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Handhelds Portables

Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago 272

Posted by Soulskill
from the beginning-of-the-end dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Here's another story of a tech gadget that arrived before its time. Nokia created a web-ready tablet running EPOC (later to be renamed as Symbian) thirteen years ago. The tablet was set to go into full production, and they actually built a thousand units just before it was canceled. The tablet was scrubbed because market research showed there wasn't demand for the device. The team got devices for themselves and the rest were destroyed. The team was then fired. The lesson: Don't try to be pioneer if you're relying on market research studies."
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Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @02:50PM (#46771515)
    and resistive touchscreen, USB 1.0, running on AA batteries.

    In other words, not ready for prime time.
    • by Altus (1034)

      assuming its a touch screen at all.

      • Remember the Nokia 770 [wikipedia.org]? That did not sell that much either and was another Nokia tablet. They never knew how to commercialize products that well.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:30PM (#46772123)

          They never knew how to commercialize products that well.

          Speaking as an ex Nokian here; though one who escaped around 2004 when I realised things were had gone downhill and were going much worse:

          Nokia was excellent at commercializing many things. What made Nokia win over Ericsson and everyone else was logistics, advertising and sales; the fundamentals of commercialisation. The product handling was perfectly designed to deliver the best, most reliable (== lowest support cost) thing at the least price. Then the management went onto a "five phones every six months" cycle and paused any chance of making things that win. They; sorry; OPK specifically; believed that technology and quality was irrelevant. That the brand was all that mattered and that you could sell anything with the Nokia brand. They did wake up later and start to produce excellent things like the Noka N9, however most of the Nokia Mobile Phones people still don't understand why that was better than the windows phones (hint; try having 2000 contacts in a windows phone) and just believe in shiny shiny.

          It's not enough to commercialise. If it was, Lumia would work. You just can't easily sell crap. You have to have a good product that people serious users start to deeply love. An old, original, Nokia 6310 is still a better product than any phone on the market today. In some places the sales price for one of those is much much higher than the price of a new Lumia. If the people who made and marketed the 6310 had pushed the N9 and especially the N950 in the same way then the story would be completely different.

    • by Spazmania (174582) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:29PM (#46772107) Homepage

      That's the thing The capacitive multitouch screen makes tablets practical. Before that they were just toys. Nokia made the right call for the time.

      • by morgauxo (974071) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:50PM (#46772445)

        Why is capacitive touch so important? Multi-touch is cool but I use my Android phone all the time and for just about everything. The only multi-touch gesture I even know is pinch zoom/out. I go whole days without using that and if I didn't have it some sort of disappearing slider would suit me just fine.

        I miss the resistive touch screen on my Sharp Zaurus. No, I didn't HAVE to use the stylus. For the normal stuff I do with my capacitive touch screen now I usually just 'clicked' with my fingernail. But... if I wanted to draw a picture, write something (actual handwriting), or use tiny controls (such as desktop apps via VNC) I could do that with a stylus. Capacitive touch screens CANNOT DO THAT!!! they are way too inprecise.

        Ideally I would like to have both. My understanding is that some company has a patent on a touch screen which is basically just both a capacitive and a resistive sensor stacked. That way you can have precise single-touch sensing AND multitouch. I have yet to see any product though. It is just wonderful that we have a system where companies can patent good ideas without ever making them available to people who might want to buy them!

        • by jones_supa (887896) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:57PM (#46772583)

          Why is capacitive touch so important? Multi-touch is cool but I use my Android phone all the time and for just about everything.

          It's not only about multitouch. Capacitive touchscreens are more accurate to use with a bare finger than resistive ones, which call for a stylus.

        • by LurkerXXX (667952)

          >Why is capacitive touch so important

          Because most resistive screens sucked, that's why. I worked with quite a number of them, and yeah, sometimes they worked with a thumbnail, and sometimes they didn't. Not acceptable for use.

          We had these and a number of other tablets. If you wanted to actually get anything done, you used a stylus.

          http://www.fujitsu.com/hk/news... [fujitsu.com]

        • The Sony Xperia Z Ultra has a multi-touch screen that you can also use a stylus with [sonymobile.com] to get more precision.
    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:34PM (#46772163)

      In other words, not ready for prime time.

      Indeed. There were tablet computers in the 1990s and even 1980s. Tablets didn't become mainstream in the 2010s because someone just thought of it, but because acceptable hardware was finally available.

      • by ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:40PM (#46772283)
        Moses even had tablets, but they were pretty slow I'm told.
      • by boristdog (133725)

        Ah, the GRID was the NEXT BIG THING back in the early 90's, but it died with a whimper.

      • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @04:52PM (#46773399) Homepage Journal
        Growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, I saw Tablet Computer prototypes come up every couple of years. Sometimes they would even make it to market, where they hit with a resounding thud thanks to their horrible clunky OS choices, lack of applications, and hardware limitations. Apple tinkered with the iPad for years before finally releasing it, waiting until the infrastructure grew up to make the device practical. They actually worked on the iPad before the iPhone.

        Technologies that had to mature before the tablet computers became practical:
        • Wifi networking.
        • Capacitive Touchscreens -- Most early designs used a stylus, which sucks, and had poor resolution to boot
        • Low power but still acceptably fast processors -- A huge sticking point, lots of early tablets had extremely poor battery life on top of being slow
        • A touch enabled OS -- WinCE is terrible to use with a finger, and really pretty bad with a stylus. Symbian was never great. PalmOS was too narrowly focused on Palm pilots
        • Battery capacity -- Battery technology has come a long way in the past 15 years. Early attempts would use NiCad batteries, which just aren't good enough, especially with the relatively high energy consumption figures from the old chips.

        Apple didn't have a smash hit with the iPad because they were the first to the market. They won because they tinkered and waited until the technology was ready, then came out with a solid finished well integrated product instead of some halfassed "laptop without a keyboard running a cut down version of Windows".

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      To be honest, I think capacitive touch is what made tablets and smartphones take off. Nothing else had a bigger impact for me. I did use a PDA with a stylus for a couple years in college. It was just a toy. Just not good enough to be taken seriously.

      • I remember using an old Compaq iPAQ PDA... but with Familiar Linux on it [wikipedia.org] instead of WinCE.

        One thing I noticed, no matter the OS, was that you occasionally had to re-calibrate the stupid screen so that it was accurate enough to use... and it was a fairly widespread thing (I think only Palm had their engineering together enough to not constantly require that.)

        I guess what I'm getting at is that not only was the capacitive screen a necessity, but so were drivers sufficiently tight enough to insure at least a

    • by morgauxo (974071)

      I would happily sacrifice the multi-touch capability that capacitive screens bring to get back the precision of a resistive one.

      • The Surface Pro tablets (and others) feature high-resolution pressure-sensitive stylus capabilities. Great for drawing and taking notes. Of course, you get to keep the multi-touch capacitive features. I'm surprised this doesn't get more press, because it is a great feature.
    • by sg_oneill (159032)

      i was working with touchscreens from AMX and Centron , admitedly at $10K+ a piece that had responsiveness not far off modern ipads.

      The tech was there, the pricepoint however was not.

  • ob Henry Ford (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @02:52PM (#46771545)

    "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse"

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Then there's the customer surveys that ask people if they'd like to see more salads and healthy foods in McDonalds.

      Of course they'd like to SEE it...but that's not why they go to McDonalds.

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        I'd like to see that too. They just haven't come out with many that taste very good.

        I go to McDonalds when I don't have time to prepare something and I don't want to spend too much on convenience. I often use that an excuse to eat bad food, but it's far from the only reason to go.

        They're also really bad at marketing those options as flavorful foods. In researching my reply, I see that they have a pretty good looking southwest chicken salad. Probably lacking in heat, but that's only a minor complaint...

        • by jandrese (485)

          What's annoying is the perception that salad is the only kind of food that qualifies as healthy.

          At McDonalds, this is probably an accurate perception, and only if you skip (or go very light on) the dressing. Even their yoghurt is questionable.

          • by omnichad (1198475)

            Their dressings are made by Newman's Own. Not bad stuff. Not particularly "real" but almost nobody's using anything but shelf-stable dressings. The primary ingredient on the list is water, so the dressing is somewhat thin.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:19PM (#46771971)

      "Well, you’re obviously being totally naive of course", said the girl, "When you’ve been in marketing as long as I have, you'll know that before any new product can be developed it has to be properly researched. We’ve got to find out what people want from fire, how they relate to it, what sort of image it has for them." The crowd were tense. They were expecting something wonderful from Ford.

      "Stick it up your nose," he said.

      "Which is precisely the sort of thing we need to know," insisted the girl, "Do people want fire that can be fitted nasally?"

      "And the wheel," said the Captain, "What about this wheel thingy? It sounds a terribly interesting project."

      "Ah," said the marketing girl, "Well, we're having a little difficulty there."

      "Difficulty?" exclaimed Ford. "Difficulty? What do you mean, difficulty? It's the single simplest machine in the entire Universe!"

      The marketing girl soured him with a look.

      "Alright, Mr. Wiseguy," she said, "if you're so clever, you tell us what colour it should be."

    • "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse"

      Too often, a quote is attributed to Ford simply because its touches upon success in business or innovation: He has become a patron saint of the entrepreneur... One of the more popular of these quotations is, ''If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse,'' which has never been satisfactorily traced to Henry Ford. In fact, the quote only begins to appear in the early 21st century, ''quoted'' by modern-day business gurus using it as an object lesson.

      Henry Ford's quotations [thehenryford.org]

      What people wanted was clean, affordable. mechanical horse power.

      The carriage without the horse. The barn. The stable-boy. The veterinarian. The manure pit.

  • by 50000BTU_barbecue (588132) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @02:52PM (#46771547) Homepage Journal
    don't be a Commodore.
  • by DontBlameCanada (1325547) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @02:53PM (#46771569)
    ... is that the vast majority of senior executives won't learn from these mistakes. They'll all listen to some talking head consultant (that they paid way too much for) consult some sort of magic crystal ball and claim "it won't fly!" What should've been the indication that it might catch on is the quote, "The team got devices for themselves."

    If the engineers think it's cool enough that they want one for personal use, it's probably a product that has a use that could be expanded from the tech-geek segment into something profitable.
    • by Altus (1034) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:02PM (#46771727) Homepage

      Honestly, looking at the design of that thing, I am not so sure it had a viable market. There were few wireless networks set up in 2000 it wasn't a given that every home had one. Cell data was expensive and slow. The device seems unwieldy and large and the controls don't look like they would be particularly easy to use. Also, what OS does it run, can it do anything but surf the web? Was the web on its own interesting enough in 2000 to make this a killer device? No streaming movies and TV shows, Spotify or any of those interesting services.

      Finally, what was the price going to be? Back then 500 would have been a tough sell and I would not be surprised if this device was more expensive than that.

      Timing really is everything. The tech needed to reach a certain level and honestly the web had to reach the point where having it in your hand and on the go was valuable to consumers. Sure you can't just ask people what they want but you also have to consider that a lot of things were different 13 years ago.

      • Also, what OS does it run, can it do anything but surf the web?

        EPOC [wikipedia.org] per TFA.

      • by tverbeek (457094)

        Was the web on its own interesting enough in 2000 to make this a killer device?

        Yes, it was. Were you still wading on CompuServ and Usenet or something at the time? :)

        Also, what OS does it run, can it do anything but surf the web?

        EPOC could do lots more than surf the web; it had apps for all the obvious personal-assistant functions (calendar, notes, to-do, contacts) and had a decent ecosystem of third-party apps. It powered the Psion PDAs (clamshells with decent thumb keyboards and stylus input), and was

        • by Altus (1034)

          You are comparing this device to other devices that honestly lacked the kind of popular appeal that modern tablets do. Sure, it was running a great OS for the time but that OS did not have the kind of app ecosystem that the iPad does. That ecosystem is pretty critical to the popularity of the device.

          and yes, check the UID, I was on line in 2000, quite a bit before that actually, and frankly the web was not the most interesting place for the mainstream. Sure, for hard core geeks it was great but that was

          • This, right here.

            Back then, anything starting with http:/// [http] was good for news, yahoo (for search), early discussion forums, downloading something, or pr0n.... and not much else. Banking hadn't come around yet, and flash games were barely in their infancy (heh - I can only imagine what it would take to run Flash on that thing.)

            Video, really? Animated GIFS often had better resolution and didn't take half a day to download. Speaking of download speeds, remember that DSL was just being rolled out - at a blazing

            • by tverbeek (457094)

              And EPOC worked in devices with great battery life. Mine would go much longer on a set of AAs than I do with my iPhone.

          • by tverbeek (457094)

            Yeah, I saw the low UID, which is why I wondered how you could be online and yet so unaware of what so many people were doing on the Web in 2000. Sure, it was mostly dial-up or bad DSL, but it was hardly just "hardcore geeks". They were e-mailing and chatting and looking at (still-image) porn and shopping and selling garbage on eBay, and talking about what a bust Y2K had been. There was that whole "dot-com bubble" that everyone was talking about (but not calling it a "bubble" yet because it was still the l

      • Reminds me of a 3Com Audry [wikipedia.org] another product that had marginal appeal and bad timing.

        In a lot of ways, Jobs was lucky with the iPad but he was also way smart in getting the iPhone out the door and accepted. No one, and I mean no one, had managed to get tablets to be anything but a niche item before the iPad. And people tried.

      • by RR (64484)

        Honestly, looking at the design of that thing, I am not so sure it had a viable market. There were few wireless networks set up in 2000 it wasn't a given that every home had one. Cell data was expensive and slow. The device seems unwieldy and large and the controls don't look like they would be particularly easy to use. Also, what OS does it run, can it do anything but surf the web? Was the web on its own interesting enough in 2000 to make this a killer device? No streaming movies and TV shows, Spotify or any of those interesting services.

        Were you around in 2000? I was. It was not a wasteland.

        WiFi was already starting to become popular. Apple introduced the Airport in 1999. By 2001, I had my own WiFi network, and my school had a (very poorly functioning) network. It wasn't a "given," but it was available to the savvy people who would buy that thing.

        The Web was already pretty interesting. There was streaming media, in the forms of RealPlayer, QuickTime, and Windows Media. Yahoo and Microsoft had webmail. Slashdot had fewer idiot editors. Amaz

    • by fermion (181285)
      This was not really an innovative product for the time. The Apple Newton had full network capability, for instance. I know I had it connected to the internet and think I had a basic web browser. When the internet was pushed to the public, there were a number of dedicated machines, or internet appliances, that were introduced to the market, most few have heard of because they were failures. WebTV was a big one, I only know how it worked because I had to visit a dealer to fix a bug on a website I was work
  • by butalearner (1235200) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @02:54PM (#46771591)
    The reason tablets became popular is because people had begun to use their phones in similar ways, and the price wasn't too outrageous. Microsoft had tablets before they became popular, too, but they didn't kick off the tablet craze. Pioneering technology is one part tech, ten parts timing.
    • The reason tablets became popular is because people had begun to use their phones in similar ways, and the price wasn't too outrageous. Microsoft had tablets before they became popular, too, but they didn't kick off the tablet craze. Pioneering technology is one part tech, ten parts timing.

      ...and a whole lot of marketing, I should have added.

    • Timing is very important. If the first to market always won, we would all be using Apple Newton 17s.

      But marketing is critically important too.

    • by rsclient (112577)

      I've used some of the earlier "internet tablets" (e.g., the Nokia N800) and PDA. Early machines had real issues with being powerful enough to actually work well -- something my low-end phone still struggles with.

      (Not to mention the terrible, terrible connection managers. For one particularly horrid PDA, I spent more time trying to get on the internet than actually using the internet)

    • by Klivian (850755)

      Microsoft had tablets before they became popular, too, but they didn't kick off the tablet craze.

      They did not become popular, but the major factor for that was simply price. Those tablet was ridicolusly expesive, they cost 3-10 times a similary specced laptop(CPU/RAM/Disk). What was sold, was geared to special user scenarious suporting dedicated use cases. Not general consumer use.

      Had affordable devices been avalible, the form factor would have had much more success earlier. Wich again would have led to better touch UI, by evolution. The market side would have ended up close to todays levels, but n

      • by Solandri (704621)
        This. The tablet was held back for nearly a decade by Intel and Microsoft insisting that it had to be a convertible laptop. Microsoft wanted to make sure each tablet sales was a Windows license sale, and Office too if they could. Intel wanted to make sure each tablet sale was was an x86 CPU sale, and a high-end CPU too if they could. Consequently, the tablet PC market stagnated at fewer than 100,000 sales per year for close to a decade.

        The real technology that led up to tablet market space wasn't the
    • by romanval (556418)

      Microsoft indeed tried to get their Tablet to sell over 10 years ago, but their mistake was in adapting Window UI directly into a tablet without adapting the user interface. A pure hands-only tablet has no stylus, no resizeable windows and must support multiple finger touches + gestures.. which is totally different then WIMP. The genius of Steve Jobs is he figured that out early on and directed his engineers to tackle it appropriately- (hence a totally separate UI interface stack for OS X; hence iPhone

    • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:38PM (#46772223)

      While timing did play a part, I'd suggest it's not so much timing as it is execution that made the biggest difference, in this case.

      Android and iOS tablets operate in broadly the same ways as each other and are wildly successful. Windows 8 tablets, which work in much the same way as the Windows tablets that preceded them (i.e. trying to bring the feel of a desktop OS to a tablet form factor), are failing to gain any significant presence in the market, despite having the right timing and loads of marketing. To me, that's a strong indication that the thing holding back tablets prior to iOS and Android arriving was not that people weren't ready for them, but that the tablet concept simply wasn't executed properly.

      Same deal with smartphones. Smartphones were around since the '90s, but they only represented an incredibly small portion of the cell phone market. Fast forward a few years, and we get Android and iOS, which, when they first came out, had most of the same features as the smartphones that preceded them, yet they implemented and executed those in a drastically different way that made them much more compelling to users. Blackberry and Palm had the right timing, since they were there from the beginning. What they lacked was proper execution to bring it to the general population.

      You're right that there wasn't a market back then, but there wasn't a market because there wasn't a product done right yet. Ideas are cheap. Execution is what matters.

      • by jandrese (485)
        Microsoft seems to have taken the other track now. They are still bringing the Windows experience to the tablet, but they've revamped the windows experience to be the kind that works well on touchscreens, some say to the detriment of the mouse and keyboard crowd.
  • by poptix (78287) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @02:59PM (#46771667) Homepage

    Bull. Palm/Handspring devices had a ton of apps around then, I had a Handspring Prism w/ GSM module that I could IRC, SSH, browse the web and whatever else from in 2000.

    My Symbian phone not-too-long-after (Nokia 6600) had all the same apps in a more compact package. The whole 'mobile ecosystem' did NOT begin with Apple or Android.

    • Mobile apps? no

      Mobile *ecosystem*?

      That's a different story. Scrublands in the desert is an ecosystem. I wouldn't call it as lush as a rainforest. The mobile ecosystem prior to the iPhone was pretty barren. I used to use a Windows mobile 5 iPaq back in the day and the ecosystem was bare AND confusing(Are you using a MIPS CE device? ARM? Do you even know? etc.).

      • AND confusing(Are you using a MIPS CE device? ARM? Do you even know? etc.).

        Might have been confusing on WinCE. But the Psion and Palm Pilot mobile app scene wasn't at all confusing.

        And whilst nothing like Apple's App Store existed until Apple created it, there was a pretty vibrant app scene back on those older mobile devices. To the extent of professional packages for doctors, pilots, estate agents etc. Lots of productivity apps. Plenty of games. Basically all the categories you get on iOS and Android now. Just fewer in number.

        • And whilst nothing like Apple's App Store existed until Apple created it, there was a pretty vibrant app scene back on those older mobile devices. To the extent of professional packages for doctors, pilots, estate agents etc. Lots of productivity apps. Plenty of games. Basically all the categories you get on iOS and Android now. Just fewer in number.

          The part about confusing was that it reflected my experience with Windows Mobile application development.

          So any notes apps that are like Vesper? Or any read later apps like Instapaper? Or even anything like Urban Spoon? Or... and I could go on.

          The thing about the app space now is that while yes, part of this is a move in technology (we now have very fast mobile CPUs on relatively fast wireless cellular connections), the other half is that the ecosystem itself is more than just a build toolchain and the abil

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      Yup. [thebestpag...iverse.net]

      It's like these people have never heard of Handango. They're so ignorant it is funny.

  • 2001. Touchscreen. Ran a Gecko-based UI. Thought it was way cool. Thought for sure they'd be out on the market within a year or two of that.

    If it wasn't the Nokia unit, then someone else was working on something very similar.

  • by linuxguy (98493) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:04PM (#46771751) Homepage

    Tablets only became popular when they got to their current form and pricing level. The older tablets and specifically this Nokia one wasn't going to be popular.

  • by neonv (803374) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:04PM (#46771755)

    That tablet is ugly and looks difficult to use. That marketing team was absolutely right, that tablet would have failed. It's not the idea of a tablet that made Apple successful, but aesthetics and general usability.

  • That would be 2001. I had a PDA (Pocket PC) at that time that was internet-capable. However, when wi-fi was not yet widespread, the only way you could get on the internet with the thing was a complicated modem setup, plugging a cable into an extension card. Getting data over a mobile phone link still involved the horribly primitive technology WAP. So, a fat lot of good your portable device did you. The smartphone and the tablet could not really take off until wi-fi and cheap 3G did.

  • by ZahrGnosis (66741) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:06PM (#46771773) Homepage

    Thirteen years ago the network infrastructure wasn't in place to let people do with a tablet what they do now, so the market research at the time may have been spot on. You can't really second-guess it now. I mean, sure, it may have become wildly popular, but Nokia actually entered the tablet space around 2005 with the 770 and even that was rather premature by today's tablet standards. Four years LESS of infrastructure, apps, and internet-addiction wasn't going to help any tablet succeed. And while the article hints that the early designers would have made different choices with the 770, there's no guarantee they would have made a difference. There were no killer apps -- no facebook, twitter, or instagram that people just HAD to have access to all the time. No reliable data network. Definitely no YouTube or Netflix. PDAs were slowly becoming popular, but they were very personal -- glorified address books and note taking devices.

    It would be nice if the team were rewarded and kept on to make use of the technology somewhere and grow the market, but it's not like they were the first -- the Newton, and devices from HP and DEC were all in development much earlier than this -- and no matter how much of a "pioneer" you think someone may be, they do need a market; either you have to build it or wait for it if it doesn't exist, but just because a device can be created doesn't mean that the entire experience was ready-to-go.

  • Back when some of us were clamoring for an iOpener to add touch screen and HDD hacks, tinkering with Panasonic touch-screen large palm sized gadgets (forgot the model, still have it in box) and all that stuff. A few more were out there and fizzled too, missed this one.
  • 2001? Something like that would cost $1000, bare minimum. Add that it weighs four pounds without a keyboard? They made the right call.

    If, of all words of tongue and pen,
    The saddest are, "It might have been,"
    More sad are these we daily see:
    "It is, but hadn’t ought to be."


    .
    • by PaddyM (45763)

      CD Jewel Cases are an abomination.

      They don't work, they break easily, they're made of plastic, and they aren't recyclable.

      Indeed, your poem is true.

  • by MrEdofCourse (2670081) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:20PM (#46771997)

    I'm finding it funny that you kids never saw these. Around 2001 (not that long ago), there were a bunch of tablets being shown at CES that never caught on. Some were PCs as tablets. Some were more consumption like tablets, only with a lot less to consume.

    They were slow, clunky, expensive. No YouTube, no videos (the storage was measured in MBs). They were heavy, had short battery lives and terrible screens.

    The user experience of these things was really poor as well. Think WebTV.

    This thing was nothing like an iPad. And it's not like as if you can really say, "like an iPad would've been in 2001". If you look at what most people use their iPads for, none of that would be possible/practical on the 2001 tablets. It's more like saying that Apple had a QuickTake digital camera, but it never really took off... amazing because today we all have digital cameras all over the place.

    I applaud Nokia for developing a prototype to demo at CES, but it was a good thing they didn't take this to production.

  • General Magic's and Sony's PIC-1000 had a graphical web browser back in 1995. Even back then nobody wanted one.

  • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:30PM (#46772113)

    There were a ton of internet devices a decade ago. I had drawers full of literature from a lot of companies making new ones. We wanted to use some badly for at-home patients for a research study. We didn't buy any. Why? They were expensive, and they sucked. There are reasons tablets didn't take off 13 years ago, and it had absolutely nothing to due with market-research.

  • Touchscreens were not really around at that time. "pen computing" was VC rage then. Apple had their own entry a fe years later called the Newton. MicroSoft unsuccessfully hawked is Pen-Windows for years.
    • Most of the previous tablet GUIs tried to cram the complexity of multiwindow destop on to a small tablet screen. Apple mainly enlarged the simpler, single-window phone GUI. Samsung is hawking side-by-side Android screens this year. But you really dont want to get all that much more complex than that.
    • by Misagon (1135)

      Indeed. I remember laptops made for Microsoft's "Window for Pen Computing" which was a special version of Windows 3.11 ... and this was back in 1992.
      There were different types of swivelling screens like on laptops made today for Windows 8.1. Lenovo Yoga and Dell XPS are not novel in the slightest.

  • And no Mobile internet connections. really what use is a tablet that you would need to plug a ethernet cable? Might as well just buy a laptop or a palmtop, it would probably be cheaper even back then.

    I remember when WiFi routers were luxury items that only the really rich had. Tablets would never get off during those days.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @03:59PM (#46772611) Homepage Journal

    But it didn't mean there was a booming market for them.

  • The real lesson (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekmux (1040042) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @04:09PM (#46772749)

    "The tablet was scrubbed because market research showed there wasn't demand for the device. The team got devices for themselves and the rest were destroyed. The team was then fired. The lesson: Don't try to be pioneer if you're relying on market research studies."

    Don't be a pioneer?

    Yeah, I'm sure that was the lesson learned for every person who did not start up a company called "Apple" out of their garage.

    Or pioneer the use of this little thing we call "Windows" on computers.

    The real lesson? Market research can be dead wrong. Ask anyone on this team who would love to have a piece of that billion-dollar market today.

    • by slew (2918)

      Apple wasn't the pioneer, don't you remember the Altair and IMSAI?
      Windows wasn't the pioneer, don't you remember Kildall's Digital Research CPM/86 and IBM/Microsoft OS/2 collaboration?

      The real lesson? Let other do the pioneering market research for you. Then do it better and faster than they can...

      Historically, first mover advantage often isn't what it's hyped up to be (ask CompuServe, AltaVista, Yahoo, MySpace, and AOL/Netscape)...

  • by slapout (93640) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @04:28PM (#46773079)

    The reason that the iPad succeed was because they already had plenty of apps (from the iPhone) available for it when it launched.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @07:13PM (#46774831)

      That is a big reason, but it also mattered that the device itself was not OSX shrunk to a touch-screen tablet (some people thought that's what it would be instead of using IOS). That was the mistake Microsoft made.

      But it's also related, Apple had the luxury of not just plopping desktop OSX on a tablet because they knew iOS developers could produce a good range of software out of the gate. Microsoft apparently never trusted in the development community enough to take that leap of faith.

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