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1993 — HP Omnibook
While it seems HP has lost its way recently, it was producing a constant stream of innovative products in years past. The HP Omnibook was as innovative as anything HP produced during its advanced mobile phase.
The Omnibook was a sub-notebook that brought Microsoft Windows to a small laptop form. It had lots of memory compared to other offerings at the time, and even had two PCMCIA slots for both memory and peripheral expansion. There was an internal dial-up modem in the Omnibook, turning it into a full work system. Microsoft Word and Excel were both preloaded in ROM on the system.
Perhaps most uniquely, the Omnibook had a small plastic mouse that popped out of the side of the laptop (pictured above) that was tethered to the device by a plastic bar. The mouse was pulled out for use and then pushed back in the notebook's side for transport.
1996 — Toshiba Libretto
Japanese tech giants were often the first to produce highly miniaturized mobile devices, and Toshiba pushed the limits with the Libretto. First introduced in Japan, the Libretto was roughly the size of a VHS cassette (if you remember those), yet packed a full Windows PC in the tiny package.
It used thumb controls on the side of the small screen in place of a mouse and buttons. The tiny keyboard was not conducive to touch-typing, but owners didn't seem to mind as the Libretto sold like hotcakes in Japan.
Toshiba continued to make Libretto models for years, and eventually brought them to sell in the US. The last model was a strange beast introduced in 2010, with two touchscreens arranged in a book format instead of a keyboard.
1996 — Palm (Pilot) PDA
Palm started as a division of US Robotics, and with the introduction of the Palm Pilot, was able to gain its independence. The PDAs from Palm became wildly popular and soon became a household name.
That got Palm in trouble with the Pilot pen company, as the latter sued Palm for using "Pilot". Palm dropped the Pilot name, and products were simply Palm PDAs going forward.
Palm had many features that endured the PDAs to the buying public, not the least of which was the hotsync cradle. Users simply dropped the PDA into the cradle, which was connected to a computer, and all personal data would be synced to both devices.
The PDAs of Palm soon morphed into the Palm Treo, the most successful smartphone of the time. The marriage of PDA functions with the phone turned out to be a marvelous marriage, and the Palm Treo introduced millions to the concept.