Recently our friends at sister site TreoCentral pointed us to this snippet: Apple was seriously interested in purchasing Palm back in 1997. This is interesting for all sorts of reasons, but chief amongst them for me is this: Had the deal gone through, we might have seen the iPhone not only come to market earlier, but possibly seen it prevent other smartphone manufacturers (like RIM) from being able to compete. It's an interesting 'what could have been' scenario: just as Apple was killing off their Newton line, it would pick up the Palm Pilot and add functionality to it at presumably a more rapid pace than Palm did.
It's also notable that even back in 1997, the powers-that-be in Apple recognized that they would need to transition from a strictly-computer company to a consumer products company:
A perhaps little known fact: in the Summer of 1997, Steve Jobs called Eric Benhamou, 3Com's CEO (the company owned Palm). "Give me the Palm and come and join my Board of Directors. Only Apple can make Palm a true consumer brand." Nothing happened. Apple's foray into the product segment had to wait ten more years.
Of course, neither Apple nor Palm were in a position to really get things moving quickly at that time. Palm would have to wait until their first (of many) convoluted ownership shakeups sorted itself out and Apple itself was still in the midst of redefining itself for the Steve Jobs era. The parallels between Palm now and Apple then are also fun to think about -- both in dire need of a turnaround, both written off by much of the industry, and both have/had Jon Rubinstein playing a key role in revitalizing hardware.
I could go on and on playing "What If?" but instead there's something else that this little snippet brings to mind: Palm got something right with the original Palm Pilot way back in 1997 and I really wish Apple would take a closer look at that 1997 tech.
Read on to find out what Palm got right way back in the mid to late 90s.