General Magic - The Future, Too Early - Commoncog Case Library

Tony Fadell built two iPhones. Everyone knows about the second one — Steve Jobs revealed it in a 2007 keynote; that device changed the world forever — but few people know about the first.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

This part really fascinated me “The alliance had an unintended side-effect: it locked them into developing a private network powered by AT&T, just as the internet began to gather steam. At the time, there were multiple competing networks — with the Internet one option amongst many. General Magic employees mostly ignored the alternatives.”

I dont know much about this early history of the Internet. I have heard before that there were private alternatives being developed which lost out.

Did any of these have a real shot? Is there an alternative universe where the Internet didn’t happen fast enough and instead we all use MicrosoftNet (or similar?) because it got an early network effect lead?

I would be fascinated if @cedric or anyone knows of a good history of the Internet vs. its competitors.

I don’t have access to it right now, but I do believe The Dream Machine contains a brief history on this period (it of course covers way more than this — it traces developments in computing all the way back to Licklider, who had a massive impact on multiple branches of networking technology).

A more fruitful angle to approach this might actually be histories of Microsoft. Microsoft very famously backed alternatives to the Internet (‘The Information Superhighway’), before turning on a dime and backing the Internet (and destroying Netscape, etc etc). That should probably lead to other sources.

Steven Sinofsky’s Hardcore Software is no longer free, but he touches on this period here and here.

1 Like

Thanks @cedric those are some great rabbitholes to dive down!

1 Like