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The wearables market is starting to feel like the 1990s PDA market

In the mid to late 1990s, Microsoft was unstoppable. Microsoft was dominant. So dominate, in fact, they were ruled a monopoly. Microsoft revenues were doing well and Apple was just starting to make a comeback as Steve Jobs just came back into the fold to kill the Mac clone business and cut all non-core products. Microsoft had Windows-based PDAs, Apple had the Newton, but neither Microsoft more Apple was having success with the emerging personal data assistants or “PDA” market.

The old Palm Pilot Professional

There was also a little company named Palm Computing. Palm was originally part of US Robotics, then 3COM before they spun-off to become Palm Inc. Palm made some very basic handhelds to handle personal information with very simple functionality. Palm Pilots had a tremendously loyal following and a strong userbase.

I can’t help but see the same patterns from the 90s around the emerging “Smartwatch” wearables market today. The players might be taking different roles, but much of the same philosophical design strategies of how device companies looked at the PDA are similar to how they are looking at functionality in the smartwatch. You also clearly have the “David vs. Goliath” scenario of Microsoft and Palm with Apple and Fitbit.

Design Methodologies: Minimal & Add vs. Pare Down 

The Fitbit Force

Fitbit has been the marketshare leader in the early wearables market even after a recall of their Force model. Fitbit’s design methodology is minimal and bare-bones. Fitbit totally reminds me of Palm. Both companies start with a minimal feature-set and add functionality as needed. Palm users loved the basic design and simple OS that just handles the core functionality required. Fitbit’s methodology is quite similar and they just use a very light footprint on their devices and very minimal UI.

Microsoft had a much different approach with software on their PDAs in the back then. The Microsoft approach was to try and capitalize on their Windows desktop dominance and take the Windows OS down into smaller devices. Unlike Palm, this approach was more along the lines of trying to take bigger features and a larger footprint and stuffing it into smaller devices. The products were generally clumsy and awkward. Companies bought them because they theoretically worked with existing corporate environments and consumers. But, the user following was never there on the various incarnations of Windows Embedded or CE or Pocket PC.

The Windows-based Compaq PDA
The Windows-based Compaq PDA

Apple, interestingly enough, is taking more of the old Microsoft route here. Apple is trying to leverage the iOS familiarity they run in tablets and smartphones into the smaller watch device. No doubt Apple will sell a ton of Apple Watches, but will this really work well or is Apple going to repeat the Micrsoft mistake? We’ll have to see.

David vs. Goliath Again

The other clear parallel is that, just like in the 1990s with the PDA market, there is a “David” in Fitbit and a “Goliath” in Apple today. Back in the 1990s, it was Palm and Microsoft. Fitbit is a small player in the grand scheme of the tech scene but the users represent a loyal following much like Palm users did two decades years ago. Apple, again, is more along the lines of Microsoft in the 1990s with big money and marketing budgets.


Apple is the big player in this rendition and with the recent delayed availability of the Apple Watch, I wonder if Apple will be successful with this device. Fitbit isn’t trying to be everything to everyone with their devices and even though they were late with a device response to their Force recall, they really do have a shot to add users in the next few months until Apple Watch is in full swing.

Sadly, if the wearables market does mimic the PDA battles of the 1990s, it doesn’t bode well for Fitbit. Palm went through hell and eventually died. They were bought, sold, and moved around. Something tells me Fitbit could have a similiar fate.

Let’s see how this ends. The patterns are similar, the players are different, but the market could bring this to a different conclusion. It will be interesting to watch what consumers really go for in this go-around.

Actually, tablet is a feature, not a product.


After using a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro for the last 6 months or so, it is clear to me that the tablet form factor is a feature of a PC and not a separate product. People can belittle Windows 8.x, but the Intel Ultrabook platform is the future instead of the multiple device strategy of Apple. If Apple was still the sort of company it was with Jobs, it would have released a touchscreen Macbook even if it meant it might jeopardize iPad sales. Apple is not that kind of company anymore under Cook.

As iPad tablet sales stagnate, people are starting to realize that tablets are really not displacing PCs in terms of total functionality. Apple may want us to believe we are moving to a post-PC world, but tablets have really not been able to displace the PC or Mac. They have be great additional devices for people to give their kids or have around the house for an accessory. Microsoft is even marketing their Surface Pro 3 as the only tablet that can truly replace their laptop. We’ll have to see how that goes over for the third shot at the Surface. We all see people buy iPads then buy cases with built-in physical keyboards to try and make their tablets act like an underpowered laptop. It’s going to get old for folks. The sell will be tougher and tougher for Apple as people get sick of the churn of software-obsoleted hardware models.

Piling on more and more devices per individual is just not sustainable. People will realize this at some point. Sure, we all see the folks at the local Starbucks with an iPhone, iPad, and laptop all out on the table because they have bought the lie that each device complements the other in some weird way. It doesn’t. It is nice to have your laptop be a tablet with a touchscreen from time to time, but it’s not needed all the time. It’s great to be able to fold the laptop into a tablet for specific uses, but most of the time I use it as a fully-featured laptop with real applications and a built-in physical keyboard when I need it. I still have a thin form-factor and an Intel Core i7 when I want power.

Microsoft actually has a great opportunity here if they can deliver on Windows 9. Windows 8.x is damaged goods at this point from a branding perspective with all the bad press even though it is really quite workable for Ultrabook users like me. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Steve Jobs famously referred to Dropbox as a feature, not a product. I think Apple will see that it will also be their reality as their users realize alternatives to their product mix designed to have them consume more feature-limited products, not fewer, more capable devices.

Evernote Web Clipper On iPad and iPhone via Safari On iOS 7

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 3.08.36 PM


Update 2015-02-27: It’s been reported this no longer works on iOS 7.x for some reason. I’m unsure what Apple and or Evernote have done to disallow this, but a commenter wanted to add the disclaimer here. 

I posted the original bookmarklet to bookmark hack a few years ago and have continued to maintain it. Apple changed their iOS GUI pretty dramatically with the release of iOS 7, so I thought it would make sense to update the quick guide specifically to show iOS 7 users how to clip webpages to their Evernote accounts with the javascript to bookmark hack.

[OPTIONAL] If you don’t like a bookmark bar on your browser, you can skip this. If you do want a button always around to quickly clip a page, go into Settings > Safari and flip the switch to “Show Favorites Bar” to have a persistent bar across the top of Safari. You will see the guide with this option enabled.


1. In Safari on iOS 7.x, go to and add the page to your favorites with the arrow box before the location field. Click the “Bookmark” box. You can do this on another tab in Safari if you want.


2. Change the name of the new bookmark from the site title to “Evernote Clipper” or whatever name you prefer. I will refer to the bookmark as this title for this guide. Save it after you rename it.


3. Now select the entire text below. I have it posted as code or you can click the link to the text file and Safari will open it and show the pure text. You need to click this link to open the code in a new text page to easily select all and copy to your iOS clipboard to paste in a later step.


Example of the copy text you will need to perform

4. Go to the favorities icon in Safari to the right of the url location field and open your favorities and edit the Evernote Clipper one.


5. You are going to clear the address the bookmark you just made.

20140308-135602.jpgand paste the entire code you copied from step 3 into the address field. Save the changed bookmark. This is your clipper now.


6.  With the clipper code now in the bookmark, you can to Evernote. Go to a different website now in Safari. The example below is Google. When the site is up, click the Evernote Clipper button on the bookmark bar, or use the favorites button to the right of the location bar to select the Evernote Clipper bookmark. Either method will work.

20140308-135621.jpg If all goes well, you will be prompted for the initial login to Evernote. Enter your Evernote username/password.

7. The Evernote dialogue will open and you will be able to add more details to the page you are clipping before you save.


8. After you save the quicknote from the clipper, you will see it in your regular Evernote account on your devices.


Problems getting group SMS/MMS from iOS on Android? Get Ninja SMS.

I was having a lot of blank messages from iPhone users on my Android CyanogenMod HTC One phone. The messages were blank when sent as part of a group text. This was quite annoying. I’m sure it has to do with iOS sending in a format for other iOS users. Here is what the Android Messaging app window looked like:


I was able to send okay and see what I sent to iOS users, but not see what they sent back to the group. Of course, I was the only non-iOS phone in the mix. I don’t get many of these group texts, so it was annoying but not debilitating. I tried a few other SMS apps but landed on Ninja SMS.

With Ninja, I immediately was able to see the formally blank texts.

It’s well worth the $1.50 if you are experiencing issues with SMS in an iOS-dominated world.