Apple Prototypes: 5 Products We Never Saw

For every Apple product we see on the shelves, there are dozens that never make it to production. Sometimes, these rare gems surface on the web for us to take a look at, and ponder what might have been. Scouring through the interweb, I’ve compiled this list of 5 Apple products that only the most hardcore of hardcore MacAddicts have ever stumbled across.

Surprisingly, some of these products, over 10 years old, are still being speculated about in one form or another to this day. Will we see new products based on these old prototypes? It’s far more likely that anything resembling the devices listed below have been rebuilt from the ground up, but still, it’s fun to look back on the products that didn’t make it to the mass market…

5. Apple PowerBop

apple_powerbob.jpgPowerBop was Apple’s first Powerbook with wireless Internet Access.

The device was tested briefly in 1993, but the GMS based service was extremely buggy, and moving from service area to service area caused an almost constant loss of signal.

The device was ahead of its time.

4. Apple Paladin

apple_paladin.jpgThe Apple Paladin was an attempt at an All-In-One device that was a computer, fax machine, scanner, and phone all in one. Essentially this one device would have been the only thing a small business needed to get off the ground. The primary display on the machine was a monotone LCD, but it also included a port to hook up a full color monitor.

Occationally these devices show up on Ebay, or even at Swapmeets , but I was unable to find out how many of these actually made it out into the market (if anyone knows, please let me know, and I’ll update here with the info)

3. W.A.L.T. (Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone)

apple_walt.jpgIt is unclear why W.A.L.T. never made it into production. The device, which admittedly, has a terrible name, was a portable screen-based Telephone right out of the Jetsons. The device was developed with Bell South in the very early 90s, and, in addition the making phone calls, also held an address book, and could send and receive faxes (very much like email). W.A.L.T. also had some PDA functions, and featured buttons across the top of the system for accessing important features – and a stylus for navigation.

2. Apple Videophone PDA

proto04.jpgJohn Sculley really wanted a videophone/PDA hybrid device, and the designers at Apple gave him one in the Apple Videophone/PDA prototype. This device was shown at MacWorld ’95, and would probably have cost $700,000 had it ever come out (I kid). The device was a moble Videophone that could also sync PDA functionality with the user on the other end, allowing for an exchange of data, or the ability to work interactively. Had this thing ever seen the light of day (and worked) it would have been cool as hell, but alas…it was not to be.

1. Apple PenLite

penlite.jpgThe Macintosh PowerBook Duo Tablet computer was code named “PenLite”, and was a combination of a PowerBook Duo and…um…a Tablet PC. The device was developed at the same time as the Newton, and Apple chose to cease development of this device to avoid market confusion by having too many Tablet-styled devices out at the same time. Unlike the Newton Messagepad 100, which was a PDA, the PenLite was a full blown Mac with all the bells and whistles. The tablet also connected with all of the Powerbook Duo accessories and docks.

For further exploration of Apple Prototypes and Design Concepts, visit The Apple Museum and The Apple Collection , both sites are great resources with more prototypes and concept designs than you can shake a stick at.

Comments

  1. Wow… looks like there was an “iPhone” in Apple’s past. I can’t imagine Apple as a cellphone maker. It’s so drab. Maybe they’ll change it, spice up the market. Who knows.

  2. Just to be a stickler, that’s a monochromatic monitor, not a monitone one.

  3. I want a WALT!!!

  4. It’s a shame they ditched the PenLite for the Newton. It would have been much cooler, and probably a much better marketing decision to have ditched the newton instead.

  5. Wow, that’s rather interesting. It seem like Apple remains quite advance in their futuristic technologies. I wonder what their are currently prototyping in their dark lap?!

    ———–
    Wanna get the most out of your mac?
    Visit: http://www.mostofmymac.com

  6. Wow this is a really cool collection. I wonder what the more current prototypes that have been thrown out are?

  7. How could you leave out the Apple set-top box prototypes?!?? These were percolating onto eBay when it first came out, and looked like real potential replay/TiVo killers:

    http://guides.macrumors.com/Image:Apple-stb-front.jpg

    (Don’t judge the source too harshly, I saw one of these up close, and the pics definitely match it!)

  8. Deano –

    I didn’t include it in this list because I’ve already written about it several times on the site.

    Most Notably here –
    http://www.applegazette.com/mac/apple-interactive-television-box-the-itv-that-wasnt/

  9. You always wonder what are they doing inside those building at Apple… just like when we didn’t know of the Intel based Macs… That is why I like Apple… always innovative but never pushing the products out against the market without careful design.

  10. The powerbob was released in France. It was using the Bip-Bop technology from France Telecom

  11. Apple PowerBop: “The device was ahead of its time.”

    My hoverboard “was tested briefly in 2005, but the gravity based physics on Earth were extremely buggy, and it had an almost constant rate of failure.”

    I guess in a few years I will be heralded as a pioneer with a device ahead of its time… Or maybe just one of many people who failed to make a successful hoverboard.

    How about Ricochet which went in to service in 1994 (probably was in developed around or before the PowerBop).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricochet_(internet_service)

    PowerBop wasn’t before its time, because it was not useable and never would have a time…

  12. i want the penlight …
    its so kewl …

  13. PowerBop was not a prototype It was sold in France for a few years. There was some sort of celle phone called BiBop there that was sold by France Telecom before the GSM existed. Apple developped PowerBop with France Telecom and sold it there

  14. You’ve made a little minor typo: Occationally=Occasionally

  15. You should have said that your picture of the PowerBop came from the french site L’Aventure Apple, wich has been talking about the PowerBop for years !

    http://www.aventure-apple.com/flops/powerbop.html

  16. COOL!

  17. The Powerbop was perfectly available. Only, the RF link it used was specifically french, and almost only in Paris (it was waaay before the GSM), so it was sold only in France. The RF modem was installed in the place of the floppy drive.

  18. Apple secret service says:

    there are secret apple tech’s that only used by foriegn secret services and some domestic security services. we see and use only tip of the iceberg.

  19. slashdot users smell like ether and old cheese.

  20. Pippen. I can’t believe this isn’t on the list!

  21. personaly, i really like the mac smartphone shown at number 2, but i hate all the other videophone type things… the beauty of a telephone is that u can talk to someone, while just getting out of bed, and or while on the shitter, or anything else… i wouldnt want a videophone at all

  22. The PowerBop connected to the _Internet_ in 1993? What on the Internet was usable for the average Mac user in 1993? This was back when you found out what was on the Internet by buying an “Internet Directory” book. Maybe it was intented to communicate with the future.

  23. I have been using the internet since 1986. The killer apps back then was:
    1. E-mail
    2. Usenet
    3. MUD (today relabelled as MMORPG or something like that)

    And you could get your software from the net as well (usenet, hijacked FTP servers, and the open source at http://ftp.funet.fi, wuarchive.wustl.edu etc).
    The Internet was great long before The Wild Willy Web.

  24. I was at Apple France at this time. The powerbop is not a prototype. It has been designed in France for the French market with France Telecom (2000 units). The floppy disk was replace by a bi-bop modem. bi-bop was a post-GSM technologies from France Telecom. Some spot were installed in café, restaurant in the center of Paris. Some stickers are still visible on few windows… The Modem was really really fast : 14 000 bps and the price of the PB was nothing… 6 000 USD. On the usage side : fax and minitel from the café !!! We sold less than 500 units…

  25. PowerBop connected to the services that were available in 1992, not 1993. including compuserve, aol, applelink, eworld, and a bunch of private and corporate bbs… as well to usenet, ftp sites, wais servers, etc.

    It was developed by Apple France and it was available only in France. There was some bop “hotspots” around Paris, mostly in the airports.

    As for the PenLite, it was “demoed” during the WWDC 1991 by a very shy engineer showing some very impressive math sofware.

  26. I found a small typo in the article – occasionally has an “s”, not a “t”. Occasionally. In number 4.

  27. Hey Frank, there was plenty on the Internet in 1993. I was using a Mac to FTP, play MUDs and read USENET in 1990!
    The Internet != The Web

  28. Frank, Internet is not only http://WWW...

  29. Robert Tripoux says:
  30. PenLite Rules!!!!

  31. there was a lot of “internet” stuff back in 1993…think about some of the early chat rooms like ISCA as well as Compuserve and AOL…certainly there was no great SEARCH technology back then but the internet was alive and well…to think of where it has grown in the last 13yrs?!?

  32. The Pippin and the Apple set top box – neither were prototypes – that “rumor” is perpetrated by wordy salesmen on eBay. The “set top box” was actually a real production unit that was sold to Disney in California. It was actually in hotel rooms and used for shopping, mapping, and channel changing from the hotel TV.

    The Pippin actually shipped and sold more units than the MacTV and 2oth Anniversary Mac combined.

    The Apple PenLite was never actually a real product for testing or prototyping … that picture was simply a Duo with the screen detached and turned over. Although the Duo was the most prototyped of any Apple computer … it was also most of the guts of the Paladin.

    The only real prototype you have here are The Paladin, The WALT, and The Videophone. Although the WALT actually saw public day light tooo at Disney World.

  33. Any chance we can avoid non-English postings. This is meant to be an English language news site and you are limiting the people who can read and appreciate your replies.

  34. @Tamarok

    We have a large number of non-English speaking sites that link to us, and I don’t really want to not allow them to have trackbacks when they are sending traffic to our site.

    Still, I would like to get other opinions on this, so if you’re reading this and you do have an opinion on it, please let me know.

  35. Non-English doesn’t bother me. If I can’t read it, I just skip over it. Same can be said for some of the English posts. :)

    I’m sure the non-English posts are benificial to the readers of that language – why deprive?

  36. Wow seeing this stuff makes me want to buy a Windows laptop!

  37. There are always going to be clumpers vs. splitters. Sculley was a clumper: he wanted many functions clumped in one box. Jobs is a splitter: the iPod does one thing real well – play back music. iPods now play teeny-tiny videos, a potential slide into clumping. Phones are good for phoning. Clumping a phone and a PDA with an iPod seems like a Sculley move, not a Jobsian trait. Perhaps miniaturization is making clumping OK for Apple. I could envision an iPhone that works only with a Bluetooth headset, and wouldn’t have a mic or earphone in the iPod. That way Apple wouldn’t have to change the form factor of the iPod, no one would have to hold an iPod up to their ear, and Apple could still clump the phone function with the music playback function.

  38. I wonder what ideas Apple has in their collective trash cans right now…

  39. Hit by a rock says:

    So, what would happen if Apple released a game console today, disregarding the failure in 1997? $600 consoles seem to be the norm today, like it was with the Pippin.

  40. jeff sepeta says:

    i applaud the acceptance of comments in languages other than english. if i care to dig deeper, i can go to google or babelfish to get a translation. and they can read my english too if they wish.

  41. I also agree that comments in multiple languages are beneficial. Personally, i speak 3 languages, and so can read many of the comments in Languages Other Than English. Please let other people post their opinions as well, some may view it as discrimination…or simply ignorance :)

  42. PowerBop was NOT a French standard or a cellular standard. The BiBop system was a 900 MHz digital cordless system called CT2 (search the web) for which Dassault, Motorola, Shaye Communications, GPT and Ferranti made equipment. There was also a very small amount of equipment from some Asian manufacturers – anyone remember that.

    CT2 was an ETSI standard, predating the now ubiquitous DECT.

    There were similar systems in the UK, (Rabbit, Zonephone, etc), in Holland (Greenpoint I think) and Deutsche Telecome almost launched a service called Birdie. But the cellular operators just launched consumer tariffs, and all the services died. Remember that this was all pre-GSM consumer tariffs and pre-paid.

    I was heavily involved in the stuff behind these services, DECT was much better.

  43. what’s so awful about w.a.l.t as a name? At least compared to Mac Book Pro, anyway (what the hell was wrong with the iBook brand?!)

  44. Estamos totalmente manipulados. Podemos saber que hay productos de appel que no han salido a la luz.Increible .. y cuantas cosas han creado otras empresas o personas y no sabemos nada por intereses economicos.

    kenavik

  45. Thanks for sharing

  46. Wonderful to see my picture of W.A.L.T. here. Yes, that is my picture, taken on my leather ottoman. I sold it on eBay a few years back. To my knowledge it is the only one of its kind left. Every picture I see on the Internet is a pic I took. I thought one of the first comments was funny because the poster was wondering how many of these wonderful ‘gems’ have been accidentally thrown out… and yes, I did almost throw it away. I decided to see what would happen to it on eBay and got over 1 million hits in 4 days. Global tracking showed an IP from every country except the Vatican hit it. It funded the rest of my medical education, plus for a few years it was a really cool phone… until it died! My favorite memory of WALT is in the instruction booklet where it said… “Do not drop W.A.L.T.” No kidding! I swear I did not drop it…it just wore out and died of natural causes… Joanne

  47. Chris Baker says:

    Cool to see the Paladin. I worked on that product at a sub-contractor doing the phone, fax, voice mail, and modem functionality. A buddy of mine still has a Paladin that works even to this day. Every couple of years he pulls it out and we boot it up to see if it still works.

    As far as I know, the product was about ready to go into production with full tooling (word was they spent 36-40 million) done and ready to go in Taiwan. CEO Gill A. killed it and a lot of other projects when he took over. It took so long to get the product designed and tooling done that many of the parts were going out of life cycle as production neared. I recall that it was being developed the near the 680X0 to PowerPC chip transition leaving the Paladin on the wrong side of the divide.

    I remember hearing rumors that about 30 of them were made on production tooling and many of them were destroyed after the project was killed.

    I still think Apple could be one of the greatest consumer product companies in the world. Apple coffee maker anyone? (Hey..don’t laugh…Porsche has a design studio.)

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