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General Magic's Death

General Magic really died for the same reason as the NASA project: they tried to do too much.  General Magic did not just invent some PDA hardware, they also created an OS.  They didn't just create a new OS, they created TWO new languages to go with it. Those languages didn't appear out of thin air, they needed parsers, compilers, and build tools to go with it. 

I'm sure there were justifications for creating all of that new stuff, but those justifications were never balanced against reality.  A company is doing well if it can innovate on one axis and pull it off.  Innovate on 5 axes and you are going to fail on at least one of them.  General Magic's strategy required them to succeed on all fronts.  There was no fallback position if any of their innovations didn't succeed.  If their new language didn't work, you couldn't just program it in C, so their platform died. If the compiler/linker/debugger for the platform sucked, there was no alternative.  If their OS wasn't great, you couldn't use a different OS, so their platform died. If their hardware wasn't perfect (and it was too big to be acceptable), their platform died.

General Magic created some incredible technology.  But to survive as a product company, you need a complete product.

Joel Sumner
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

I don't recall GM having anything people wanted to buy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

What a shame - but the special effects they did for Star Wars were fantastic I must say

Thursday, September 26, 2002

How about a link so I can figure out what exactly they did? I want to be fair when I criticize those morons :-)

Doug Withau
Thursday, September 26, 2002

From what I know, General Magic created a bunch of VoiceXML-specific consultingware.  They had (note the word had) a deal to provide the voice navigation components for the OnStar system in automobiles - not sure how they screwed that one up.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

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