I vaguely remember this idea being demoed at Comdex or some other IT convention or presentation:
And of course there was Apple’s many tries at portable computing devices during the 1990’s as described in this also precocious report:
Apple has a miserable track record in consumer electronics outside of computers — and it’s not for a lack of trying. In the 1990s, Apple released Pippin, Emate, and Newton — all consumer devices that failed miserably.
But the iPod is different. To understand why, we need to review some recent history. Travel back with me to the early 1990s, when Apple and others tried to create a market for handheld computers, but none of their products captured the public imagination. Each device, including Apple’s original Newton, was either too big, too complicated, or too expensive — and some were all three. The Newton did improve, but not enough to capture the public imagination.
Handhelds languished until the 1996 release of the Palm Pilot. At last, here was a product with the right combination of computer processing power, portability, and ease of use. Equally important, the Palm Pilot was a single-purpose machine, dedicated to keeping addresses, appointments, and notes. It defied the Gatesian philosophy that a computer has to be all things to all people. The lesson here is that consumers might have been ready for a handheld computer, but they held back until just the right machine hit the market.
So what can be clearly seen is that the ideas for portable content consumption in the form of PDAs-Personal Digital Assistants, then smartphones, and now tablets were percolating for at least 10 years. But the combination of price, weight, size, battery life, screen size and readability, computing power among other features had not quite reached a critical mass. Steve Job’s brilliance has been to hold onto the vision fostered early and bring it to fruition when the technology and economics were “right”.
The obvious risks of innovation question: Knight Ridder is not in good shape – what happened to the Lab and its vision?