A glance again on the failed FlipStart cellular PC by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen


Vulcan FlipStart

Within the early 2000s not many exterior of the tech media have been giving a lot thought to cellular computing, aside from laptops. The smartphone had but to seem in numbers and the iPad was years away. This appeared prepared to vary with phrase leaking out in 2003 that Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen was planning to construct a cellular PC.

Phrase saved showing now and again in regards to the cellular PC from Allen’s firm Vulcan till 2006 when the FlipStart PC made its look. I used to be in a position to get my palms on one lengthy earlier than then and it was a powerful feat of design and engineering.

What Vulcan did with the FlipStart was shrink a laptop computer to a handheld measurement. It was constructed with elements frequent from that point, together with an Intel Pentium M processor, 512MB of RAM, 30 GB HDD, and a 5.6-inch show (1024×600).

This was all constructed round Home windows, as there was little different alternative on the time. The blue clamshell was enticing however not very cellular given the just about two inch peak. While you factored within the 1.75 pound weight, you had a PC that whereas a lot smaller than the laptop computer of the day was not very moveable.

This was clear to me once I took the FlipStart on a visit to Seattle. I handed it to a buddy who could not wait to see it and he dropped it to the marble ground, not anticipating it to be so heavy. Thankfully, other than a minor dent within the case the FlipStart was unaffected by the drop.



The FlipStart was costly at $1,999 at launch. Shrinking a full PC and coping with warmth points weren’t low cost.

The system had a QWERTY keyboard with tiny chiclet keys, full with a full but tiny trackpad. There was a small show on the closed lid that was a proprietary manner (not Home windows SlideShow) to test electronic mail with out firing up Home windows.

Whereas fans would usually get excited when proven the FlipStart, common customers weren’t impressed. The fanatic would usually point out how spectacular it was to have a full Home windows PC within the small type, however the client would usually ask why that mattered. It appeared a tiny two thousand greenback system that might run full Home windows did not impress most individuals.

That was finally the issue the FlipStart could not resolve. Whilst you might run any Home windows program on the system, it wasn’t very sensible. Attempting to run apps designed for a a lot larger display screen than that of the FlipStart was irritating and generally did not work in any respect. Most individuals who tried one ended up utilizing it for electronic mail. A $2,000 electronic mail system.

Vulcan realized instantly upon launch that it was by no means going mainstream as desired. It stopped manufacturing and started a sequence of worth reductions. The ultimate worth was $699 and Vulcan mentioned at the moment that it was promoting off remaining stock. It promised to help the FlipStart for a 12 months after buy, after which help was the customer’s downside.

The FlipStart solely lasted in the marketplace for a 12 months. It was clear that customers did not care a lot for operating Home windows on such cellular gadgets. What was wanted was a cellular system that might run on designed for such a goal. In a couple of months the iPhone would hit the scene, and the cellular house would take off as by no means earlier than.