Microsoft’s Would-Be iPhone — Circa 1991
In our May 2012 issue, contributing editor Joe Hagan profiled Microsoft veteran Nathan Myhrvold, who retired in 1999 after serving 14-years as Bill Gates’ personal tech visionary. Since leaving Microsoft, Myhrvold has lived a nerd fantasy, digging up T. rexes and producing a cookbook only a mad scientist could love.
During his years at the computing giant’s Redmond, Washington headquarters, Myhrvold described in precise terms what the future of computing would look like. More often that not, he was pretty damned accurate: In 1991, while serving as the company’s chief visionary, Myhrvold predicted the emergence of an iPhone-like device down to the smallest detail, describing a “digital wallet” that would consolidate personal communication — telephone, schedule manager, notepad, contacts, and a library of music and books — all in one.
Rarely seen outside of Myhrvold’s inner circle, this sketch of Microsoft’s would-be iPhone portrayed a gadget that could record and archive everything you asked it to, he surmised. “The cost will not be very high,” wrote Myhrvold. “It is pretty easy to imagine a $400 to $1,000 retail price.” Microsoft, however, was too cost conscious and risk averse to execute his vision. “Hey, it was better than predicting the wrong thing,” Myhrvold says now.
For more information about Myhrvold, his tenure at Microsoft, and his newfound passion for molecular gastronomy, read Joe Hagan’s “How a Geek Grills a Burger” here.