The film follows the ambitious '90s startup, spun out of Apple, that set out to create the world's first mobile computer -- with apps, mail and a touchscreen. The device it came up with, called the Magic Link, ultimately failed to sell. But it laid the groundwork for Apple's iPhone, which ignited the smartphone revolution, and for Google's Android operating system.
The rest is history.
And history is what this film, directed by Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude, is all about. Founded in 1990, General Magic was a Murderers' Row of tech talent. It included CEO Marc Porat; Andy Hertzfeld and Bill Atkinson, already legends from their work on the early Mac team; and youngsters Megan Smith and Tony Fadell. Smith would go on to become a vice president at Google, then chief technologist of the United States under Barack Obama. Fadell would become the "Godfather of the iPod" and play key roles designing the iPhone. After that, he founded Nest, the maker of smart home devices, which sold to Google in 2014 for more than $3 billion.
In the case of Smith and Fadell (both with acne and long brown hair), it's a glimpse at tech superstars before they were industry heavyweights. It's like seeing young Lebron James in "More Than a Game," the documentary chronicling his high school career.
As stacked as the General Magic team was, though, the company ultimately failed. It was plagued by a lack of focus. In one scene, Hertzfeld, a co-founder, laments all the time he put into designing a digital coin-flip feature, instead of doing more mission-critical work. The company also suffered from being too early. The internet was only beginning to emerge, and chips weren't nearly as powerful as they are today.
Multi-award winning feature documentary GENERAL MAGIC is the untold tale of how a great vision and epic failure changed the world.
The ideas that dominate the tech industry and our day to day lives were born at a secretive Silicon Valley start-up called ‘General Magic’, which spun out of Apple in 1990 to create the “next big thing”. General Magic shipped the first handheld personal communicator (or “smartphone”) in 1994. The film combines rare archival footage with powerful honesty from the “Magicians” today, reflecting on the most influential Silicon Valley company no one has ever heard of.
Featuring legendary members of the original Macintosh team, along with the creators of the iPod, iPhone, Android, and eBay, this is the story of one of history’s most talented tech teams, who after a great failure, went on to change the lives of billions.
CEO of General Magic and visionary of the smart phone. Former member of the Aspen Institute, founder of multiple companies in the sustainability and the built environment sectors.
Brilliant engineer and humanitarian, former U.S. Chief Technology Officer under the Obama Administration, former VP at Google, co-founder of The Malala Fund and shift7.
One of the world’s greatest software engineers, member of the original Apple Macintosh team, co-founder of General Magic and co-creator of Google Circles.
Joining General Magic as a young college apprentice, Tony continued on to invent the iPod and co-invent the iPhone, founded Nest and today heads the innovative Future Shape.
Member of the original Apple Macintosh team, Head of Marketing at General Magic and the woman who famously stood up to Steve Jobs.
Former Apple CEO. The benefactor who gave his blessing to General Magic, then launched the Newton without a word to the Magicians.
Former CTO of Adobe, creator of Dreamweaver, lead engineer on Apple Watch and current VP of Technology at Apple.
The prophet in exile, whose spirit and rebellion haunt this story.