Remember the Tablet PC? I owned one and loved it. The Tablet PC operating system (Windows XP Tablet PC Edition) was developed by Microsoft in 2001. The one I owned was manufactured by Gateway Computer, competitor to Dell who was acquired by Acer, Inc. in 2007. It was basically a full laptop, but with a screen that rotated and laid flat against the keyboard, turning it into a touchscreen, pen-supported tablet. After poor sales, the Tablet PC operating system was forgotten. No, you're not reading a story about Microsoft's current move into the Tablet market. This actually happened in 2001 and 2002.
Moving beyond pioneering tablets during the early 2000's, Microsoft also introduced Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT). SPOT was an operating system meant for simple accessories like watches and pendants. In fact, smartwatches were the first SPOT-based devices released, provided by Fossil, inc., Suunto, Swatch, and Tissot. SPOT worked across FM radio broadcast signals, which meant network access was free and plentiful, though you did have to subscribe to a yearly service to receive data from the SPOT servers. Unfortunately, the SPOT-based smartwatches were all discontinued in 2008.
OK…now, you're probably second guessing the timeline of this story again, because the progression from tablet to smartwatch seems very familiar. It should. That's exactly how it's happening today.
Science history and archaeology interest me quite a bit. It's funny to me how every couple years scientists will prove themselves wrong. Everything we thought we knew about something, changes with just a single scientific report. Of interest to this article's storyline is how scientists and archaeologists thought early human civilization was comprised of just a bunch of mental idiots who struggled to learn the simplest things. Yet, over the years they've found things like the Anitkythera mechanism, an analog computer on a wrecked Roman ship from 1stcentury BC. The reason behind Stonehenge still confounds most along with how early man could not have been smart enough to even pull off its construction without enlisting the help of a highly evolved alien civilization. And, who knows how much technology information was lost in the destruction of Alexandria. Every piece of information from the known world was gathered in the libraries of Alexandria in an ancient type of datacenter.
There's an old quote from George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This quote, of course, has taken on many iterations over the years since it was first penned in 1905, but it’s the original version that that says it best. And, it almost suggests a theory that I've been brewing for a while – that every so often, mankind gets a reboot. Down through our history there have been triggers that initiate a forgetfulness across mass groups of people. I mean, who would really know that this wasn't happening? Just as the brilliance of our ancient science confounds today's scientists, a lot of the technology we are now experiencing has happened before. For tablets and smartwatches it was a lot more recent than I think many are willing to admit. Or maybe we're starting to forget more often, brought on by the results of "climate change." Maybe the heat is frying our brains, or we're being attacked by a greater power using an Alzheimer ray gun. I sometimes wonder if we haven't experienced all of this before like we're on Human Race version 4.0, which would explain all those déjà vu moments, finally.
The bottom line is that we have already seen and experienced the technologies we are excited about today. Microsoft has already pioneered these technologies, yet Apple and Google will ultimately get credit for them. Microsoft was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the right technologies.
Though geeks have been clamoring for Star Trek and Dick Tracy technology for decades, the public just wasn't ready for them when Microsoft was. And, while Microsoft is reportedly back on the road to smartphone madness, I'm not sure Microsoft is ready this time.
I guess we're ready now to find out – until we forget again.