The Talk Show

334: ‘High-Margin Candy Bar’, With Dieter Bohn


00:00:00   Dieter Bohn, you made a movie.

00:00:01   It's kind of a movie. It's a documentary. It's a half an hour. Does a half an hour count as a movie?

00:00:05   I say so. I mentioned this to Joanna Stern the other week on my show.

00:00:10   I love the length of it because it's like I...

00:00:14   You'd left me wanting more, but not like feeling incomplete.

00:00:19   And I feel like there's an awful lot...

00:00:23   I noticed this during all of COVID, like after my wife and I burned through

00:00:28   everything on our list that we actually wanted to see and started watching random stuff.

00:00:33   There's an awful lot of documentaries that are, to me, stretched out to be feature length.

00:00:42   And it's like, man, that would have been a tight half hour.

00:00:45   Yeah, I mean, if you don't know, it's a documentary about this company called Handspring,

00:00:49   which you probably spun out from Palm. It's about the trio, etc.

00:00:52   I really was very aware that when you do these documentaries about nostalgia,

00:00:59   about something from a while ago, the first instinct is to make, I don't know,

00:01:04   like I love the 90s, right? Bring in a B-list comedian to be like,

00:01:07   "Oh, I had that thing. It was great. It had a keyboard." And just draw it out.

00:01:11   And I knew I didn't want to do that.

00:01:13   And I also knew that making something that had a larger scope that actually got into Palm and WebOS

00:01:21   and all of the messiness that came after would have taken way too long.

00:01:26   And so I wanted to tell like a really tight, smallish story that had,

00:01:31   but I hope felt like a beginning, a middle, and an end. Because telling the whole story,

00:01:36   it's like Lord of the Rings. It's got like 50 endings.

00:01:38   The name of the movie is Springboard. Where does that come from?

00:01:43   So Springboard is the name of the slot.

00:01:49   So there's a whole long story. The founders of Palm, for reasons, had to go quit and start their own company.

00:01:55   They started Handspring. They had to start making PDAs again.

00:01:57   And they're like, "Well, God, what are we going to do to differentiate?"

00:02:00   They hustled Palm into licensing the operating system to them.

00:02:03   So they're going to make more PDAs.

00:02:05   And they decide the way to differentiate was to make them cheaper,

00:02:09   but also to have them have an expansion module.

00:02:12   And they decided to call that expansion module the Springboard slot.

00:02:16   The metaphor being that you could jump and expand it to do other things.

00:02:20   And so that's where it came from. And the company itself was called Handspring.

00:02:24   And I think it was just something you hold in your hand. They ran out of ideas.

00:02:28   And actually, Ed Colligan told me that one of the things they dealt with,

00:02:32   and this is back in what, '99 when it was founded, maybe '98,

00:02:36   is they were looking for a .com, a URL that they could actually get, which back then was already a problem.

00:02:42   It's very funny. I had a Handspring.

00:02:45   I did not own a Palm device, but the first Palm OS device,

00:02:49   first and only one I owned was a Handspring visor.

00:02:53   And my wife got one too. And she's not a gadget nerd, but she loved it.

00:02:59   We both did. It was a terrific product. It really was.

00:03:04   And I know that there were a lot of Palm device aficionados before Handspring.

00:03:10   But it really seemed like at least the classic black and white Palm OS reached its peak with the Handspring devices.

00:03:18   And one of the weird angles of this is the way that Palm was always sort of the bizarro Apple,

00:03:25   where it was like Apple in the '90s got it before Steve Jobs came back,

00:03:31   and the next reunification tried out of desperation, let's license the OS, right?

00:03:37   All this time. And I think long story short, it's Wall Street when they see a grand success,

00:03:44   they want everybody else to do the same thing.

00:03:46   And Microsoft famously had a very good '90s until they didn't with the DOJ,

00:03:52   but financially even through the antitrust investigation,

00:03:56   they were making money faster than they could put it in a bank.

00:03:59   And how did they make their money? By licensing software.

00:04:02   And so Wall Street, even before Apple got in trouble, was constantly saying Apple should license their OS.

00:04:08   Apple should license their OS because that's where the money is.

00:04:12   Not really understanding at all that Apple and Microsoft were fundamentally different companies.

00:04:16   And then eventually Apple got into dire straits and they were like, well, we're screwed.

00:04:21   All right, we'll just license the OS, which was a bad idea.

00:04:23   And Palm similarly never should have licensed the OS to Handspring

00:04:28   because all of a sudden the best Palm devices were not made by Palm.

00:04:36   Yeah, no, licensing the OS was one of the reasons that there was conflict between Donna, the CEO,

00:04:43   Jeff, the product guy, and Ed, and the 3Com, who at the time was a parent company when they quit and created their own company.

00:04:49   3Com really thought that the move was to license Palm OS and the people at Handspring,

00:04:56   they're like, no, it needs to be software and hardware together.

00:04:59   And so don't do that. And 3Com said, no, no, no, we've got this vision.

00:05:04   We make modems right now and maybe some like networking equipment,

00:05:08   but we're going to, everything that connects to the internet, we're going to have a piece of.

00:05:11   So we're going to have the handheld computers all the way up to the networking stack.

00:05:15   And everyone at Palm was like, well, this is stupid. So they quit.

00:05:19   And then they call them back and they're like, you still planning on licensing this thing?

00:05:23   And Palm's like, yeah, no, we're going to do it. And like, okay, well give us one.

00:05:26   And there were some other companies that licensed it.

00:05:28   Sony made some very, very, very nerdy PDAs called the Clie's that were like,

00:05:34   they were like the gadgetiest gadgets that ever did gadget.

00:05:37   There was a company in Iowa called Handera that licensed it.

00:05:40   There were a handful of others, but the only one that actually mattered was Handspring.

00:05:44   And by the end, all that licensing stuff,

00:05:47   they kept on trying through different versions of corporations and it never worked.

00:05:51   And it was always the, it was always one of the things that kept Palm from ever reaching real success.

00:05:57   Actually, here's a, here's a wild story.

00:06:00   So Handspring fails, gets merged back into Palm,

00:06:03   and Ed Colligan goes to the board and is like,

00:06:06   hey, this company that you spun out through all these weird things called Palm Source,

00:06:11   our license to license our OS from this company that we spun out is coming up.

00:06:16   And I tell you what, if we buy this license for whatever it is, 30, 40 million dollars,

00:06:21   whatever the number is, they're going to take that money

00:06:23   and then they're going to turn around and sell themselves because they're in dire straits.

00:06:28   And the board who had been the board that had created all these shenanigans in the first place,

00:06:33   said no, did not buy them, and made them re-up their license again.

00:06:38   And as soon as they re-up their license,

00:06:40   what Ed said would happen is exactly what happened. Palm Source sold to a company in Japan called Access

00:06:46   and that Palm had to like start all over again with a new operating system.

00:06:52   The 90s were an era of companies whose boards did not understand the actual companies

00:07:01   and what they had in their hands. We could go on and on and list companies like that.

00:07:05   That's one of the reasons why Microsoft and Intel were so dominant in that decade.

00:07:13   It wasn't just that they had a product that people wanted to buy,

00:07:16   it was that they were actually well-run companies run by people who understood what they were actually doing.

00:07:22   Like, yeah, Apple clearly lost track of what they had and what was good and constantly,

00:07:30   like the whole story of Apple getting into trouble was basically neglecting the Mac,

00:07:37   not realizing that the Mac had legs,

00:07:39   and mistakenly thinking that they were still in like the early 80s

00:07:44   when platforms came out, had a few good years,

00:07:49   and then you'd come out with a new platform that replaced the old platform and wasn't like,

00:07:56   it wasn't evolved. And I think Apple fundamentally saw the Mac that way for years and years and years,

00:08:02   that they were always looking for what's the next thing, right,

00:08:05   that's going to replace the Mac and they had the Taligent, Pink, and all the cooperations with IBM.

00:08:11   And meanwhile, the Mac was right there in front of them with industries,

00:08:15   you know, like print and desktop publishing building themselves around it.

00:08:20   And Apple as a company is looking elsewhere. And Palm, the product,

00:08:24   the Palm Pilot was sort of like that at 3Com.

00:08:27   It's like they had no idea what they had on their hands. It was a terrific product.

00:08:31   They just did not understand that at all.

00:08:34   Like why in the world would you not want to own the operating system?

00:08:38   Yeah, nobody knew what the business models were going to be, right?

00:08:40   So I don't know. I mean benefit of the doubt, Microsoft had so much success.

00:08:45   Everyone's like, well, that's that's how you win.

00:08:47   That's how that's how tech works.

00:08:48   And so everyone thought that that's what they needed to do.

00:08:51   There was a disconnect from I think the suits that just didn't use the product

00:08:56   or didn't understand what made a good product

00:08:58   and how over the long term making a good product is what wins.

00:09:03   And they got caught up in like the risk, the 40 chess strategy of it,

00:09:07   and didn't think about, well, no, let's like let's actually focus on making and selling a good product over and over again.

00:09:13   All right, let's take a break and I'm going to thank our first sponsor to our good friends at Squarespace.

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00:10:29   My thanks to Squarespace. I'd like to talk a little, have you seen the General Magic movie?

00:10:34   Yeah. Oh yeah. No, we talked about that a lot. We wanted to make sure we didn't just copy it,

00:10:37   but we also, you know, wanted to make something a little bit less ambitious. Great film.

00:10:41   If you haven't watched it, you should definitely go watch it. It's really good. In Springboard,

00:10:45   you talking to the protagonists of that time, Donna Dabinski and Jeff Hawkins,

00:10:49   who was sort of the product guy behind the whole thing, Ed Colligan.

00:10:53   They, I think rightly so. They have the same mindset that the General Magic people do

00:10:59   in that it's that the work they did laid the foundation for the smartphone era,

00:11:04   even though these products didn't start as phones. The people at Palm and the people at General Magic

00:11:09   see their work as laying the groundwork for what became the smartphone revolution about a decade later.

00:11:16   I think that's true, but they weren't making phones, which is so interesting, right?

00:11:20   And they didn't even have networking because Wi-Fi wasn't a thing yet.

00:11:25   And to me, that is the fundamental mistake that all of the PDAs made in the 90s,

00:11:32   was not foreseeing how essential wireless networking of some sort was

00:11:38   to make these things useful to more than the early adopter crowd.

00:11:44   Yeah, so the networking thing is fascinating because even if they wanted networking, they couldn't, right?

00:11:48   So the Wi-Fi either didn't exist, and then you could buy a modem module.

00:11:53   In fact, the wireless networks, the best you could get was the Mobitex pager network,

00:12:00   which was not even SMS quality. And so one of the reasons, maybe the key reason,

00:12:05   the only reason that the Palm PDA became successful, and it wasn't just a generic organizer at Radio Shack,

00:12:12   was they realized that entering text on this little tiny graffiti area on a 160 by 160 display sucked.

00:12:20   And what you wanted was all of your information from your computer.

00:12:23   And so they made really, really good syncing software almost by accident.

00:12:28   Somebody random, like on the side, coded up a bunch of these hot sync conduits

00:12:33   that would work with multiple different pieces of software.

00:12:35   And so the fact that you could just set your thing down and hit a button

00:12:39   and have your data synced over to it and then walk away and have your calendar with you

00:12:44   and not have to enter 50, you know, 500 contacts on your own, just have it be there,

00:12:49   was the reason that the original Palm pilots became successful,

00:12:54   because they elevated themselves as an accessory to the PC

00:12:59   instead of just being a random digital organizer that you saw on a shelf somewhere.

00:13:04   It was another one of those little tiny thousand paper cuts of being a Mac user in the era

00:13:10   that the Mac syncing was always not quite as good as PC syncing.

00:13:15   It was there. It wasn't like, I wouldn't call it an afterthought,

00:13:19   but it wasn't. It just did not seem as good.

00:13:22   It was like the early days of Napster until the Mac eventually got good Napster clients.

00:13:26   But in the early days, it was like, oh, man, everybody else is downloading all this music.

00:13:30   And what am I supposed to do? And the Palm pilot syncing was like that.

00:13:34   But the other thing that's so interesting about that era was that the PC operating systems,

00:13:40   the Mac in particular, did not have standard system level databases

00:13:47   for things like calendars and contacts. There was no built-in contact.

00:13:52   In today's world, there's a bunch of great calendar apps for the iPhone,

00:13:56   and they all hook into the APIs Apple provides to use the same calendar data system-wide,

00:14:04   so that if you actually open Apple's calendar app, the stuff that you've entered using Fantastical

00:14:10   or whatever other apps are out there, they're all there.

00:14:13   There's contact apps that just hook into the central contact database.

00:14:17   So if you were to make something that needed to get contacts from your iPhone,

00:14:21   you know where to go. There's a bunch of APIs. You could do it. The Mac,

00:14:24   there was nothing like that in that era. Palm had to pick, well, we'll support this app and this app's contacts.

00:14:31   And it was like a just a short list of apps that you could sync with.

00:14:35   But if you did use one of those apps, it was magical to have all of your stuff in a thing that was in your pocket.

00:14:41   Maybe a stretch, but you could certainly carry the Palm pilot everywhere.

00:14:45   Well, famously, Jeff Hawkins designed it for the pocket, right? He carried around a block of wood and poked at it with a chopstick.

00:14:51   It was like, I imagined what it would be like to use. This is a little bit later in the hot-syncing era.

00:14:55   I can't believe we're talking about hot-sync conduits,

00:14:57   but here we are. That extensibility of making it work with other apps is one of the things that kept Palm OS feeling vibrant and good,

00:15:05   because it allowed for third-party apps to create things that could sync over to the Palm pilot as part of that hot-sync stack.

00:15:14   This eventually worked on the Mac, too. There was an app called iSilo that basically worked like a pocket or an Instapaper.

00:15:20   There was Avot Go, which would sync over news every day.

00:15:24   There was Vindigo, which was like a little mapping software that also synced over like latest restaurant recommendations.

00:15:30   There was just a bunch of stuff. There was an installing protocol, so you didn't have to, it was easier to install apps that way.

00:15:35   There's a bunch of ways that, absent a really good usable wireless radio,

00:15:41   you could still make it feel like your Palm pilot was somehow connected to the internet.

00:15:46   It just connected to the internet in the morning when you hit the hot-sync button before you left for the day.

00:15:51   Yeah, I think for a lot of people listening,

00:15:54   the closest analogy that they might have had in their gadget lives would be the early days of the iPod,

00:16:00   where your iPod synced via a cable to your Mac or PC,

00:16:07   and the Palm pilot was like that. You're bringing back memories for me.

00:16:10   I had iSilo, and I definitely had Avot Go, and it was neat.

00:16:15   It was really neat to have news stories that you could read.

00:16:18   It was a lot of scrolling, because 160 by 160 pixels is not a lot of pixels,

00:16:25   and it is funny that it was a square screen on a rectangular device because of the graffiti area

00:16:32   with a couple of hard-coded home maps surrounding it.

00:16:36   It was a lot of scrolling, but I think that when you're used to using a desktop computer,

00:16:43   even today's phones, which are big, it's still a lot of scrolling.

00:16:46   It's the nature of a small screen. There's a reason they don't print books that are the size of cell phones.

00:16:52   It's not the greatest size for reading,

00:16:55   but it's a nice compromise between portability and just the neatness of being.

00:17:01   You could just be on the bus if that's how you get to work,

00:17:05   and you'd have news to read in the thing that you hold in your pocket.

00:17:08   It clearly felt like the future.

00:17:11   It's impossible to talk about Palm in general and a Palm Pilot without comparing it to the Newton,

00:17:17   which did come earlier.

00:17:18   It was more capable in terms of its features. It was just slower and bigger.

00:17:23   And more expensive, right?

00:17:24   And more expensive, yeah.

00:17:25   You know, the Newton debuted in 1993. I just looked it up.

00:17:28   I think it was like $900, which in today's money is like $1500 or $1600,

00:17:33   which is a lot of money for a gadget.

00:17:37   But the Newton wasn't as big a failure as popular imagination would hold it to be.

00:17:43   Sure. Yeah, I agree.

00:17:44   And it's widely misunderstood.

00:17:47   The handwriting actually got pretty good fast.

00:17:50   So the beat up Martha jokes and the Doonesbury jokes didn't have long legs,

00:17:56   but that's all people remember.

00:17:57   But one thing they never got right was the size.

00:18:02   It was it was it's a it was a terrible size in hindsight.

00:18:06   Nobody has devices that big.

00:18:07   We laugh about the biggest cell phones that are available.

00:18:10   These giant 6.7 inch phones,

00:18:12   but they still fit a pocket,

00:18:14   right? The biggest cell phone you can buy still fits in a pocket.

00:18:17   The Newton was it just it was neither here nor there.

00:18:21   Not big enough to be considered a laptop,

00:18:24   even like a netbook sized laptop,

00:18:27   but way too big to fit in a pocket and sort of unwieldy to use in one hand.

00:18:34   Yeah, I mean, there's an alternate future where,

00:18:37   I don't know, the Newton was 20% more popular

00:18:40   and it became the default for what we think computers are like,

00:18:43   right? Then we're all carrying around little clipboards instead of phones and iPads and laptops or something.

00:18:49   But I don't think that it was likely to get there given the processing power at the time.

00:18:55   And actually so before the Palm Pilot Palm had this whole thing where they invented graffiti.

00:19:01   They'd worked with I think I don't know it was Casio to try and make this thing called the Zoomer,

00:19:06   which was huge and like kind of Newton-esque in some ways.

00:19:10   And so when they started over and got a little bit of money to start their own company,

00:19:14   Jeff Hawkins, one of his first decisions was we are going to use a slower processor

00:19:19   and on purpose because we're going to keep this thing small

00:19:23   and he picked his design decision was this thing will be this size

00:19:28   and it needs to be very very fast and needs to be instant on

00:19:31   and everything else has to flow from those two decisions

00:19:34   and anything that breaks those two decisions is out the window.

00:19:39   And that was very much my experience with it. It was super zippy,

00:19:42   right? Like it turned on fast instantly and apps launched fast.

00:19:47   They were small. They were tight.

00:19:50   And for somebody who appreciates good hardware

00:19:54   and especially software design it had that Apple-esque attention to details

00:20:00   and it was a logically thought-out system.

00:20:03   It was very easy to sort of get a handle on everything you could do.

00:20:08   You never needed to dig into anything like a registry or something like that.

00:20:13   It was the metaphor would be similar.

00:20:16   It's familiar to anybody who uses an iPhone or an Android phone.

00:20:20   You have a home screen and as apps and you tap on an app

00:20:23   and it launches the app and that's it.

00:20:28   But there was a nice though. It was a nice Mac-like consistency between apps.

00:20:35   There was a right way to make a palm app

00:20:37   and all palm apps followed these guidelines

00:20:40   where if you learned how to use one app on the palm and you used a new app,

00:20:44   it would be familiar to you and the menu would be in the same place.

00:20:47   The design was the same.

00:20:49   So the name for this guidelines was called the Zen of Palm.

00:20:53   New people would come to work for Palm and Jeff and Rob Hytani,

00:20:56   who was the software designer, came up with the Zen of Palm.

00:20:59   They got tired of explaining their software design principles to every new hire.

00:21:04   It was like, no, no, no, stop thinking like a PC.

00:21:05   And so they wrote this book called the Zen of Palm and it was full of these cones.

00:21:10   The most famous one is how do you fit a mountain in a teacup?

00:21:13   And oh, you shrink the mountain, you build a teacup, blah, blah, blah.

00:21:15   And the answer is you don't. You find the diamond in the middle of the mountain

00:21:18   and you put that in the teacup. This had to fit 160 by 160 pixels.

00:21:22   Black and white too, not grayscale.

00:21:25   So one of Rob's design principles, he called it asymmetric design.

00:21:29   It was just relentlessly saying what buttons belong on the screen

00:21:34   and what stuff can get thrown into a menu and what belongs where.

00:21:38   So one of the design examples is say the, you know, you want to save something.

00:21:42   It's just you don't save it. It's just there.

00:21:44   You wouldn't give equal weight to say the new button

00:21:48   and the delete button because you delete stuff so much less often

00:21:51   than you might want to make a new thing.

00:21:52   And so he buried the new thing under a menu.

00:21:55   Another thing that they did was the calendar picker where you would pick the day.

00:22:00   They would, they managed to fit within two taps an entire year of dates on 160 by 160 screen.

00:22:08   One of the tricks was they realized that the Palm OS system was so fast.

00:22:13   It was very easy and non-destructive to cancel something.

00:22:17   So they didn't put an OK button.

00:22:19   They just made it so you launch the date picker, hit the date, and that's your date.

00:22:23   And no one, this stuff seems really obvious and dumb now,

00:22:26   but in 1996, these were like actually major innovations

00:22:31   and they were ways that nobody had thought about making a user interface before.

00:22:36   The Palm OS for people coming from the PC, which is the vast majority of users in the 90s,

00:22:42   there is like a glass of ice water and hell element to what's effectively,

00:22:47   it's not Mac style, but Mac caliber UI design where say what you want about Microsoft.

00:22:55   Their interfaces were terrible and things like thinking,

00:22:59   "Hey, what if we don't even have an OK button for picking a date?"

00:23:03   You just pick the date Tuesday, March 7th, and that's it.

00:23:07   You're done. And if it was the mistake, you can go back.

00:23:10   It's easy to go back and fix it,

00:23:12   but it saves that tap and it sounds stupid that saving one tap to select a date is this great breakthrough,

00:23:24   but it adds up when it's pervasive throughout the system.

00:23:28   Think about how bad the web is today,

00:23:31   the stats of how quickly people will bail on a website if there's a delay or stuff bounces around.

00:23:36   That's not a new principle.

00:23:37   People got annoyed with stuff without knowing why since the beginning.

00:23:41   When you've got someone who's actually thinking about that

00:23:43   and paying attention to it and making a priority,

00:23:45   it just feels better even if you can't express why.

00:23:48   I do think, and I always thought right from the get-go,

00:23:51   that Palm and Apple had largely aligned mentalities and priorities,

00:23:59   but there were differences.

00:24:01   And to me, it's best encapsulated that Palm was comparing to the Apple of the 90s.

00:24:09   And probably through to today,

00:24:12   Palm was more practical, or maybe pragmatic is the word.

00:24:17   I can't think of a better example of it than the Newton going for true handwriting recognition right from the start,

00:24:24   even when they didn't have it working, including then cursive,

00:24:30   which was much more of a thing 25 years ago.

00:24:34   I don't know many people,

00:24:37   especially younger people, my son,

00:24:38   I don't, he technically learned it,

00:24:40   but it was like two weeks in,

00:24:42   I don't know, third grade or something they spend on cursive.

00:24:45   And cursive is harder to recognize than printing.

00:24:49   Instead of doing handwriting recognition,

00:24:52   Palm went with graffiti, which was very similar to printing.

00:24:57   So somebody who doesn't know the rules of graffiti and you don't have the cheat sheet handy,

00:25:02   if you looked at a note somebody wrote in graffiti,

00:25:06   you'd be able to read it because many of the characters were just printed,

00:25:12   alphabetic characters.

00:25:14   Yeah, I used to,

00:25:15   and I think this was very common amongst owners of Palm devices,

00:25:19   is that you, you then wind up,

00:25:22   you got so used to graffiti that you wound up using it in print with pen and ink.

00:25:26   Like you're like, I would be like filling out my rent check

00:25:29   and I'd wind up writing it out in graffiti and I'd be like,

00:25:33   oh, what the hell am I doing?

00:25:34   I just remember the T was sort of,

00:25:37   you just go, it was like a seven, right?

00:25:39   Yeah. Yeah. It was like a seven.

00:25:41   Yeah. I don't want to give Palm too much credit.

00:25:43   They like, they picked the slower processor.

00:25:45   They had no choice. If they had wanted to do graffiti or handwriting recognition,

00:25:49   if they had the processing part to do it,

00:25:51   they might have ended up going down that path.

00:25:53   They just, it wasn't even an option for them.

00:25:55   The philosophy behind it was there's the difference between thinking of intuitive

00:25:59   as like an innate thing that you just know as a human

00:26:02   and intuitive as a thing that's easy to learn.

00:26:05   And Jeff Hawkins was like,

00:26:06   look, like if you spent five minutes,

00:26:09   10 minutes learning this thing,

00:26:11   it's easy to learn and then you can leapfrog

00:26:15   and actually be relatively fast entering text to this thing

00:26:19   and better to ask people to learn how to use a system for five

00:26:22   or 10 minutes than to struggle for years to get our end of the handwriting

00:26:27   recognition going. Now,

00:26:28   how much of this is retconning that they found up an explanation

00:26:32   for the thing that they had to do?

00:26:33   I don't know. I mean the other thing to remember

00:26:35   and it seems silly to even have to say this,

00:26:37   but we're talking about styluses and resistive screens.

00:26:41   The refresh rate of these screens, their ability to read input quickly is not very good.

00:26:47   An iPhone 14 Pro or modern Android phone reads the screen 240 times a second, right?

00:26:54   That's the double the 120 hertz refresh rate.

00:26:56   I have no idea what the refresh rate was on these things,

00:26:59   but if it was more than, I don't know, 30, I'd be shocked.

00:27:02   Yeah, like when you scrolled, if you were reading an article

00:27:06   or something, when you scrolled, it wasn't really scrolling.

00:27:10   It was like paging down and it was show me the next page

00:27:14   and because it couldn't do actual scrolling at a reasonable rate of refresh.

00:27:20   Yep. But that was the way computers were.

00:27:23   That was just, that wasn't even something you thought about.

00:27:25   It would have been, it wasn't technically possible to make a device that size

00:27:31   that had reasonable live scrolling of text.

00:27:34   Yeah, maybe moving ahead a little bit, like this focus on practicality

00:27:39   and let's launch a product based on the technology that we are able to use today

00:27:43   that makes a decent experience today is ultimately, I think,

00:27:49   what doomed Handspring and the Palm before webOS

00:27:53   and even with webOS a little bit is you look at what Palm and Handspring

00:27:58   were shipping when the iPhone came out and you look at the iPhone

00:28:00   and they were so busy making devices and shipping them because they had to,

00:28:04   because they had to sell stuff. They had to get stuff into carriers.

00:28:07   They had to make the deals with carriers.

00:28:09   They just, they had to make the money off of those things

00:28:12   that they didn't have the time or the resources to step back

00:28:15   and make a leapfrog in some kind of technology to enable a newer experience.

00:28:21   And so in the early days up against both the Newton, but also like Pocket PC

00:28:26   and you know, even Symbian, Blackberry, they were head to head, right?

00:28:31   They made different technical choices that enabled a better experience

00:28:34   within the limitations that everybody was facing,

00:28:37   but they never got to the point where they could think about

00:28:39   getting rid of those limitations that everyone was facing.

00:28:42   And to me, that is fundamentally like the thing the iPhone did

00:28:47   is they didn't work within the same constraints everybody else

00:28:50   in the smartphone industry had. They stepped back and said,

00:28:52   let's get rid of one of these restraints.

00:28:55   And in some ways that's where Apple was a decade prior with the Mac, right?

00:28:59   Oh, sure. Yeah.

00:29:00   When they got desperate and when they finally broke down and bought an X

00:29:05   and were thinking about buying B, that the Mac was all they had.

00:29:07   They might as well have just been the Mac company and they were so far behind

00:29:12   because they had neglected it when they should have been building

00:29:15   a next generation operating system with modern features.

00:29:20   Actually, what's your take looking back with all the benefits of hindsight on,

00:29:25   I don't know, Copeland, OS 9, all that stuff before OS X in between

00:29:30   the early systems and what they eventually had to do when they started over with Next.

00:29:34   There's actually a parallel with Palm. They had those cobalt

00:29:38   and they spent a lot of time porting Palm to ARM processors

00:29:43   and they went in circles and then Palms were sold and they had a bunch of false starts

00:29:47   before they finally hit on WebOS. But I'm curious,

00:29:51   what do you think it was that kept Apple from making something that was truly modern?

00:29:56   How did they get stuck in their own loop on that stuff?

00:29:59   I think that they were in the early 90s, they were way too, for lack of a better adjective, academic.

00:30:07   And that they were led by people who just had the sort of mindset

00:30:12   that PhD computer scientists at a university have and doing things the right way.

00:30:19   And it was not a Steve Jobsian product first mindset.

00:30:27   And even the fact that they pre-announced them was just,

00:30:32   it just isn't the way to actually build a product. And we know that now.

00:30:37   Copeland was more focused. Copeland was the next generation of Mac OS

00:30:42   and it was built to run, you know, it was a version of the Macintosh operating system

00:30:47   and it was going to run the Mac apps people knew and loved

00:30:51   and it was a better intention and it was something they should have built.

00:30:57   I think long story short, I've never read like a definitive history of what went wrong with it,

00:31:02   but I think long story short, shipping is really hard and doing an operating system is really hard

00:31:08   and their management just wasn't up to it.

00:31:12   And Steve Jobs has said this when they came back where he thought he'd come back

00:31:17   and find that the company was bereft of talent and that that's why they failed

00:31:22   and was incredibly pleasantly surprised to find out that the company was full of talented engineers

00:31:29   and talented designers and that it really was just a management failure

00:31:34   that the operating system and the whole platform as a whole had stagnated and fallen behind.

00:31:39   Yeah, the stuff that happened with the sort of the last vestiges of Palm OS was the exact same problem.

00:31:46   The management problem was they kept on spinning out companies and selling them and whatever,

00:31:50   but before Palm itself embarked on WebOS, Palm Source over on,

00:31:55   you know, the other end of this other company was developing a bunch of ideas

00:31:59   that would have made a modern multitasking operating system.

00:32:03   Famously, one of the reasons Palm OS was not good on trios towards the end there was

00:32:07   it wasn't a true multitasking OS in the way that other smartphones were.

00:32:12   Even the iPhone did a slightly better job multitasking than Palm OS there at the end,

00:32:16   but they had built this really good multi-threaded OS that worked on mobile over at Palm Source.

00:32:21   They just didn't finish it because they were mismanaged.

00:32:24   And so everybody who worked for Palm Source eventually started hearing whispers

00:32:30   that there was a new operating system being built over at this little company called Google.

00:32:35   And so a bunch of the fundamentals of Android came not just from danger

00:32:42   and the folks from the Sidekick company, Andy Rume's company,

00:32:45   it also came from a bunch of people who slowly but surely left Palm Source to go work on something

00:32:50   that was actually going to ship over at Google.

00:32:55   It's the trio was the cell phone version of the Palm Pilot.

00:33:00   It trios all and they all had hard hardware keyboards Blackberry style little keyboard underneath,

00:33:06   I believe right and yeah, they all had keyboards.

00:33:10   Actually the funny thing about the keyboard they originally had all the keys in an oval that was like tilted.

00:33:16   I think to the right and Blackberry sued them.

00:33:19   And so they had to they got in this big fight

00:33:22   and it turns out what Blackberry had was a design patent of some sort.

00:33:25   And so all they did was they flipped the direction of the ovals on the left-hand side of the keyboard to avoid getting sued by Blackberry.

00:33:33   I remember in that era the people who had devices like that.

00:33:37   I worked at barebone software for two years the BB edit company 2000 to 2002

00:33:43   and that was like the height of handspring

00:33:45   and I think majority of the people I worked with we all had handspring visors and really liked them.

00:33:51   But one of the guys there had a trio and he just loved it and it was like an expensive cell plan.

00:33:59   I just had a dumb candy bar cell phone and I got it and he wasn't like proselytizing it,

00:34:05   but he just loved it and said this is the future having networking on a thing

00:34:10   and I could see the appeal of it.

00:34:12   It was just too expensive and I also recall the late Aaron Swartz who was a friend of mine was a big sidekick fan.

00:34:19   Yeah, and I forget what year that would be that would have been a little bit later probably like 2003-2004 ish.

00:34:27   That sounds right.

00:34:28   Yeah, and I remember being with him a couple times like one time.

00:34:32   He spent a couple of days in Philadelphia for some other reason and we got together a couple times

00:34:36   and he just he was proselytizing.

00:34:38   He was like you've got to get one of these and I sat there and went through it with him

00:34:42   and I was like, well, this is there's so many things wrong with this interface on the sidekick and he was like,

00:34:48   yeah, yeah, and he totally agreed with all of my complaints

00:34:50   and he was like, but you don't understand how worth it.

00:34:54   It is that when you are out and there's like a trivia question or like a conversion you need to make you just type it in

00:35:01   and you get the answer wherever you are.

00:35:03   You could it's it's game life-changing and I didn't disagree with him,

00:35:08   but I didn't the product was so unappealing to me that I was like,

00:35:13   ah, I'll wait.

00:35:15   But so here here's the insane thing.

00:35:18   I was in the same boat of trying to proselytize this stuff.

00:35:20   I remember I had a the hamstring visor with this terrible a camera on it called the i-module

00:35:26   and I was like look you could take a picture and then it'll sink over and people like this is stupid.

00:35:30   Like no, you don't understand this is the future.

00:35:32   But the the insane thing is the people who didn't get it more than anybody were the carriers.

00:35:39   They literally told people at handspring.

00:35:42   Nobody will ever want to take a picture on this.

00:35:44   No one will ever want to send a photo.

00:35:46   Nobody will ever want to have a text entry that isn't T9.

00:35:51   Right. They were the hardest people to convince them all

00:35:54   because they were making money hand over fist by just selling high-margin candy bar phones.

00:36:01   Right. It was like the only text messages anybody sends are things like BRB or be right there in there like so,

00:36:09   why would anybody want to have a complex text thing?

00:36:12   All they do is send three characters at a time as opposed to thinking the reason everybody was texting like that was

00:36:17   because T9 was such an enormous pain in the ass.

00:36:20   Yeah, it was like they had it although I was pretty good at T9.

00:36:24   Oh, I was I didn't use it enough.

00:36:26   I guess I got better. It was a weird skill.

00:36:29   I actually my son is a senior in high school and we were just talking about that.

00:36:34   Somehow it came up about the way that push-button phones have always had the letters underneath

00:36:39   and he was like, I don't understand that.

00:36:41   I don't understand how people give 1-800 get Coke as the Coca-Cola hotline.

00:36:46   He said what does that even mean?

00:36:47   I say well, you just look for the letter under the number and translate it.

00:36:50   But just just type even if G and E are the same letter you just type it twice.

00:36:55   And I was like, but when we used to text message you would press the key as many times

00:37:01   if the T was the third letter on the number you'd press that one three times to make it a T instead of the first one.

00:37:07   And it was so totally unoptimized for the alphabet

00:37:12   and the actual frequency with which you use numbers, right?

00:37:17   It's so T's the first one. I'm looking at it now T's the first one on eight,

00:37:21   but like the five key is so inefficient J K and L J and K pretty uncommon letters L very common letter.

00:37:30   You had to type three times E was two presses S four presses on a seven for S the most frequent consonant in the English language.

00:37:42   You had to press the key four times.

00:37:45   Am I misremembering that there were some phones that had like a auto prediction where you you could just hit the numbers

00:37:51   and not have to hit him four times that did happen, right? I'm not just making that up.

00:37:54   Yep. And as I recall in my mind that became a thing right around 2007.

00:38:01   It was it was too late.

00:38:04   No, but that definitely became a thing where they would do like dictionary lookups

00:38:08   and you could just press press it once but we'll be doomed to complain about auto correct for the rest of our lives.

00:38:14   Man, you've been tweeting about auto correct being bad on the iPhone.

00:38:18   Oh my god, you have to go through these workarounds.

00:38:20   It is it's pretty bad and I don't understand what what they're pulling from

00:38:26   and that they can just drop to 2.0.

00:38:29   I bounce a lot between different phones and between iOS and Android.

00:38:33   So I just assume that I always have bad auto correct and like my muscle memory for different keyboard sizes is always wrong.

00:38:41   This is why I make so many typos on Twitter.

00:38:43   Or at least it's I tell myself that's why but man it is bonkers how it feels like we've regressed

00:38:51   and I can't tell if it's because we expect more and it doesn't it's not hitting that or if it's an actual regression.

00:38:58   I think it's an actual regression to some degree

00:39:01   and Ken Kishenda who's no longer at Apple,

00:39:04   but he was the engineer he wrote the book creative selection.

00:39:08   I believe is the title of his excellent book.

00:39:10   He's at that mysterious startup.

00:39:12   Now, what's it called started by two other ex-apple people?

00:39:15   Oh shoot.

00:39:16   I know the one you're talking about.

00:39:18   It's got a like a very like generic generic name,

00:39:22   but like a abstract name.

00:39:24   Yeah, I'm losing it.

00:39:25   Hold on.

00:39:25   I know it's on his Twitter bio.

00:39:27   It is humane humane.

00:39:30   Yes.

00:39:30   Right.

00:39:30   Thank you.

00:39:31   I don't know what they're I honestly don't know what they're doing.

00:39:33   I'm friends with Ken,

00:39:34   but I like any good former Apple person his lips are utterly sealed.

00:39:38   I'm not even sure his spouse knows what he's working on.

00:39:41   But anyway, he was the he wrote the original keyboard

00:39:45   and autocorrect for the original iPhone.

00:39:48   It was just that was one person can because the team was small.

00:39:52   That's how you keep things secret and he has unsurprisingly strong opinions about this.

00:39:56   But I think the fundamental error Apple is made on this

00:39:59   and it's a this is a very big tangent,

00:40:02   but I think it is the way that modern Apple really wants to hide how things work

00:40:12   and there is to me that it the antithesis of the classic Mac OS

00:40:18   where in the classic Mac OS you could all why did whatever just happened happened.

00:40:24   You could always figure out exactly why

00:40:27   so there was autocorrect like on classic Mac OS in 1990,

00:40:32   but if there had been or you would have been able to know exactly what

00:40:37   and why on Mac OS 10

00:40:40   and it's a thing they inherited from next it literally might date to like 1989

00:40:46   and it might be in the exact same location,

00:40:48   but like you're typing in a regular Mac app

00:40:51   and you type a word that isn't in the dictionary

00:40:56   and it gets the red underlines,

00:40:58   but you know,

00:40:58   it's an actual word.

00:40:59   Maybe it's like a product name or something like that

00:41:02   and you control click on it

00:41:04   and or right click on it

00:41:05   and you can say add to dictionary

00:41:07   and now now any way in other apps other documents that word will always be treated as spelled correctly that

00:41:16   but what happens if you make a mistake

00:41:17   or you want to take one out?

00:41:19   Well,

00:41:19   there's actually it's just a simple text file.

00:41:21   I forget the actual name.

00:41:22   I can put a link in the show notes,

00:41:24   but in your home folder in the library in some folder within the library.

00:41:30   There is just a text file

00:41:33   and you could open it up in any text editor

00:41:35   and it is just one word per line.

00:41:37   It's not it's not an p-list XML file.

00:41:40   It's not JSON or anything like that.

00:41:43   Just a text file a list of words

00:41:45   and there they all are

00:41:46   and you could see them

00:41:47   and you can know that you therefore you can know

00:41:51   where these extra words that aren't in the dictionary come from

00:41:54   and where to go to add them.

00:41:55   There's nothing like that on iOS,

00:41:57   right?

00:41:58   It's there's no way to know why when I was typing 20 to 0.

00:42:05   I kept getting 2.0 as the autocorrect

00:42:10   and that one was hitting me for months

00:42:12   and it's I type I try to type the digits 20 frequently enough

00:42:20   that it was something that I complained about in public on Daring Fireball,

00:42:25   but infrequently enough that I never ever remembered

00:42:29   that this is not going to work.

00:42:31   I need to go to the correction bar right above the keyboard

00:42:35   and manually select quote 20 instead of taking the default 2.0

00:42:41   which several people pointed out you can just do that

00:42:44   and I was like, yeah, but I don't remember

00:42:45   I don't expect when I type 20 on the keyboard

00:42:49   for that to be autocorrected and it turns out

00:42:51   well and also it should it should remember

00:42:53   that you've done that a couple of times

00:42:54   and just changed like that to put too fine a point on it,

00:42:57   but that is that is what Gboard does right?

00:43:00   Well and supposedly some people said that if you type it like eight times

00:43:04   eight or nine times and choose it out each time it'll remember then

00:43:08   but again, there's no way there's no way of knowing

00:43:11   how many times you need to do it before it'll stick

00:43:14   and the explanation I got the correct explanation.

00:43:17   I'm a hundred percent sure this is where the at least this one was coming from.

00:43:21   It wasn't some machine learning thing.

00:43:24   It was the fact that I have an app installed with 2.0 in the app's name.

00:43:29   It's our right and and it's an app.

00:43:32   I don't want to get rid of I don't know why it's a stupid thing to put in the app's name anyway,

00:43:37   but that's where it came from and the solution I chose which works is to go to settings

00:43:46   general keyboard text replacements

00:43:48   and just make a do-nothing text replacement.

00:43:51   We're typing the digits to zero has the shortcut to zero.

00:43:57   So it's right just type to zero to get to zero.

00:44:01   But once you add that as a text repla I prefer that even though it seems it is annoying to me

00:44:07   as a perfectionist that I have to make a do-nothing text replacement for this

00:44:12   and this works for swear words to if you're cursed with the ducking instead of the f-word version.

00:44:18   You can just add that word in there as a do-nothing text replacement

00:44:22   and it should you know, stop giving you ducking where you want to curse

00:44:27   but it there's no explanation.

00:44:29   There's no document that says here's where autocorrect gets sources

00:44:32   and a lot of people I don't know if it's true or not.

00:44:34   You don't know but Apple doesn't explain it lots

00:44:37   and lots of people emailing me in about this since I wrote about it.

00:44:41   I've said that they're convinced that in addition to like surprising sources,

00:44:45   like the names of your apps installed in one fellow has a game.

00:44:50   One of my readers has a game where the the name has the word Amy and it AMY,

00:44:56   but they spell it in all caps right Mario run does the same thing.

00:45:00   So Mario Mario run is Nintendo spells it in all capital letters.

00:45:05   So if you type Mario you it autocorrects to the all caps version.

00:45:10   Well, this guy's wife's name is Amy and guess what?

00:45:12   He types his wife's name a lot and every time he thanked me for the autocorrects.

00:45:17   I suggested he obviously has a contact card for her too,

00:45:20   but it was defaulting to this game.

00:45:22   He has where Amy is spelled in all caps.

00:45:24   So every time he typed his wife's name it turned into all caps.

00:45:27   I have a great startup idea.

00:45:28   We're going to make an app for every single person's name.

00:45:31   We're going to find out something that will get it through App Store reviews

00:45:34   till it'll actually be accepted and then you can you can pay 99 cents

00:45:38   to get an app that will keep autocorrect from screwing up your closest contacts names.

00:45:44   It is it's a funny thing that we have to complain about but there we are.

00:45:48   All right. Let me take a break here.

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00:47:24   and three free gifts from Hello fresh another similarity with Apple

00:47:29   was that they started with a black and white operating system.

00:47:33   Literally not grayscale just black and white pixels

00:47:36   and then eventually went to color and it was sort of a painful transition.

00:47:41   Yeah with palm.

00:47:42   It was the transition to grayscale.

00:47:44   I've met it was a transition to color which came honestly kind of late,

00:47:48   but it was also the transition to different screen dimensions.

00:47:51   They went from 160 by 160 to 320 which was just pixel doubling.

00:47:55   So that was great.

00:47:56   They finally released some random PDAs that I think had 360 by 480 screens,

00:48:01   but they were just stuck on that screen resolution and apps that were hard-coded

00:48:06   to that screen resolution up until they just they killed off their palm OS devices.

00:48:11   They just they could never get out of it.

00:48:13   Yeah, the Mac had similar problems in the 80s

00:48:15   when they started growing beyond the classic slash original Mac all-in-one form factor.

00:48:22   That was 512 by 384 you'd find some shareware app

00:48:26   and then you'd launch it on a bigger display

00:48:29   and it would just just show up as 512 by 384 area on the screen.

00:48:35   It was like, huh? Guess this is an older app.

00:48:39   Those things are tough, you know,

00:48:40   and I think part of what made the iPhone a success

00:48:45   and has kept it relevant and thriving I think is true for Android too,

00:48:49   is that by building on the foundations of actual Unix or in the case of Android Linux.

00:48:58   It had room to grow in multitasking even if the way they implement it was like the lack of quote-unquote

00:49:06   multitasking in the first few versions of the iPhone's operating system wasn't

00:49:12   because the OS didn't support it.

00:49:13   It was because the user interface didn't support it

00:49:16   because they didn't didn't have enough RAM didn't have

00:49:19   and it didn't have enough CPU didn't have enough battery life to have anything running in the background.

00:49:24   Wasn't that they technically couldn't it was that

00:49:27   as a product decision they encapsulated it into an interface that once you hit the home button,

00:49:32   whatever you were using was suspended.

00:49:35   That was it. Yeah, it's an interesting academic question.

00:49:39   What are the decisions and preconceptions at the foundation of the operating system

00:49:44   that are difficult to change or immutable

00:49:47   and I feel like I don't know right now there's way fewer of those at least on modern operating systems.

00:49:55   There's more freedom to change stuff around and add features

00:49:58   and move UI around in ways that the real limitation is just a philosophy more than it is.

00:50:05   Can the thing actually do it?

00:50:07   There the other similarity that I see and these movies your movie springboard

00:50:12   and the general magic movie and just the overall nostalgia

00:50:15   and hey, we are where we are in the mobile world of the duopoly of iOS and Android.

00:50:21   It no longer feels like news.

00:50:23   This is it's just cemented.

00:50:24   It's the world we live in.

00:50:26   Yeah, but looking back at it there is just an incredible similarity in pda's to phones.

00:50:33   Whatever you want to call all these handhelds to the early PC era of the late 70s

00:50:38   and early 80s where there were dozens of different platforms

00:50:43   and dozens of companies and everybody just did their own thing

00:50:45   and there was Commodore and Atari had computers

00:50:48   and of course there was Apple and the then came the PC and DOS.

00:50:54   You could just out air the list goes on and on and then there were two.

00:51:00   It was the Mac and Windows and it's the same with the pda's and the early phones,

00:51:05   right? Like you mentioned Symbian there was Blackberry there were Newton

00:51:09   and Palm and of course pocket PC from Microsoft

00:51:13   and there were lots and lots and lots of platforms and lots of enthusiasm from early adopters

00:51:20   and then there were two.

00:51:23   Yeah. Well, and I mean, do I think that it's inevitable that platform markets boil down to duopolies?

00:51:28   I'd like to say no. It was a lot more fun back in the day

00:51:31   when I was running Trio Central, Windows Central, Nokia Central, Android Central

00:51:37   and iMore all at the same time.

00:51:39   There were we had we had and there were communities around every single one of these

00:51:43   smartphone platforms and it wasn't really clear who was going to win out

00:51:47   and what was going to stick around

00:51:48   and there was lots of money being invested and devices out there

00:51:52   and now the best hope for diversity is a bunch of companies running stuff that is sort of like

00:51:57   Android S right that will run Android apps,

00:51:59   but maybe isn't technically just a straight Google version of Android

00:52:03   or start to see that on. I don't know Chromebooks and Windows is going to run Android apps now,

00:52:07   but yeah, it's I don't know. I part of me is just I like the idea of more competition.

00:52:11   I like the idea of more diversity, but I also like the idea of having a big stable ecosystem

00:52:16   from a company that can be held accountable for,

00:52:19   you know, making sure stuff doesn't fall apart. Right?

00:52:21   So I don't know I and looking at Palm in particular.

00:52:26   They just they're one of those companies where especially with handspring that little

00:52:31   interregnum period of palm. They just they had so much stacked against them

00:52:36   that it's a miracle. They shipped products at all.

00:52:39   This like my joke that I always tell is if at six points in their history,

00:52:43   if just one executive had made a different decision

00:52:47   or if one venture capitalist had given them an extra 300 million dollars things would have been different.

00:52:52   They got bought by US Robotics. I got bought by three com. They spun out.

00:52:56   They got spun back in they spun out in two different companies.

00:52:59   They they sold off another company. They had three false starts on different operating systems.

00:53:04   They tried to sell into Verizon Verizon said no,

00:53:08   they got stuck with Sprint. They did it again Verizon played them

00:53:12   and launched the droid instead of the Palm pre just over and over and over again.

00:53:17   They got they got stuck by just external sort of economic

00:53:20   and corporate factors that prevented their decent products from having a chance to improve

00:53:27   and evolve and is it inevitable that the same sort of thing would have happened to other platforms?

00:53:34   I don't know. I look at Microsoft in particular.

00:53:37   They're the ones where I just don't get it.

00:53:39   I don't get why they weren't able to just stick with it

00:53:43   and make something good other than they didn't realize what a mobile device should be until it was way way way way way too late

00:53:51   and the market had already been ossified into iOS and Android.

00:53:55   I think that again doing the alternate universes.

00:53:58   I think there's an alternate universe where if Satya Nadella had taken over earlier from Balmer

00:54:05   and I'm not saying Balmer obviously made the company tons of money

00:54:09   and there are some good analogies between him

00:54:13   and Tim Cook in terms of how the company grew under his leadership after Bill Gates stepped aside.

00:54:20   You mentioned the Palm pre now that's this is beyond the scope of springboard.

00:54:25   You're the documentary which is very specifically the reason you get away with doing it in 32 minutes.

00:54:30   Is that you're very specifically tightly focused on handspring.

00:54:33   The Palm pre was palms answer to the iPhone.

00:54:39   And so there's what we should also mention.

00:54:42   We don't think I've linked to it yet from during Fireball.

00:54:45   I wanted to have you on and before I did but you you dug up.

00:54:49   I've I've made great hay over the years of the Ed Colligan quote from the New York Times in December of 2006 at some sort of public function.

00:55:00   He was interviewed by John Mark off on stage and yep and December 2006 is a month before the iPhone was introduced on stage at Mac World Expo

00:55:13   and the nobody knew what it was going to look like most people including me were betting it would be some sort of iPod phone

00:55:22   but the rumblings that Apple was doing a phone were

00:55:28   as strong as without knowing any details of what it what the hell it actually was were so strong

00:55:33   because there's just it was too many chances to leak that I don't know if it leaked from AT&T or at the time singular who knows

00:55:41   but just basically Apple is doing a phone was out there in the air

00:55:45   and the way that the quote was originally printed made it seem like Ed Colligan was talking very specifically about Apple

00:55:53   and the way he was quoted was the PC guys aren't we've been doing this for a long time PC guys aren't just going to come in.

00:56:01   Right and it turns out you've done the work.

00:56:04   That's not what he said.

00:56:07   Well, yeah, not not quite.

00:56:08   So the thing the way he was quoted was PC guys are not just going to figure this out.

00:56:12   They're not just going to walk in but it was actually they were talking both Ed and John and everybody was like,

00:56:16   well, it'll be an iPod and maybe it'll just use Wi-Fi and not connect to the carriers because Apple hates the carriers.

00:56:22   They call them orifices. But what about the Moto Q which was Windows Mobile device that was not great.

00:56:28   And he also there are rumblings that Google was going to be making something at the time Eric Schmidt,

00:56:32   who is a CEO of Google was saying things like oh phone should be free.

00:56:35   We're going to give phones away and we'll make money on the back end never quite got there.

00:56:41   So that's the context of the question

00:56:43   and then Colligan's quote is I would just caution people that think they're going to walk in here and just do these we struggled for a few years.

00:56:50   The PC guys are not going to just knock this out and then he's like welcome guarantee it welcome.

00:56:55   Let's go for it come on in and he also says a little bit later on.

00:56:59   I'm not trying to be cocky about this. It's a it's a tough business.

00:57:02   So but I asked Ed about this later during the interview.

00:57:04   It didn't make it into the documentary.

00:57:06   He was very quick to point out like look like I got my start at Apple.

00:57:09   Donna got her started Apple two or three of my companies that I've started were basically like Apple software accessory companies.

00:57:16   I love Apple. I use Apple stuff.

00:57:18   I was trying to talk about the market in general and PC guys in general not specifically about Apple,

00:57:23   which is he is the apples in the in the thing he's reacting to here.

00:57:27   So it's not so much if he was saying well,

00:57:29   they're they definitely aren't going to walk in figure this out.

00:57:31   I'm predicting failure here.

00:57:33   It was indictment on Google specifically,

00:57:36   but also Motorola and a bunch of other companies that like it's not as easy to make a phone as people seem to think it is and that's true.

00:57:46   A bunch of companies thought it would be really easy to just roll into the mobile market and make a phone and they turned out to be wrong.

00:57:52   But I also think that it's not just that it making a phone was like so hard that that's the only reason palm didn't do well,

00:57:58   right palm palm shot itself in the foot in a million ways.

00:58:02   The thing about Ed Colligan is he is he is by far the nicest sort of kindest CEO I've ever interacted with perhaps to a fault.

00:58:15   And that's one of the reasons that if palm had been maybe been a little bit more ruthless and cutthroat,

00:58:20   they might have had a different history the idea that he would like cynically be taking a pot shot at Apple is pretty unlikely.

00:58:28   Not the least of which because around this time he had specifically called Steve Jobs and said,

00:58:35   hey Steve, how's it going?

00:58:36   We've got this new trio here and we also were thinking about making this folio,

00:58:41   which was a failed proto netbook product that they were considering

00:58:44   and Steve Jobs said, oh, yeah, it seems nice.

00:58:46   I don't really use smartphones myself.

00:58:48   Thanks. No, thanks. One of these two maybe three or four times that palm

00:58:54   and Apple got in the same room together

00:58:57   and there was the vibe that maybe the acquisition could happen.

00:59:00   Steve called Donna Dubinsky back when they were palm way beforehand

00:59:02   and offered said that they should go over and let Apple buy him and Donna said she didn't want to work for anybody anymore.

00:59:08   So anyway, long story short it it was a bit of a misquote directionally.

00:59:13   He maybe was being a little bit too.

00:59:17   He was overstating how how how difficult it might be for some companies,

00:59:22   but he definitely got it right that a bunch of companies thought it would be easy and it super wasn't.

00:59:27   I think that the key thing that he didn't foresee had nothing to do with the hardware or software.

00:59:34   I even though the iPhone was surprisingly advanced and famously the the Blackberry executives thought Apple was lying about its

00:59:43   capabilities that it couldn't possibly there's no way they could pack what they're saying.

00:59:47   They're packed into a thing like that.

00:59:49   And so I do think it was surprising it was ahead of its time.

00:59:52   It was years ahead of the competition at a product level,

00:59:56   but I think the key thing that Ed Colligan and nobody else really foresaw was Apple and and I will I tend to be loathe to say only Steve Jobs could blank.

01:00:11   But I feel like in the case of the deal they got from singular /at&t and the control they got over the product was something that somebody like Ed Colligan

01:00:24   who had negotiated with all these carriers around the world and new knew why Steve Jobs called them orifices

01:00:30   and knew what those the carriers did to these products from an end Palm of all companies knew this

01:00:38   because they were a product centric company right they they knew they knew what things became worse on a trio

01:00:46   once it went through the filter of Verizon or whoever else and the fact that Apple was able to get singular to just say you do you do your thing Apple you make it your way you handle the software updates.

01:01:00   It's all sure you can do it all famously.

01:01:02   They didn't even see the iPhone.

01:01:04   They didn't show it to them.

01:01:06   They obviously you know knew about like the antenna details and and stuff like that like the things that made the iPhone a phone

01:01:16   and they worked with AT&T to get the visual voicemail as a feature on day one,

01:01:21   which again in hindsight is bananas that we you used to actually have to deal with all of your voicemail on a phone call.

01:01:30   You'd have to the only way before the iPhone to get your voicemail was to call.

01:01:35   I forget what you hit it was a pound.

01:01:38   I don't know pound 70 or something like that would make a phone call to your carrier

01:01:42   and you would say you have three new voice messages and you'd have to deal with them all on the keypad.

01:01:49   So they obviously knew some details.

01:01:51   It wasn't like it was a complete black box

01:01:53   but famously singular didn't actually get to see the iPhone and know that it had a touch screen and what it looked like and stuff like that.

01:01:59   I don't think anybody foresaw that and it was obviously key to the iPhone's success.

01:02:05   I think that even given the quality of the hardware

01:02:09   and the software that Apple was able to do if the iPhone had gone had to go through the typical carrier filter of well,

01:02:18   let us add our Verizon app and stuff like that

01:02:21   and we'll all firmware updates or whatever you want to call software updates.

01:02:25   We'll we have to handle that.

01:02:26   There's no way we can let you handle that it.

01:02:29   In other words the customers relationship would be like with all previous phones entirely through the carrier

01:02:35   and Apple just happened to be the company that made the phone

01:02:37   but you have no relationship with Apple your relationship was would be entirely through your carrier.

01:02:43   The fact that Apple was able to negotiate their way out of that with just starting with one carrier one,

01:02:49   but one major carrier to me was the key thing that he that I don't think Ed Colligan foresaw.

01:02:57   And I think he would have his know what it is.

01:03:00   I think his quote even correctly in context as as you now have the transcript would would date much better.

01:03:07   If Apple had to it was like if Apple hadn't found a partner

01:03:11   and singular willing to do this it would have played out much more like Ed Colligan foresaw.

01:03:16   Yeah, there would have been way more compromises in the product.

01:03:18   I mean Palm was unable they got the core on one carrier in Europe in Orange.

01:03:26   They made them get rid of the home screen and replace it with an orange home screen in the US

01:03:31   several carriers refused to let them ship an email app on the phone itself.

01:03:37   They made they had a they had to back door it to like customers sync it over

01:03:40   after they installed it in like the manual in the box

01:03:43   because the carriers would only allow them to ship it with the carriers email app linked to your at sprit.net.

01:03:50   Whatever email address was on the phone itself like just utterly ridiculous requirements that you know,

01:03:57   and Palm just didn't have the leverage to say no I could be misremembering

01:04:02   this because this is why I didn't have a smartphone at the time,

01:04:04   but I remember I seem to recall that at least one of the US carriers they gave you an email address.

01:04:10   You could only use their email address on their quote-unquote smartphones,

01:04:13   but your email address was your phone number at carrier name.com or something like that.

01:04:19   Like you don't even get your name. It was just your phone number as your email address.

01:04:25   I mean, I asked everybody that I interviewed for this thing.

01:04:27   Why do you think the iPhone beat you? I gotta ask and Jeff Hawkins was one of the first everyone said it was a great product.

01:04:33   Although everyone said that the very first iteration wasn't that good

01:04:36   but Jeff Hawkins recognized that like they nailed the form factor

01:04:39   and Peter Skillman who is industrial designer for handspring also pointed out the ability to like step back

01:04:46   and go make that capacitive touch screen.

01:04:48   So the the ability for Apple to have a fresh slate

01:04:54   and make a product that didn't have any sort of historical baggage attached to it,

01:05:00   combined with the ability to convince a carrier to let them just make the thing they want to make,

01:05:06   is why the iPhone became the iPhone. Why it just blew everybody's mind.

01:05:12   And just if you if you're worried about next quarter's results and you're worried about making payroll,

01:05:17   you're just never going to be able to do that.

01:05:19   Yeah, I'd like to thank our third and final sponsor Ernest,

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01:07:24   All right, but that leads us to the Palm Pre,

01:07:26   and I think over the years you've been on my show, we've danced around.

01:07:31   Let's dig in. When better than now for me and you to have it out with Palm Pre?

01:07:37   I will say this. I think the Palm Pre is arguably the nicest product I've ever used that didn't make it.

01:07:48   Or it's up there on the list.

01:07:51   Yeah. Here's the thing about me and the Palm Pre.

01:07:55   Obviously everybody knows I'm at Ran Pre Central, closely associated with the brand,

01:07:58   married somebody who worked at Palm.

01:08:00   I gotta say the nicest is hard for me to agree with.

01:08:03   It had the most potential and it was like the best designed in terms of software

01:08:08   and it was like the most clearly like intentional.

01:08:12   It would have a complete thought to it. But man, that hardware was terrible.

01:08:16   Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, I guess that what you said is better matches my feelings.

01:08:22   It needed to improve.

01:08:24   I'm not saying that as it actually shipped, it was the best product that didn't make it.

01:08:29   But what it needed, when it just needs to get faster, that's a thing you can do, right?

01:08:36   What was wrong with the Newton is a complex question because it was a lot.

01:08:42   It wasn't just it needed to be faster, right?

01:08:44   It needed lots and lots of things.

01:08:47   What do I think is wrong with Windows user interface?

01:08:52   Well, that's like one of those computer books we used to buy back in the 90s

01:08:58   where they're like as thick as a phone book.

01:08:59   It's like because famously I forget, I think it was Tim O'Reilly who said,

01:09:04   yeah, it's why are these computer books so thick?

01:09:06   We figured because look at the sales data.

01:09:08   People go into a bookstore and they're looking for a book on blank,

01:09:13   whatever it is, and they just pick the thickest one and go to the register.

01:09:17   Yeah, amazing. That's that's what like my list of what's wrong with when the what was wrong with the Palm pre was it was too slow.

01:09:25   Yeah, well and like the hardware was a little junky. They couldn't afford to make something truly nice.

01:09:29   The thing about the web OS and the pre is if you remember what phones were like when it first launched,

01:09:38   they were a little late, but Android was pretty junky at the time.

01:09:43   It was not anywhere near as polished as it is now.

01:09:46   There were things that the iPhone was incapable of doing at the time that the Palm pre could do.

01:09:52   I don't remember where in the timeline Windows Mobile versus Windows Phone lands here,

01:09:58   but both of those were not in a super polished place.

01:10:01   We look at our phones now and it's hard to remember that back in 2007, 2008, 2009.

01:10:09   These things were actually like not great.

01:10:12   They were all slow and they all had weirdnesses with the interface

01:10:15   and they were all missing stuff that they obviously needed to do at some point.

01:10:18   But with the original pre because they had a clean slate,

01:10:23   they could launch with a complete thought of here is this thing.

01:10:27   Here's how it works. Here are a bunch of new ideas

01:10:31   for what a phone can do and what it's like notification should look like

01:10:35   and what's multitasking should look like that.

01:10:38   I don't want to say revolutionary. I'm not going to say that.

01:10:40   I don't think that people had thought of some of these ideas inside of Apple or Microsoft or Google,

01:10:48   but they were actually able to just make the thing

01:10:51   and ship it instead of having an interesting UI idea

01:10:53   and then putting it on the roadmap for three years down the road.

01:10:56   Yeah, it actually shipped. It wasn't just that,

01:10:59   okay, sure, people at Apple and Google and Nokia had ideas for modern notification UI

01:11:06   and it's on a whiteboard somewhere. This was something that actually shipped.

01:11:09   Let me make sure I'm getting the timeline right.

01:11:12   I know the timeline of the iPhone announced in January 2007,

01:11:17   shipped at the end of June 2007, the original aluminum black iconic original iPhone.

01:11:24   Then a year later, they came out, Apple came out with the iPhone 3G,

01:11:28   which added of course 3G networking and but changed the form factor to this sort of crappy plastic back.

01:11:35   To me, it's clearly the two worst iPhones of all time,

01:11:38   where the 3G in terms of in terms of industrial design 3G.

01:11:42   Oh, sure. Sure. 3G and 3GS those plastic ones,

01:11:45   but that's 2008 and that came out in June too.

01:11:47   I believe the pre came out in like the spring of 2008.

01:11:53   So it's 2009. They announced it at CES in 2009,

01:11:58   the only good thing to ever come out of CES and then it got released in June of that year

01:12:04   and I forget the exact date and I really should know it

01:12:06   because it was like that's like the thing you could punch in to turn on developer mode on it

01:12:10   if you knew the launch date of the Palm Pre.

01:12:12   So it was two years after the iPhone, but what I knew it was June though,

01:12:17   because I it's one of those memories I have where I know exactly where I was

01:12:22   when I first got to play with a pre. I was at the beer bash at WWDC in June.

01:12:31   I don't remember who had the pre, but it's where we're there on that big grass lawn

01:12:36   where they always used to have the beer bash when it was at Moscone.

01:12:40   Somebody in a group of people I knew had the pre and was like,

01:12:46   would you like to play with it? And I was like, yes,

01:12:49   and that's all I remember. It was like this experience of like the first time I saw the iPhone.

01:12:55   I just I couldn't possibly get enough time with it.

01:12:58   The thing that hit me right when I started using it was

01:13:03   and I think it's true is if you went back in time to

01:13:10   the classic, let's say 1998 when Steve Jobs was back next was back,

01:13:14   but they were headed to the secret project they were working on that would become what wasn't really secret,

01:13:19   but what was to become Mac OS X was still years from shipping

01:13:22   and the state of the art from Apple was Mac OS 9.

01:13:26   And if you showed a Mac user of 1998

01:13:30   who was well versed in Apple's aesthetics and taste and the way the Mac worked.

01:13:36   If you showed them a 2009 iPhone and a 2009 Palm pre and asked them which one was the Apple phone.

01:13:47   I think an awful lot of people if not a majority would have guessed the pre that the yeah,

01:13:52   the pre was more aligned to the ideals

01:13:59   and priorities of Apple in the classic Mac OS era than the iPhone.

01:14:05   Yeah. Well to be clear there were a lot of Apple people working at Palm, not just John Rubenstein,

01:14:09   but so many engineers and so on that there was actually a fight between Steve Jobs and Ed Colligan

01:14:15   over recruiting. Steve emailed Ed and was like you got to stop taking our people

01:14:20   and Ed wrote the email back that was like very clearly written to be found by lawyers

01:14:25   in two years or whatever saying as you know,

01:14:27   we can't make these kinds of deals and blah blah blah blah blah and you also poach from us.

01:14:31   So there was a lot of Apple DNA inside Palm at the time.

01:14:37   Yeah, I know that and designers too and and just down to the details of what like the icons look like

01:14:43   in the style of the icons and the fact that they were all very consistent with each other

01:14:48   and looked like they were all part of the same family was much more like classic Mac OS

01:14:54   than the iPhone in the early days where the iPhone yeah,

01:15:01   it obviously has worked out very well for Apple

01:15:04   and the iPhone clearly evolved into becoming more of an independent fully independent

01:15:11   for the most part computing system,

01:15:13   but the original conception of the iPhone in the early years 2007 2008

01:15:19   2009 was far less about having a computer a personal computer system in your pocket

01:15:27   and it was much more of a like an appliance

01:15:31   and I don't mean that to denigrate it.

01:15:33   Obviously I liked it.

01:15:35   I was my phone. I was very happy with it.

01:15:37   But even something as simple as the fact that it took like I think it was three years to get copy

01:15:43   and paste because they're they just it wasn't that they didn't think of it.

01:15:46   I mean, I've talked to people who were on the team at the time

01:15:49   and they were like, yeah, of course, we knew it needed copy and paste but you know,

01:15:52   it was low on lower on our list of priorities than X Y and Z which they did first

01:16:00   whereas the pre-launched with all sorts of stuff like that multitasking notifications,

01:16:07   right and the multi multitasking interface.

01:16:10   Well, what would it look like it looked like cards that you shuffle through

01:16:14   and they're in order which is something that you know,

01:16:17   the way you multitask right now

01:16:20   and whether it was left to right or up and down or something like that.

01:16:23   It's well, so actually with with web OS people don't remember this

01:16:26   and this was something that if they had survived would have to have changed.

01:16:29   I think it was a spatial so it was like Windows on your computer.

01:16:33   If you launched the web browser and then launched the email app.

01:16:37   Those were running applications in theory that were next to each other

01:16:40   and you can move the cards around on your little deck in a spatial way.

01:16:45   So whereas everything today is just reverse chronological.

01:16:48   Your cards are just listed over right to left or whatever.

01:16:50   But it wasn't it wasn't it was like actually like yeah,

01:16:53   the new app could be on the right side or left side or in the middle or wherever.

01:16:56   It was very weird.

01:16:57   Yeah, the way things work now is most recently used second most recently used third most recently used.

01:17:03   It's all about how recently you used it as opposed to the actual spatial metaphor.

01:17:07   Yeah, it was the notifications would be very familiar to users of modern phones.

01:17:16   They except they came up at the bottom instead of the top,

01:17:19   but they very cleverly and to me in an Apple like way would push the content up.

01:17:27   So instead of covering content if the notification was I don't know what maybe they were 32 pixels high.

01:17:34   It made the window shrink by 32 pixels to make room for it.

01:17:39   Right?

01:17:39   And yeah, and it was a very modern notification system by today's standards in at a time

01:17:46   when the iPhone didn't have notifications at all.

01:17:50   Yeah that more than more than anything else.

01:17:52   It was a notification system that really sold me on this thing that maybe oh,

01:17:55   wow, they have thought through what it's like to use a smartphone.

01:17:59   There was also like the Synergy idea which was everything sinking over the air

01:18:05   and they had the benefit of being able to put stuff into a single client like a single messaging client

01:18:09   or a single contacts app stuff that we take for granted today.

01:18:12   And they also had over-the-air updates which I believe took a little while for the iPhone to actually get you still had to plug it into iTunes.

01:18:19   Yeah to get your yeah,

01:18:21   OS updates, but the thing about maybe not notifications,

01:18:24   but the thing about a lot of this stuff is remember that like they didn't have a desktop OS.

01:18:29   This was like their last shot.

01:18:32   And so a lot of these things that seem like Innovations now were born out of the fact that they didn't have any other choice.

01:18:38   It was either like create a desktop app and make you install that and like sink and blah blah blah blah blah.

01:18:44   It turns into this really weird hassle or they're building it from scratch.

01:18:49   They might as well make it over the air completely because it's just it's simpler for them.

01:18:54   And it's a selling point they can move ahead and it's not like they had really any other choice.

01:18:59   So a lot of the stuff that they did including the fact that they based it on web technologies.

01:19:04   There was a big internal debate whether to make something native code or based on web technologies.

01:19:10   And at the end of the day a lot of it was like we need to get this thing out the door

01:19:13   and we need to get developers to make stuff for this thing fast.

01:19:16   So let's go with this a lot of those choices were smart and interesting and clever,

01:19:21   but also born out of necessity.

01:19:24   But also really hurt them in terms of performance because yes web rendering even today.

01:19:30   It's always been it is computationally expensive because no matter how fast our devices

01:19:36   and computers get web developers continually press the the limits of it.

01:19:43   And even when they had the control of the whole thing

01:19:46   because obviously they were writing their own apps rendering stuff on mobile processors circa 2009.

01:19:53   Was expensive and so it was like it's one of those things where in hindsight they probably

01:20:00   because they were late if they had shipped the palm pre even a year earlier two years earlier,

01:20:05   if they had been coincident with the iPhone it could have been different.

01:20:08   But yep, it was too late and it was damned if they do damned if they don't

01:20:13   so they could ship sooner by building on a web stack,

01:20:16   but then their performance would suffer and or they could have gone native like the iPhone did

01:20:22   but they would have had to build out an entire native OS user environment.

01:20:27   Yeah, well it would have slowed down adoption from developers.

01:20:30   They actually did a really good job with developers early on but even even so it was slow,

01:20:34   but it wasn't that much worse than what you got on an Android phone

01:20:38   or even the iPhone a little bit at the time.

01:20:40   And and so like the thing to remember back then is the only thing that mattered to the rest of the phone industry

01:20:48   that wasn't AT&T was can we find an iPhone killer like that that phrase iPhone killer

01:20:54   haunted the entire tech industry outside of Apple for years

01:20:59   because the thing was exclusive to singular and Verizon especially Verizon needed something

01:21:06   and they took a shot on Blackberry.

01:21:09   They made this phone called the storm which was utter fiasco

01:21:13   and like the whole screen was a push button.

01:21:15   It was a terrible joke.

01:21:16   So that that flopped and so then Verizon like okay.

01:21:19   Well, let's try again.

01:21:20   We got to find our iPhone killer and they played off palm

01:21:25   who was put together a huge glut of inventory to sell through to Verizon for the pre-plus

01:21:31   where the processor was a little bit faster and the OS had been updated.

01:21:34   So it wasn't quite so dog slow and it was going to be the thing

01:21:38   but unbeknownst to them Google had teamed up with Motorola to make the droid

01:21:43   like a flagship device and at the 11th hour Verizon tapped Motorola

01:21:48   and the droid became the thing that basically made Android succeed

01:21:52   but also became like the iPhone killer and palm was stuck with yet again a bunch of phones

01:21:57   that they couldn't sell and they weren't doing that well financially in the first place

01:22:01   and that was the thing that ultimately put them under it persisted for a while longer.

01:22:07   They sold HP blah blah blah blah blah blah,

01:22:09   blah blah blah blah, but that moment right there is to me like the final thing

01:22:15   where palm just could not recover from it and it's and it's

01:22:18   well, it's another similarity to to Apple of the 90s right

01:22:22   where inventory was a huge problem for Apple in throughout the 90s

01:22:27   and a big part of how they got into such dire financial straits

01:22:31   and everybody thinks it was purely about market share

01:22:33   but the inventory thing was killer and long story short.

01:22:35   What Apple had was a bunch of sales people who whose jobs were measured by how much stuff.

01:22:42   They put into the quote-unquote Channel and at the end of quarters,

01:22:46   they would just dump all this Mac hardware into the channel

01:22:49   and there might be new products coming in the next quarter yet.

01:22:53   They had all these old ones that were already out there

01:22:55   and it that sort of thing like building out it sounds so simple.

01:22:59   Like why would you do that?

01:23:01   But that's that's where by today's standards.

01:23:04   They were even Apple at that time was a very small company palm was even smaller

01:23:08   and having Channel inventory like that.

01:23:11   It was financial death.

01:23:14   Yeah, and in theory again at the time we didn't know how many players are being the smartphone market.

01:23:18   If you if you could get by with a few percent market share just keep making phones

01:23:23   and it would have been fine.

01:23:23   They could have maybe persisted longer, but they they were stuck in a money pit.

01:23:27   Actually. I told the story at our 10-year party,

01:23:30   but I'll just repeat it here.

01:23:31   So the droid being the thing that killed palm is hilarious

01:23:36   because the droids product manager was Rick Ostril.

01:23:38   Low who got his start making the mp3 sounds good module for the handspring visor

01:23:46   and then they pivoted to push email.

01:23:49   They got bought by Motorola.

01:23:50   He convinced Motorola to make the droid they made the droid the droid killed palm

01:23:55   and now he is he runs the pixel team,

01:23:59   right? Yep. That's right Google.

01:24:00   I remember going to when the droid launched and going to New York for something

01:24:08   and I always take the train from Philly

01:24:10   and it was like I still to this day don't think I've ever seen an ad campaign.

01:24:15   So saturated the way that yeah midtown midtown Manhattan

01:24:20   and all of Penn Station.

01:24:21   There was nothing but droid droid droid droid.

01:24:25   It was like it was almost like something out of minority report

01:24:29   and there was a glitch in the system that everywhere no matter

01:24:32   where I turn my head.

01:24:33   I was being bombarded with a message from Verizon

01:24:36   and Motorola that the droid is here.

01:24:38   Well, and man that ad campaign was also so cynical the amount of money

01:24:44   that pumped into it.

01:24:45   The phone was very good.

01:24:46   It was it was a good phone.

01:24:47   Don't get me wrong.

01:24:48   It had turn-by-turn directions,

01:24:49   which was a first for phones at the time.

01:24:51   It had a really cool industrial design

01:24:53   but the cynicism of like they specifically gendered it as like

01:24:58   the manly dude phone the like cool Brawley just great phone

01:25:03   that was for guys and everybody who doesn't use a droid is a feat

01:25:08   or whatever.

01:25:08   It was just an incredibly offensive campaign

01:25:10   but just cynical because like they knew

01:25:13   where they were going to get their first bump of users

01:25:15   and they were just unapologetic

01:25:17   and making a super cynical offensive campaign to go get those people

01:25:20   because they had to if Rison didn't have something that they could say.

01:25:23   Well, we've got this they were they were looking at a world of hurt.

01:25:26   So they just they threw everything at it.

01:25:29   It is funny and it was a very masculine brand undeniably

01:25:34   and in it played poorly at the time of 2009

01:25:39   or 2010 whenever it was but in hindsight,

01:25:42   it feels 11 years later here in 2021 it the idea of a masculine branded flagship

01:25:49   phone campaign feel it feels like it might as well be as old

01:25:55   as those advertisements where a doctor family doctor was telling you

01:25:59   that you should smoke camels because they soothe your throat.

01:26:02   Yeah.

01:26:04   Yeah, I smoke camels and you should too says family doctor whatever his name is.

01:26:09   That's what it feels like.

01:26:10   It's my God.

01:26:11   What a ridiculous ad campaign.

01:26:13   Yeah, but it was a good product.

01:26:15   It was like the first actually truly good Android phone apologies to HTC

01:26:19   for the the G1 and the the dream and whatever the other ones out there were

01:26:23   but it was it was like the phone where Android was ready for mass market

01:26:28   and had a differentiating feature that nobody else had

01:26:31   and that's that's what made that thing a success.

01:26:33   Yeah famously.

01:26:34   Well, not famously in our circle Android was originally conceived

01:26:39   as a sort of blackberry ish operating system where you would have a keyboard

01:26:43   and there are a couple of prototypes have leaked leaked over the years

01:26:46   and like with the HTC G1 which was the first one it clearly

01:26:50   it was like having three little kids on their shoulders in a trench coat.

01:26:54   It was it was a blackberry style OS dressed up as an iPhone style OS

01:27:01   and it was very clear and it around the time of the droid is when Android finally started feeling.

01:27:07   Okay.

01:27:07   Yeah, this is actually the way you're this is what the system is designed to handle now.

01:27:12   Yeah, but it still had a five-way D-pad on the keyboard underneath on the droid

01:27:16   but before that a bunch of other phones had track balls

01:27:19   because blackberry had had a lot of success with its trackball.

01:27:21   So they figured yeah, I guess that's what phones need is a glowing white trackball

01:27:26   in the middle of the bottom of the phone.

01:27:27   So they would include those on them too.

01:27:29   I seem to recall that some of the early phones you actually had to use the trackball

01:27:33   to move the cursor while you were editing text like there was no touch interface for that.

01:27:38   You had to either either you had to or at least you wanted to

01:27:42   because the touchscreen was so not good for moving the insertion point.

01:27:47   Yeah, that feels right.

01:27:48   And it that that's one of those things where I'm pretty sure Apple had a patent

01:27:52   on the magnifying glass for text selection.

01:27:54   I don't know man the way text selection works on modern iOS.

01:27:57   I just like why did you had such a great idea there?

01:27:59   Like why did you let it go?

01:28:02   I miss it.

01:28:02   I miss I miss text selection.

01:28:04   It's weird because it's you know,

01:28:05   you can drag stuff around and copy and paste is a little bit nicer or whatever,

01:28:07   but I would say it's I've got a 50% hit rate on text selection doing what I wanted to

01:28:14   although part of this is on me because the way it works on Android versus iPhone is just

01:28:19   different enough where I catch myself using the wrong method on either phone.

01:28:24   So I don't think anybody's licked it yet.

01:28:28   I without betraying any confidences.

01:28:32   I know somebody who at some point within that last handful of years ran into Scott

01:28:37   for stall somewhere and you know,

01:28:39   they're just shooting the shit and it came up like one of the things that came up was.

01:28:44   Yeah, we never got text selection right and somehow even in the years since forced all was

01:28:49   forced out of Apple that they still haven't gotten it right like it and it's one of those things

01:28:54   that again if you'd gone back and told me this in 1998 as a Mac user that 20 20 23 years from

01:29:00   now Apple is going to be the most profitable cell phone maker in the world with something broadly

01:29:08   akin to a Macintosh in your pocket with a touchscreen.

01:29:13   I would have thought well and that everybody else uses phones like this too in the way that Windows is

01:29:17   like the Mac and it's all with the touchscreen and I would have said well,

01:29:21   I'll bet Apple's version has the best text selection.

01:29:26   Because it's the sort of thing that in that time Apple always would get right

01:29:30   they and they wouldn't ship without getting it right and somehow some of those details like that.

01:29:35   It just they're just not high there Apple has Apple today has different priorities

01:29:41   and it's it is more of a simplistic appliance.

01:29:44   It still is to this day more of a simplistic appliance like attitude

01:29:47   but that's one of those things to where again,

01:29:51   I don't want to go off on a whole side tangent about using iPad for work.

01:29:54   But like when I do spend more time than I should productivity wise

01:29:59   trying to write or do something on iPad when I go back to my Mac,

01:30:04   it really is that ice ice water and hell feeling of oh my God.

01:30:07   It's so easy to select text precisely.

01:30:09   I don't know maybe in 20 years.

01:30:11   We'll think of having good text selection as being quaint

01:30:14   as an unnecessary because we're all just communicating via short videos or something.

01:30:19   It's no guarantee that there is an answer

01:30:21   for good text selection with your finger on a capacitive touch screen.

01:30:24   It's possible.

01:30:25   It might just might not exist right.

01:30:27   It is possible that that's why we don't have it.

01:30:29   I don't know but we certainly don't have it yet.

01:30:32   And I also think though that Apple has taken regression.

01:30:34   So they've gone back to the magnifying glass,

01:30:36   but I think it was last year.

01:30:38   I was 14 they got rid of the magnifying glass and I thought that was crazy.

01:30:43   It was like you guys had this great thing they even and like you said they even sued

01:30:47   other companies over patents for it and then they got rid of it.

01:30:50   I guess the thinking was hey,

01:30:53   we've gotten so good at just using your finger.

01:30:56   We don't need the magnifying glass anymore.

01:30:58   That's a that's a kludge and it was like a rare case of Apple convincing themselves

01:31:05   of something that wasn't true.

01:31:06   Like the fundamental truth is that when you're using your finger

01:31:09   and you're covering the thing.

01:31:11   You can't do I do think there's no reliable way to do it without something

01:31:18   to show you what you're selecting under your finger because your finger covers it covers it.

01:31:23   It's it's so obvious like they even explained this in 2007 like on stage with the original iPhone.

01:31:29   Well your finger covers what you're looking at.

01:31:31   So here we have a magnifying glass above your finger.

01:31:34   I did get used to dragging my finger along the keyboard to move the cursor around

01:31:38   and I think that's a primary way.

01:31:40   I move the cursor around at least on short text now.

01:31:42   Yeah.

01:31:43   Yeah for anybody who doesn't know this this is whenever I mentioned it.

01:31:46   There's always somebody who doesn't know about this.

01:31:48   But when you're editing text on the iPhone if you press and hold on the space bar on the virtual keyboard,

01:31:54   it turns the keyboard into a trackpad and you can precisely move the thing around.

01:32:00   I just saw it.

01:32:01   I think it was nine to five Mac.

01:32:02   Somebody had a column today about how they missed 3D touch and I want to link to it because I do too.

01:32:08   It all of this has gotten worse since they've gotten rid of 3D touch

01:32:12   because when they had 3D touch in the screen,

01:32:15   I know that there's like tricks you can do with by adding a second finger to like select text and stuff.

01:32:20   But like the closest we got to good text selection on an iPhone was when they had 3D touch

01:32:25   because you could press and hold anywhere on the keyboard to turn it into the trackpad.

01:32:30   Not just the space bar and then as you move the insertion point around you could just press harder

01:32:36   and begin a text selection like using a trackpad you could click.

01:32:40   I get it.

01:32:41   I'm the commotion on this one.

01:32:42   I don't think that juice is ever worth the squeeze on 3D touch.

01:32:45   I'm sorry, like it is on a trackpad on a Mac.

01:32:47   There's there's stuff there.

01:32:48   Although I bring that dictionary up so often it drives me nuts,

01:32:51   but I just don't think they ever got enough value out of it relative to a long press to make it worth it.

01:32:57   And I don't know whatever whatever money they're saving on it, whatever Z thickness we get back from it.

01:33:03   I I just think it was it they they talked themselves into like there's there's a lot of like interaction potential here.

01:33:09   We can do a lot of new stuff with it and they came up with a few things,

01:33:12   but I don't think enough people used it and I'm I'm the one who says it's fine to let it go me and Apple.

01:33:18   We're the only two that don't miss it.

01:33:20   I well, I guess I could be convinced that they made the right trade-offs,

01:33:24   but it doesn't mean I still don't miss it.

01:33:26   Sure, right.

01:33:27   That's right that maybe they're like you said Z thickness and cost and whatever else.

01:33:33   Maybe the trade-off was right,

01:33:35   but I still miss it because I and I still wish that somehow when and specifically and only in the context of text selection.

01:33:44   And I guess maybe that's and again,

01:33:46   it's obviously never been a very high priority for Apple.

01:33:48   They didn't have copy and paste for three years.

01:33:51   It's it's never been about being a great text editing environment.

01:33:57   Yeah, well, I think that for for Apple it's that's not what it's for for for a while and I don't know with iMessage

01:34:03   and with texting or they've done a better job,

01:34:06   but I don't think that if you are if you're looking to enter a bunch of text you're looking to write a novel.

01:34:11   You're going to want a physical QWERTY keyboard.

01:34:13   Yeah, that's just how it goes.

01:34:14   Yeah, so wrapping things up.

01:34:17   Do you think that I do think to rewind an hour?

01:34:22   I do think fundamentally palm was probably doomed even if they'd come out earlier.

01:34:25   I think these two platform things probably are inevitable.

01:34:30   I don't know.

01:34:31   It's hard to say but there's if there was an alternate world where palm could have become maybe what the Macintosh was

01:34:40   and still is to the PC Market like a solid five percent of devoted users

01:34:46   and enough to to be a thriving business boy the world would be a better place.

01:34:50   That is the best I think they could have hoped for the answer.

01:34:54   Does it have to be duopoly as well?

01:34:55   Let's find a counterfactual in terms of like consumer platforms

01:34:58   and I guess you could argue that we got to a point where Chrome OS

01:35:02   and a little bit of Linux have carved out of space next to Mac

01:35:07   and Windows and throw some iPad there on the side,

01:35:09   but it's a stretch and I think that the the real thing just like Verizon picking the Droid is what you know,

01:35:15   ultimately put the nail in the coffin for palm like the market forces here are such that

01:35:22   unless you're a small company can have some sort of leverage over the ecosystem over carriers in particular,

01:35:31   even with Apple breaking that dominance a little bit unless they could have found a way to have enough leverage to make sure carriers didn't screw with them or ignore them.

01:35:41   They were doomed and that's that's just Google got big enough

01:35:44   and Apple got big enough where they could keep AT&T from screwing it up.

01:35:49   I and I think that's that's good.

01:35:51   I maybe the best analogy and I'll bet there's a bunch of listeners in their heads who are like screaming this game consoles,

01:35:57   right? We're sure we've got three.

01:36:00   We've got two big ones the Xbox and PlayStation and Nintendo has succeeded

01:36:07   and especially with the switch I which I think is their biggest hit ever or certainly.

01:36:12   I don't know if it's I wonder which is bigger.

01:36:15   It's possible that if you take all the the DS's and put them together that maybe it's still bigger than the switch.

01:36:20   I would have to look it up but it's huge.

01:36:22   It's a solid third place and they have and and it's probably the role that in the best case scenario where palm had made it.

01:36:32   They'd be like to the phone platforms with the switch is to PlayStation and Xbox third place,

01:36:38   but with the most devoted fans. Yeah, but look like LG just bombed out of the smartphone business this year

01:36:47   if and they just made Android phones, right? They weren't great,

01:36:49   but they were passable and there's still space at the low end to make decent phones for sub 500 bucks.

01:36:54   That's basically all Motorola really does now,

01:36:57   but if LG can't make it in the smartphone market,

01:37:00   what would chance would a company that has its completely other right OS platform have in 2022?

01:37:07   I just don't see it. Yeah, I don't I think it's doubtful.

01:37:10   Well, thank you for being here. Happy New Year.

01:37:13   Yeah, you too. It'll be better. Yeah,

01:37:15   and and I told everybody two weeks ago to watch springboard.

01:37:18   You can watch it's free on YouTube,

01:37:20   right? I'll put a link in the show notes to the general magic movie,

01:37:23   which was about general magic,

01:37:24   which is worth watching too,

01:37:26   but springboard you should watch first if you haven't watched it already and shame on you who haven't watched it

01:37:31   because I told you two weeks ago to watch it before the show.

01:37:35   It's really good and it's it is a fast 30 minutes.

01:37:38   It is so good. Also, I love oh,

01:37:40   I gotta mention this. I love that you used the actual bitmap palm font for the springboard.

01:37:50   Oh my God. I would have I would have I would have been so mad at myself if I didn't bring this up.

01:37:54   And that's the other thing that to me was always very Apple like about the palm OS was it had beautiful bitmap fonts.

01:38:02   Oh, they were they were just terrific that the small text editing font the bold one that you've got the title for springboard in just beautiful pixel fonts.

01:38:13   Hey man, brought my Tony and what do you got? What do you got 160 by 160?

01:38:16   Yeah, nothing to do but get it right and they got it right.

01:38:18   Well Microsoft had small screens like that too,

01:38:21   and they still ship crap.

01:38:22   But it's an art form and palm had it right.

01:38:27   They were beautiful and I love that that's what you use for the title the title card of the movie.

01:38:32   It's it's so sets the mood at least for me.

01:38:35   It's oh, yeah, this is going to be good.

01:38:37   Yeah. Well, I can't take credit for that.

01:38:38   I gotta give credit to all the other designers on the verge video team.

01:38:42   They're the ones who really made this thing good.

01:38:44   Yeah, and in addition to being entertaining it is a good-looking movie.

01:38:47   It really is.

01:38:47   Yeah, you guys and we didn't even talk about the the Steve Jobs meeting.

01:38:51   That's sort of the middle of it.

01:38:52   No, you'll have to go watch it.

01:38:53   You'll see I don't want to spoil it.

01:38:54   I don't want to spoil it, but it's it is it's a good story.

01:38:57   Anyway, Dieter, it's always good to have you here.

01:38:59   Have a good New Year.

01:39:00   Have a good that remote CES and talk to you.

01:39:03   Talk to you sometime soon.

01:39:04   I'm going to take it easy.