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Old 07-05-2012, 12:18 AM   #1
no.guru
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Microsoft’s Downfall ( Vanity Fair) - Interesting quotes - an ereader in 1998!

There was a prototype of this ereader built, but we never saw it.

"Today, a single Apple product—the iPhone—generates more revenue than all of Microsoft’s wares combined."
...
"According to [Vanity Fair Contributing Editor Kurt] Eichenwald, Microsoft had a prototype e-reader ready to go in 1998 (emphasis mine), but when the technology group presented it to Bill Gates he promptly gave it a thumbs-down, saying it wasn’t right for Microsoft. “He didn’t like the user interface, because it didn’t look like Windows,” a programmer involved in the project recalls."

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/dai...-steve-ballmer

***************

That's funny, because I count my first ereader as an HP Jornada with Windows CE. I used to download content to it and put it in plain txt format to get away from the keyboard and still be able to read the online content I wanted.

I also put a couple of Project Gutenberg works on it, but it was backlit and the display was horrible and hurt my eyes compared to what we have today.

Last edited by no.guru; 07-05-2012 at 12:20 AM. Reason: added comment
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Old 07-05-2012, 12:36 AM   #2
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very interesting, thanks

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Old 07-05-2012, 02:25 AM   #3
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I was not aware of this, thanks. MS missing the boat again.
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Old 07-05-2012, 04:25 PM   #4
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I was not aware of this, thanks. MS missing the boat again.
They have also had a history of launching the boat. Floundering around in the boat to no particular purpose. Scuttling the boat without ever giving it a chance. Swimming back toward shore while somebody else sails a similar boat to prosperity.
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:01 PM   #5
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They have also had a history of launching the boat. Floundering around in the boat to no particular purpose. Scuttling the boat without ever giving it a chance. Swimming back toward shore while somebody else sails a similar boat to prosperity.
Werd.
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:20 PM   #6
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They have also had a history of launching the boat. Floundering around in the boat to no particular purpose. Scuttling the boat without ever giving it a chance. Swimming back toward shore while somebody else sails a similar boat to prosperity.
Describes MS Reader (LIT) format perfectly. IMO LIT was the best of the early formats and the Reader software was better than a lot of the others too.
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:55 PM   #7
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The article is a bit light on details regarding their ereader, and there could have been a lot more going into their business decision than what was being said. I would imagine a big thing would be: is there a market for it? In 1999, probably not. Even if people wanted such a device, Microsoft would have to get publishers on board since an ereader without a large selection of books would flail in the marketplace. After that, there is price. I decided to buy an ereader when the went below $300, but early ereaders were considerably more expensive. Yet ereaders didn't truly become popular until they approached $100.

The technology would have been another big factor. Much of the market would not exist if eink displays did not exist. An LCD based ereader for the office may be pretty cool after all, but a lot of people read outdoors and want the convenience of charging once a month. (Actually, I would argue that I charge less than once a month since the process of loading books usually tops off the charge.) Amazon also forged the way with a lot more than their marketing muscle: cellular connectivity allowed them to introduce a product that was more of a book than a computer peripheral.

Other factors enter the fray too. Library lending is a big thing for a lot of readers. Would people have bought ereaders without libraries promoting them, as well as offering free access to ebooks? Doubtful.

I don't blame Microsoft for their decision. It was a conservative one that was likely based upon the market at the time. It was likely based upon the points mentioned in the article, the ones I mentioned, as well as others (e.g. production, distribution, and marketing). Of course, they may have had success in 1999 if they tried. But hindsight is also 20/20.
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Old 07-05-2012, 08:27 PM   #8
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Thanks for your comments. There's certainly a case to be made either way.

I'm reminded of the John F. Kennedy quote (quoting someone else) about there being no hurry in planting a tree that takes 100 years to mature: "In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!"

I agree there were and always are plenty of uncertainties. A new device would have been a big investment, and I'm not second-guessing Gates in whether or not he made a wise decision, hindsight and all. However, basically the same barriers of transition for the industry would have existed, then or years later, and a decade could see the birth and death of generations of technology.

Sony's readers can be traced as far back as 1991, possibly other company's readers as well. Sony and Microsoft competing in ereaders in the late 90s could have been very interesting to see.

If the ebook's popularity could have begun in 1998, the Microsoft that existed then very possibly could have made it happen.

Last edited by no.guru; 07-05-2012 at 08:29 PM.
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Old 07-05-2012, 08:52 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by no.guru View Post
That's funny, because I count my first ereader as an HP Jornada with Windows CE. I used to download content to it and put it in plain txt format to get away from the keyboard and still be able to read the online content I wanted.

I also put a couple of Project Gutenberg works on it, but it was backlit and the display was horrible and hurt my eyes compared to what we have today.
My first ereader was my Palm Vx that my wife got me for our anniversary in June 2000. I bought books from Peanut Press to read on it.
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Old 07-05-2012, 09:27 PM   #10
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I was not aware of this, thanks. MS missing the boat again.
Since Microsoft is the third largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization, and has a gross profit margin of 80 percent, I'm not sure I'd want them to make any more boats. Having super-big companies is not necessarily good for the economy.
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Old 07-05-2012, 09:37 PM   #11
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Since Microsoft is the third largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization, and has a gross profit margin of 80 percent, I'm not sure I'd want them to make any more boats. Having super-big companies is not necessarily good for the economy.
Depends on which version of capitalism you follow. For small business capitalism, sure. For "pure" capitalism you want no limits at all so nothing can stop your profits from growing.
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Old 07-05-2012, 10:15 PM   #12
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What BWinmill said.

Even Barnes & Noble was working on eBooks way before Amazon.

You can be ahead of your time but if the market isn't ready for it, well...

Also, if you look at Wikipedia, there's a lot of eBook formats out there. What Amazon did to change the game was a variety of factors, including selling a (relatively) cheap subsidized eReader, an easy-to-use marketplace integrated with their device, and a publishing program that's quick and has a low barrier to entry.
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Old 07-05-2012, 10:55 PM   #13
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What BWinmill said.
His last paragraph, especially. It's easy to fault Microsoft's 1998 decision in 2012, just as it's easy to rationalize what's past.

We'll never know for certain.
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Old 07-06-2012, 03:55 AM   #14
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My first ereader was my Palm Vx that my wife got me for our anniversary in June 2000. I bought books from Peanut Press to read on it.
Yep, same here! I had one of the very first Vx-es (so new it still said 'V' on the case, although it had Vx innards) in late '99. That was my first ereader.
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Old 07-06-2012, 06:33 AM   #15
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Yep, same here! I had one of the very first Vx-es (so new it still said 'V' on the case, although it had Vx innards) in late '99. That was my first ereader.
At about that time I bought a beautiful red Casio Cassiopeia and used MS Reader for my reading pleasure. Loved (and still love) that device and loved MS Reader.

Microsoft have never been keen on developing hardware any way and back then Software was THE thing they did till Xbox 360 showed them other avenues.
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