremely poorly.   So people laughed at it.   It was also pretty expensive, but if the handwriting recognition had worked (or if it had an embedded keyboard), it probably would have been relatively successful as the Palm was later on. 

post #20 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by macaholic_1948 View Post

I had a Newton and often wished it was paired up with or included a phone. Sigh! It wasn't to be. Notice, too, that the Palm device did not create the smartphone market.
Like the Newton, it was a concept simply ahead its time. The market was not ready for either.

The technology want ready either. It needed something super compelling to attract the market but it didn't have it. Great product but not compelling. The initial marketing and pushing by execs to have handwriting recognition did major PR damage. They eventually got it right but it still wasn't compelling and it was too late. I had one. I used it to report live at the first WalterCon for ZetaNews.com. After that, I got a Zodiac and then an iPhone when Tapwave failed. The Newton was the more interesting but bulkier and harder to actually operate (the stylus pressure required was ridiculous and the size of the whole thing, and the associated accessories, just wasn't convenient).
post #21 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

That's not what killed the Newton.   What killed the Newton was that the big marketing push for the device was for handwriting recognition and it did that extremely poorly.   So people laughed at it.   It was also pretty expensive, but if the handwriting recognition had worked (or if it had an embedded keyboard), it probably would have been relatively successful as the Palm was later on. 

 

Posters here have brought up several things that killed the Newton, but yes, the handwriting recognition was definitely the most publicized.   The Doonesbury cartoon constantly made fun of it.

 

1000

Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

The pdQ wasn't one of the first smartphones. Smartphones like the Nokia 9000 Communicator predate it by at least three years.

 

The touchscreen IBM Simon, first publicly shown in 1993, was the first smartphone sold, IIRC:

 

1000

 

Quote:
The original smartphones used dial-up to access the internet and most supported fax. We've come a long way!

 

Yeah, those were fun but tough times.   For every smartphone or PDA with a dialup modem in use, the phone company had to have a corresponding virtual modem on their side.   This got expensive for the carriers pretty quickly.

 

So most switched to all digital like CDPD.  Around 2000 I had a PDA with IE 4 and a 19.2Kbps CDPD card.  Talk about state of the art remote browsing.   

 

The biggest downside at the time, was that those data connections were often billed by connection TIME, not number of bytes sent.    You had to really plan ahead to download, go offline, create responses, then go online again and do a batch send.    Whenever someone complains about paying for data per byte, they should be glad it's that way instead of billing like a phone call !

post #22 of 24
We should count our blessings. Had Newton taken off, Apple would have had variant operating systems just like MS had WinCE and Windows. Instead, we have the iPhone, based off the OS X kernel, and the whole ecosystem benefited. I'm glad it went this direction.
post #23 of 24

Ironically, when Jobs went to develop iPod, many from the Newton team helped to develop it.
 


Edited by White Lotus - 1/6/13 at 6:21pm
post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by White Lotus View Post

Ironically, when Jobs went to develop iPhone, many from the Newton team helped to develop it.
 

 

Never heard that.   Got any references?   Thanks!

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Discussion
AppleInsider › Forums › General › General Discussion › Apple said 'no thanks' to cellular Newton PDA in the '90s