Apple was once a leading innovator in the technology industry, but after a series of failures, the company had to rebuild itself. This led to a new focus on innovation, which has resulted in some of the most successful products in history.
iPod, iPad, iPhone, Airpods- these are all things that we think about when we hear about Apple's well-known brand. They have launched a significant number of successful products and have an outstanding record. So when they make the occasional slip-up, we tend to nod and take it in our stride.
But let's go back to before this sprint of successful products. Apple brought out a product that didn't do too well in the marketplace. It was the product called the Newton. Let's take a look at why this product failed.
It was in the year 1992; Apple announced to the world the arrival of Newton. The Newton was invented by a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) by the then Apple CEO: John Scully.
This revolutionary product could take notes, store contact and manage calendars. It could even send faxes and translate handwriting into text! For its time, this was phenomenal.
Apple intended to create an entirely new class of computing devices with Newton. The goal was to achieve a product that essentially was a computer that users could put into their pocket and take around with them.
Users of the Newton found they could load additionally programmed on the Newton by linking it up to the Apple Mac. This feature was an iteration to the product, which happened a little later down the line after it was launched.
However, users found that they had limited space on the Newton device and were only getting 140kb in user storage which compared to these days is minute! I mean, we laughed at the 8GB iPhone Apple used to sell!
To overcome the storage issue, Apple sold 1MB, 2MB and 4MB flashcards which could be plugged into the Newton for additional storage. It's funny to think that the iPhones and iPads today do not have this option.
Things were going ok for Apple, and they announced their plans for the new Newton PDA. In swooped the vultures. Competitors quickly came up with competing devices, and Apple found they had to swim hard.
This led to a speed-up of the timeline for the Newtons debut in 1993, and as a result of the rushed timeline, an incomplete product stumbled across the finish line. Realistically, Apple barely got the Newton to function correctly before it started shipping the product to stores. A disaster was waiting to happen.
Two features assisted in moving this product quicker towards its expiry date.
The first feature was handwriting recognition. This was supposed to be the Newtons winning feature. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
The software used attempted to recognize whole words written by the user, but often, this feature failed and translated into ridiculous and unpredicted words. Users soon got fed up with this, and Newton was mocked and looked down upon. Even though this feature's performance improved over time, Apple could never shake the perception and effect this failure had on Newton.
Another feature that led to the Newtons demise was the pricing. The Newton came in 3 different models, and each model was priced differently. Even though there were three models, none of these was considered affordable. The most expensive model was Senior Newton back in 1993 and retailed at $5000! Overpriced for a phone device, let alone one that had issues and didn't even work correctly.
In the first four months of Newton being on the market, Apple sold a measly 50,000. Many influential people, including Steve Jobs, disliked the stylus input on Newton.
During Steve Jobs' wrestle to get back control of Apple, he killed off the Newton line. He reasoned that this was another project on top of all the other that Apple had got going, and this one needed to go.
Although Newton was revolutionary, groundbreaking and innovative, unfortunately, at that time, the technology just wasn't invented yet to make this product reliable and practical.
Although Newton failed, the thinking behind the project remains with us to this day. The main idea behind the Newton was to create a computer device that fits in the user's pocket and could be carried around. After Newton, the world was introduced to the Windows Tablet and early smartphones such as the Blackberry. This then led to the iPhone and other modern smartphones.
Newton failed, but we have to remember that we may not be as far ahead in smartphone technology as we are today without this innovation. Apple's Newton product was ahead of its time but suffered from poor execution and high prices. The product failed in the market but laid the groundwork for modern smartphones.