A decade before Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, a tiny team of renegades imagined and tried to build the modern smartphone. Nearly forgotten by history, a little startup called Handspring tried to make the future before it was ready. In Springboard: the secret history of the first real smartphone, The Verge’s Dieter Bohn talks to the visionaries at Handspring and dives into their early successes and eventual failures.
It’s a half-hour-long documentary featuring the key players at Palm and Handspring: Donna Dubinsky, Jeff Hawkins, Ed Colligan, and more. It’s one of our most ambitious video projects to date, and we can’t wait to show it to you.
Handspring may no longer be a household name, but it was briefly one of the fastest growing businesses in American history, selling Visor personal digital assistants. But the company had bigger aspirations: it saw a mobile future and took the first steps toward what would become the modern smartphone — even as it faced skepticism from the entire industry.
The dream of the Handspring Treo turned out to be too far ahead of its time — before either the technology inside smartphones or the industry that sold them was ready for it. And a number of bad internal decisions and outside disasters would stall Handspring long enough that Apple would go on to do what Handspring couldn’t.
Springboard is also a look at an earlier time in tech — when the dot com bubble was bursting, but big tech hadn’t coalesced into five or six titanic monoliths. It was a time when many futures seemed possible, even one where a tiny startup could win the coming smartphone wars.
Springboard is now streaming worldwide. You can watch it on The Verge’s new app on Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, or Apple TV. Visit your preferred streaming device’s app store and search for “The Verge” or learn how to download here.