NewWave Mail makes its debut in an effort to give HP 3000 users a reason to use the GUI that was ahead of its time. Apple took the interface seriously enough to sue Hewlett-Packard over similarities. The GUI lasted more than five years in the wild before Microsoft's Win95 emerged.
Twenty-five years ago this summer, the HP 3000 got its first taste of a graphical user interface. NewWave, the avant garde GUI rolled out a year from the Windows 3 release, got a link to HP DeskManager when the vendor pushed out NewWave Mail. Not even the business-focused user base of the HP 3000 — in that year HP's largest business server community — could help a GUI released before its time. Or at least before the time that Microsoft finally made Windows a business default.
NewWave introduced a look and feel that one-upped Apple's GUI of 1990. It seemed a natural product to pair with DeskManager, the mail system so efficient and connectable that HP used it and massive farms of 3000s to link its worldwide employee community. NewWave was developed in the HP's Grenoble software labs, not far from the Bristol labs that birthed DeskManager.
During that era, the vendor was looking forward to products more accessible to its customers than a memristor. A concept video called 1995, aired for summertime conference attendees two years earlier, included simulated workstation screen shots of advanced desktop interfaces. NewWave got its first customers in 1989, but uptake from the developer community was slow. PC software makers like Lotus were the target of HP development campaigns. But a NewWave GUI for software as omnipresent as Dbase or 1-2-3 wasn't created by Lotus. Its Ami Pro word processor got a NewWave version, pairing a little-known PC product with HP technology ahead of its time.
HP scored a breakthrough with Object Oriented Computing with NewWave, though, the only vendor of serious size to do so. NeXT was rolling out object-based software a few years later, tech that Apple acquired when Steve Jobs returned to the company he helped to found. Agent-based computing, intended to use work habits of each user, was another aim for NewWave.
For all of those far-reaching concepts, though, NewWave Mail was "totally dependent on HP DeskManager," according to HP's manuals. It was as if a GUI skin were put on the minicomputer-bound HP Desk. Microsoft needed little more than PCs to spark its first useful version of Windows, 3.0.
It wasn't the first summer that Hewlett-Packard got upstaged by Microsoft. Twenty years ago this summer, that year's Interex show rose its curtain while Redmond unfurled the Win95 banner, 300 feet worth literally draped off a tower in Toronto in the week of the show. Win95 grounded NewWave, marking the end of HP's unique R&D into GUI.
Two decades later, Microsoft has announced it will no longer release versions of Windows. It will simply update the current version of Win10 automatically, having long ago dropped the version names that were linked to to a release year. After NewWave, HP made no other efforts to push an in-house R&D project that could offer object oriented computing to developers and business IT users. In the back end of the 1990s the company focused on catching up to Windows business use — after it had been charging into the Unix and NT technologies, hoping to make a splash with businesses.