Bill Gates at the Comdex computer show in 1998


Unknown to many, Microsoft engineers way back in 1998 presented an e-reader prototype that featured a touch screen interface to Bill Gates, which was eventually turned down and dismissed because the founder thought it wasn’t right. This interesting report and a few more are featured in Vanity Fair’s “Microsoft’s Downfall: Inside the Executive E-mails and Cannibalistic Culture That Felled a Tech Giant” report that was published yesterday. According to Kurt Eichenwald of Vanity Fair, in 1998, Microsoft had a prototype e-reader ready to go. But when the engineers presented it to Gates, he promptly gave it a thumbs-down.

“He didn’t like the user interface, because it didn’t look like Windows,” one engineer involved in the project told the publication. The group working on the prototype was eventually asked to focus on developing software for its Office suite. Microsoft also reportedly turned down the idea of a micro-messaging system. The said idea was the brainchild of a young developer of MSN Messenger who noticed that a few college students were using AOL’s AIM to constantly give status updates. Unfortunately, the idea was also turned down by Microsoft. Two days ago, in an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Gates explained why the iPad was so successful saying, ” Apple did some things better than I did.”

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