How Did Apple Let Microsoft’s Kinect Slip Through Its Fingers?

In 2008 Inon Beracha, CEO of Israeli company PrimeSense, who engineered the brain of what is now Microsoft’s shiny Kinect, was trying to find a buyer for the miracle tech.

The Kinect controller for the Xbox 360, with lenses in the base that track a player’s movements. Photo: Microsoft

In 2008 Inon Beracha, CEO of Israeli company PrimeSense, who engineered the brain of what is now Microsoft’s shiny Kinect, was trying to find a buyer for the miracle tech. He tried Apple. No dice. Why? It was complicated.

Even two years ago, the PrimeSense’s sensor that powers  Microsoft’s Kinect was enormously impressive. So Beracha jetted to Silicon Valley to drum up interest. His first stop was Apple Inc. “It was the most natural place for the technology.”

On his laptop, Beracha showed videos of people waving their hands in the air to control Wii-like games. He showed people controlling TV programming menus by gesturing their hands in the air.

The technology was real, he said, and so cheap, it could eventually be found everywhere in the home, office and car. And it almost belonged to Apple Inc.

On the plane, Beracha told me the technology had the potential to revolutionize all kinds of interfaces. Wii-like gaming was the most obvious example, but Beracha believed it would also replace remote controls completely and inspire all kinds of new automation systems for homes and workplaces.

The technology had been developed by a bunch of engineers in the Israeli military. They had recently hired him to shop it around Silicon Valley and find partners to commercialize it. It was hot. He had back-to-back meetings at all the big companies in the valley, and had already signed some leading names in gaming, tech and consumer electronics.

In fact, he’d already had several meetings at Apple. It was the first place he and his engineers thought of. “It was the most natural place for the technology,” he said.

Apple has a history of interface innovation, of course, and had recently introduced the iPhone with its paradigm-shifting multitouch UI. PrimeSense’s system went one step further: It was multitouch that you didn’t even have to touch. Apple seemed like a natural fit.

Yet the initial meetings hadn’t gone so well. Obsessed with secrecy, Apple had already asked Beracha to sign a stack of crippling legal agreements and NDAs.

He shook his head. Why didn’t he want to do a deal with Apple? No need. The technology was hot. He could sell it to anyone.

“Apple is a pain in the ass,” he said, smiling. [via NY Times and Cult Of Mac]

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