At the revealing of Apple’s new flagship smartphone yesterday, the iPhone X, CEO Tim Cook mentioned it was one thing the corporate’s employees had been engaged on for a decade.
The new premium handset with its edge-to-edge show (minus one unlucky high notch) does away with the bodily residence button fully and makes better use of gestures for controlling the UI.
The new interface for multitasking appears fluid and intuitive. But it additionally — in the event you’ve been smartphone expecting lengthy sufficient — engenders a definite feeling of déjà vu…
Specifically it appears reasonably like webOS working on the Palm Pre — a handset that was introduced in 2009, after Jon Rubinstein, former SVP of Apple’s iPod division, had been lured out of retirement in Mexico by Palm: A cell gadget firm with a (very) lengthy historical past, and sufficient self-perspective to appreciate they wanted an skilled product designer to assist them surf the subsequent wave of mobility: touchscreen computing.
Rubinstein, who had left Apple in spring 2006, clearly possessed the hunted for design chops. Palm execs flew all the way down to Mexico to woo and win their man.
By the beginning of 2009 Rubinstein was on stage at CES to announce the Palm Pre: A high-gloss, pebble-shaped slider smartphone which deployed a number of gestures within the UI taking advantage of a touch-sensitive space that prolonged under the show and onto the bezel itself.
It wasn’t simply the scroll-flicks and pinch-to-zooms already on the iPhone and Android units of the time that Palm had introduced over to its next-gen smartphone . It had one thing else up its sleeve: Its webOS UI included a deck-of-cards exercise interface to be the motive force for low friction cell multitasking.
Palm confirmed how customers may simply swipe between and faucet on the playing cards to modify apps. How the order of playing cards may very well be rearranged with a finger press and drag. And how particular person playing cards may very well be flicked off the highest of the display when the consumer was finished with a selected app or activity. Cards confirmed totally energetic apps. It was easy and stylish.
“Now how’s that for some real newness,” mentioned Matías Duarte, Palm’s senior director of human interface and consumer expertise, with a reasonably sizable smirk on his face as he wrapped up that a part of the Pre’s CES demo.
(Duarte now works on Google’s card-like Material Design design language, which extends the cardboard motif the corporate first utilized in Android, for Google Now, in 2012; and he went straight from Palm to being a VP of design at Android when the function was being developed.)
In an earnings name later the identical month in 2009, Cook was pressed by analysts about how shortly the iPhone’s rivals seemed to be elbowing into the market — and requested how Apple would have the ability to maintain its management.
“We don’t mind competition, but if others rip off our intellectual property, we will go after them,” he responded in a remark that was picked up on and interpreted on the time as a reasonably stark warning shot throughout Palm’s bows.
When pressed once more particularly on the Palm Pre, and the way the gadget appeared to “directly emulate the iPhone’s innovative interface”, Cook doubled down on his implied accusation of IP theft: “We don’t want to refer to any specific companies, so that was a general statement. We like competition because it makes us better, but we will not stand for companies infringing on our IP.”
Of course that is all water beneath the bridge now, as Palm’s desires of efficiently browsing the smartphone wave resulted in abrupt catastrophe — burdened by ongoing legacy software program challenges, wrong-footed by carriers’ advertising and marketing choices and in the end saddled with an unloving acquirer in HP — and the Palm Pre had a cruelly quick lifespan for such a forward-thinking gadget.
I bear in mind how recent the interface felt in 2009. How massively superior vs legacy smartphone gamers like BlackBerry and Nokia — which, though they had been nonetheless minting big revenues again then, had been additionally clearly failing to return to phrases quickly sufficient with the paradigm shift of touchscreen mobility.
Whether the Palm Pre was actually forward of its time, or whether or not parts of the interface had been plucked out of a rigorously deliberate Cupertino 10-year roadmap shall be a narrative for Valley historians to unpick.
But within the iPhone X it’s clear you’re a bit ghost of the Pre.