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It was a bumpy and uncertain road to making the multipurpose phones we use today.
Angela Lang/CNET



This story is part of CNET at 25, celebrating a quarter century of industry tech and our role in telling you its story.















Every time you use a smartphone, you're enjoying something we thought might never exist: a device that does almost everything really well. But in the early years after CNET's founding in 1995, flexible touch screen display there was a lot of debate about whether a single converged device was possible, or even needed. 

Even into the first decade of the 2000s, CNET talked to experts who doubted that convergence was possible, asked "" and flat out said "." That may seem absurd today, but remember that not long ago a





Then everything changed as

PDAs, BlackBerrys and then smartphones suddenly clicked. 

"We were bringing something new into the world in an aura of failure," recalled Donna Dubinsky, former CEO of Palm, co-founder of Handspring and now CEO of machine intelligence company Numenta. "The Apple Newton and Casio Zoomer had been a huge bust."

PocketPC, Sony Magic Link and Apple NewtonPocketPC, Sony Magic Link and Apple Newton
PocketPC, Sony Magic Link and the Apple Newton were all early stops on the road to today's elegantly converged phone. But not all of them caught on.
Brian Cooley/CNET

Tech luminaries portrayed the groundwork for converged tech with Jetsons-esque visions of what was possible. Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer predicted in 1997 that our homes would be wired, and in 2004 Microsoft CEO Bill Gates forecast the smart home and services such as Netflix, two developments we now take for granted. At their time, those pronouncements generated eye rolls and debate as often as serious consideration.

But the home internet revolution happened. For those who thought a home computer was too scientific or nerdy, there were home internet terminals such as or MSN Companion. From home computing and the internet came the understanding that connected services should be with us all the time.

MSN TVMSN TV
Web TV, which later became MSN TV was basically a product line of cheap computers with a monthly access fee through an internet service provider.

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