Thats right, the Simon Personal Communicator was originally developed by IBM in 1992 and brought to market in collaboration with Bellsouth. The Simon was the first device to combine a cell phone and PDA with data access, the industry accepted definition for a SmartPhone. In fact the Simon had email, mobile apps, a touch screen display with virtual keyboard and even handled faxes! of course there was a price to pay beyond the $899 , the device also weighed in at 18 oz and the battery only lasted a few hours. The Simon was clearly ahead of its time but as some may recall it did win Comdex best of Show in 1993. Still hard to believe that it was developed 20 years ago. It would be interesting to envision how history would have proceeded if IBM had not dropped the next generation Simon development.
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At the same Comdex event the Apple Newton was displayed behind glass and John Sculley was evangelizing the tablet device as having the potential to transform business. Tech History likes to make Sculley out as a villain who fired Steve Jobs.  But it’s not often pointed out that he was also the one who taught Steve the importance and phycology of customer experience and brilliant marketing ( recall the Pepsi experience campaign that rivaled Coke ). Beyond that he did the original joint venture that started ARM, coined the term PDA, developed the Knowledge Navigator vision with Allan Kay and helped grow Apples business from $800 million when he joined to $8 billion when he left. In hindsight perhaps it’s not a bad thing that Steve left Apple, got angry,  grew up, and came back with the vengeance that changed the world.
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Motorola, the original developer of the cellphone was originally collaborating on the Simon providing radio components but recognized the threat of enabling IBM as a potential competitor and changed strategy . They also watched the Newton launch with keen interest and started a taskforce to address the challenge leading to many advancements in the space.
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If you find this bit of tech history is interesting, you may want to join us next week at the South Florida Technology Alliance event 9/25 at Citrix Global  headquarters in Fort Lauderdale.
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The event will include a panel discussion that I feel honored to moderate.  Jerry Merkill the IBMer that originally proposed the Simon will talk about how he sold the concept and got management buy-in. John Sculley will talk about the Knowledge Navigator vision that also included features like hyperlinking before the web was born. Jamie Borras was part the Motorola task force and went on the develop technologies like PushToTalk. The discussion will also be forward looking including predictions for what’s next in mobility. Scott Moody the founder of Authentec the biometric company that Apple just acquired will also give us his view of the future ( but he may have to kill us if he reveals what Apple is doing next … )
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At the event we will also be demoing locally developed apps like the Citrix Receiver that won Best App for Enterprise at 2012 Mobile World Congress. Plus the top 3 Mobile Startups in South Florida will be exhibiting and showing off how they plan to make history in the world of Mobility.
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Join us if you can Tuesday 9/25, if not we do plan to record the event. For a taste of the discussion you may want to check out last years event marking the 30 year anniversary of the PC that included tech legend stories discussed for the first time on stage.
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