Though he’s probably best known as one of the original XBox founders, Otto Berkes was a key figure in the Tablet and Mobile PC world. Yesterday, he announced his departure from Microsoft, leaving a big tablet-shaped hole in their brain pool.
Brier Dudley of The Seattle Times broke the news. As lead developer on Origami and Ultra-Mobile PCs, including the fleeting Haiku project, Berkes created prototypes and concepts five years ago that resemble the handheld and pocketable PCs of today. One notable difference of course is that most of today’s mobile devices run software by Apple or Google, not by Microsoft.
When asked by Todd Bishop of GeekWire how he feels about that situation, specifically the iPad, Berkes described it as “bittersweet”. He feels, as many old school tablet enthusiasts do, that his vision is validated but wishes Microsoft had been the one to do it. He also expressed positive feelings for the company and his own future.
Berkes was also involved with the secret Courier project, which generated great excitement with its pen- and touch-based interface before being scuttled.
Berkes was truly ahead of his time and his vision for mobile computing guided a good deal of what GottaBeMobile covered during the days of Origami. Had Microsoft continued with the project or pressed forward with Courier, who knows how today’s tablet environment would have turned out. At the very least, they might still be recognized as a tablet competitor by folks outside our niche.
Hat tip to Rob Bushway. Here’s Otto talking in 2006 about mobile computers of the future.