The company that invented the iPhone — two decades too early.

You’ve probably never heard of General Magic, but in Silicon Valley the company is a legend. An Apple spin off in 1990 with most of the original Mac team on board and a brave new product idea: a portable gadget they called “personal communicator”.

Connected to a telephone socket, it could manage e-mails, dial phone numbers and even send SMS, like instant messages, complete with emoji and stickers.

Provided with an app store equipped with games, music and downloadable programs that could do things like check stock prices and keep track of expenses.

In the original Vision he could take pictures with an accessory (optional). There was also a prototype with a TOUCH SCREEN that could make cell phone calls and surf the web wirelessly, then embryonic. In other words, General Magic pulled out of his proverbial hat the technological equivalent of a working iPhone, a decade before Apple started working on the real one. Shortly after, General Magic himself disappeared.

The early ’90s iphone story

Fueled by hugely positive press, General Magic’s concept IPO in 1995, the first of its kind, raised $96 million before the product had been launched. The stock nearly doubled on the first day, closing at over $26 per share. By 1999, the stock had plunged to $1.38.

Money wasn’t an issue the early ’90s iPHONE were super founded!

General Magic had its origins in Marc Porat convincing Apple CEO John Sculley in the late eighties to spin off a new division to invent an early prototype of the smart phone. Under Sculley’s leadership, Apple developed General Magic’s operations.

A spin off of APPLE … can you imagine … WoW

“I came to Apple in 1988 and remember one of the first things I said to Sculley was that Apple had no future unless they did something beyond the computer,” Porat recalled. “They were so insecure and chaotic and dysfunctional that we [General Magic] were able to work our way through and recruit amazing people.”

The team who invented the future … today are considered some of the best and brightest minds in business and technology.

The 98% of the world’s smartphone market can be traced back to two people who sat no more than 10 feet apart at a company called General Magic? That’s Tony Fadell and Andy Rubin, in case you were wondering.

So too in that office sat the founder of eBay Pierre Omidyar, the original Macintosh engineer Andy Hertzfeld, their head of marketing Joanna Hoffman (played by Kate Winslet in the Steve Jobs movie), Kevin Lynch aka the man behind the Apple Watch, the former CTO of the USA Megan Smith and a host of names who went on to great success and today are considered some of the best and brightest minds in business and technology.

Such an AMAZING team again and again WoW so what went wrong?

General Magic had what it takes to become a very successful company, a BIG TECH like APPLE to MICROSOFT, so money, the right partners a great team, what went wrong?

the General Magic original logo

“Simply” the fact that the CEO was not able to be faithful to the original vision, letting himself be distracted by the good intentions of his stakeholders.

The Vision is so important that only those who are able to be faithful to it to the end and uncompromisingly succeed as Steve Jobs has shown, but that’s another story that hopefully many future CEO’s will be able to repeat in the future, and for one time, why not also in the old EU continent.


The story is now available also in movie and always remember:

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Alan Kay

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