The key to a successful IT infrastructure is to ensure that systems are future-proofed as much as possible, but that does not necessarily mean transitioning to the latest technologies as soon as they arrive.
Whilst individuals, particularly power users, may become early adopters of new technology, typically the risks of productivity loss due to early edition glitches, bugs and teething troubles offset the potential benefits unless there is a specialised use case supported by the new upgrade that was not available before.
In the IT and technology world, it is common for systems to be released years, sometimes even decades before the customers it was designed for are ready for it or the technology has matured to a degree to make it viable for everyday use.
With that in mind, here are some examples of IT software and technology that were too far ahead of their time.
The Xerox 8010 Information System was far ahead of its time in nearly every category when it was released in 1981, but this futuristic technology came at a devastating cost.
The Xerox Star has a window-based graphical user interface two years before the Apple Lisa, three years before the Apple Macintosh and four years before the first version of Microsoft Windows, complete with icons, folders and a two-button mouse to interact with it.
It also used Ethernet networking during a time when even an acoustic coupler was outside the reach of many users, allowing for the use of email and print servers, all of which would not be widely implemented by businesses for over a decade.
The problem with all of this technology is that it cost over £15,000, which was a ridiculous price per unit even compared to other expensive failures such as the Apple Lisa.
It did however provide a window to the business world that would appear over the next decade.
Often considered to be the world’s first smartphone, the IBM Simon was so early to release that even the personal digital assistant, the predecessor to the modern smartphone, had barely been released.
It was the first mobile phone that could use common PDA features such as a notepad, calendar and address book, and even had some impressive early digital services such as a news ticker, stock market information and even map functionality.
It sold over 50,000 units in its first and last six months of operation, whilst it was ahead of its time, its battery life of just an hour and the rise of smaller (relative to the Simon) mobile phones made its continuation untenable.
When discussing the recent history of smart technology and its adoption by businesses, people often forget in the face of Apple’s success that Microsoft had beaten them to several of these innovations.
They had a tablet released nearly a decade before the iPad, and a smartwatch a decade before the Apple Watch was released.
The latter, the Microsoft SPOT (short for Smart Personal Objects Technology), was effectively an attempt to create the Internet of Things years before the technology began to become viable.
The SPOT watch was the first type of device to support the technology but also ultimately highlighted why it would ultimately fail; it used slow and unreliable FM radio to sync between different pieces of technology, it only worked in North America and required a subscription to function.
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