If you worked in the tech industry in the first half of the 1990s, it was tough to not to know about General Magic.
Founded by then-Apple employees Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson and Marc Porat, the company proposed making personal communicators that would let individuals get messages, perform computing functions and take calls remotely. Originally an internal project at Apple, Porat convinced then-CEO John Sculley to spin it out as a private company in 1990 (the Newton came later.).
The buzz soon began. Sony, Motorola, AT&T and others lined up as partners and investors. Glossy magazines used the Star Trek communicator metaphor to the hilt. The stock doubled on its IPO in 1995. Sony and Motorola even came out with devices while AT&T provided service. People were clamoring to work there.
Unfortunately for General Magic, things didn't work out as planned. Palm, which only added communications capabilities to its handhelds later, went on to define the handheld computing space. General finally closed its doors in 2002.
Since then, Porat (Who will speak tomorrow at our Green Building Summit at 1:30 p.m. Insert plug here.) has turned his attention to energy, and specifically green building. He is the chairman of Serious Materials, the maker of green windows and drywall, Zeta Communities (modular housing developments) and CalStar Products (green bricks and cement.). Building operations consume 39 percent of the energy in the U.S. according to the DOE and construction consumes 12 percent. That's 51 percent. CalStar and Serious reduce energy by cutting the energy required in production – chemical catalysts take the place of high-temperature furnaces.
We have 300 billion square feet of real estate in the U.S., he notes. China will add that much in 20 years. It's a big market.