I just read that General Magic is closing down. That makes me sad.
In addition to having one of the best company names around, General Magic pioneered one of the things that has really drawn my interest over the past 10 years: secure mobile code. Their Magic Cap operating system (and the Telescript language it was built on) was designed to change the world, and got a lot of attention for a while. Pavel Curtis slammed their vision of the Internet pretty hard in one of the best conference talks I’ve ever heard (the closing address at the 1995 Winter USENIX), and he was correct—but they nevertheless tried to do a lot of things right.
They had a booth at JavaOne last year. I hadn’t thought about them in a while; I was surprised to learn that they hadn’t already gone out of business. In one sense, it might have been better if they had—reading their material at the booth, they seemed like just another mundane J2EE/XML/enterprise computing/wireless buzzword company. A far cry from the visionary dream of their early days, and certainly not very magical. But you do what you’ve got to do to survive, I guess.
Except that giving up that dream didn’t work, either.