One of the most memorable briefings about a new tech product I ever received involved a gadget called Taxi.
It took place in 1995, and it’s not the actual demo I recall so clearly. What’s imprinted on my brain cells is the reaction which my PC World colleagues and I had after the folks who presented to us had departed. We all knew that Taxi was going to be a huge hit. (In my experience, anyway, that sort of visceral consensus among tech reporters about a new product—right or wrong—hardly ever happens.)
Taxi was a blockbuster—but not under that name. After our meeting, but before it was released, its creators learned of another tech product called Taxi, a digital travel guide. To avoid a trademark snafu, they rebranded their device at the last moment.
The company I’ve been talking about was Palm Computing. The new name it chose for its “Personal Digital Assistant” was Pilot.
(Side note: Even before I met with Palm, I was familiar with the company from its Graffiti input software
for Apple’s Newton. When one of the visiting Palm executives–I wish I remembered who–gave me a business card with a USRobotics logo, I remarked that I didn’t know that Palm was part of that company, the biggest name in dial-up modems at the time. It turned out that USR had recently bought Palm to pursue a vision of people plugging Palm handhelds into docks located around their homes to control household devices–a proto-smarthome concept which went nowhere.)
I bring all this up because I just wrote a cover story for the November issue of Fast Company on a new device from Palm
. The Palm in question is not the company I met with 23 years ago, but a startup trying to combat smartphone addiction with a device that’s way smaller than a monster like the iPhone XS and even a tad tinier than the original 2007 iPhone. It borrowed the dormant Palm brand, designed its own Android-based experience, and signed up the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry as an investor, adviser, and brand ambassador.
I had fun talking to Palm’s founders and Curry about the new device—which, however it ends up doing with consumers, is anything but Yet Another Smartphone. The project also let me luxuriate in nostalgia for the old Palm
on company time, which was a reward in itself. (Bonus factoid just for you newsletter subscribers: The new Palm is based in a building across the street from where PC World
was and is headquartered, which means that I saw the new Palm device for the first time just yards from where I met the original Palm Pilot so many years ago.)