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Chris: There were probably some hard feelings a couple of decades ago but none lingering, not even those that may have been there wouldn’t have been squarely aimed at you.
Since you were in charge of dealing with 3’d party developers I think I always realized you had a hand in the onboarding of AOL, though until I read your post I always assumed the idea originated with Sony. In the end it didn’t really matter – the presence of AOL on SONY MagicLink’s did not generate device sales any more than our name did, and ultimately AT&T PersonaLink was utterly dependent on device sales and unlike AOL, spent a fair amount of money to actually attempt to actually generate device sales. As you’ll see in point 2 below we saw an urgent need to diversify into a PC application about a year before the MagicLink launched, but as we both know that idea died a slow, agonizing death.
There are two somewhat related points that I don’t recall if we discussed or not which could have possibly (though not probably) reversed the fortunes of at least our part of the General Magic universe.
1. AT&T spent all that money developing what we would today call a cloud based platform for “communicating applications using General Magic’s Telescript technology.” Our deal with General Magic obligated us to be the first to develop any application that had anything to do with Telescript, and that was the GM/PersonaLink messaging application. If all General Magic wanted was a then current state of the art e-mail network, we could have made that available a week after our initial meeting with Marc Porat, Rich Miller and Bill Atkinson when they first visited us at a Bell Labs facility in NJ. No, it had to have Telescript.
To my recollection no 3’d party apps were ever developed using Telescript, including AOL’s. In truth there wasn’t much Telescript in the PersonaLink Mail application – I think it was primarily tied to authenticating users and providing a rather clever user directory, but it was a start, and again, a core contractual item we were obligated to meet.
While AT&T certainly had an issue with AOL, we never quite understood why General Magic didn’t have an isssue with it (at least when we thought it was all Sony’s doing), as it substantially compromised the value of it’s whole Telescript proposition, which, despite various public pronouncements to the contrary, was obviously a distant second in importance internally to MagicCap. Various Magicians have indicated their disdain for John Sculley and Apple for upstaging General Magic’s device – can you see the similarity AT&T saw for the introduction of an AOL messaging app on MagicCap devices to Apple’s action? We had a similar reaction to Motorola’s tie up with an outfit named RadioMail. Perhaps you were involved with that one also.
2. We campaigned long and hard for a MagicCap for PC’s sofware app as it became apparent that Sony’s $800+ device wasn’t likely to fly off of store shelves and Motorola’s $1500+ device might not ever make it to market, along with the phantom devices of other alliance members Panasonic and Philips. Rich a company as we were, AT&T could not afford to dole out Sony MagicLink’s for free or very little to tens of thousands of customers, but we easily could have and would have distributed software to millions of customers for free, which we believe would have put tens of thousands of users on the PersonaLink network, generating revenue for both AT&T and General Magic, and perhaps providing a “tandem” device-computer solution that would have benefited device partners – which was ultimately the architecture that won that generation of handheld devices.
Our requests went nowhere for quite awhile, and were ultimately undertaken by a too little, too late internal effort at General Magic that never produced a viable product.