There was a brief period in the late 90s when computing had the potential to be almost Widget-like, simultaneously Composite, Distinct, Rich and Unified.
This was a divergent computing path from the homogeneity of Microsoft's Windows computing model, which by then was well on its way to winning the Personal Computing Wars.
Pioneered by Xerox, but spearheaded by Apple, the divergent path was called OpenDoc.
OpenDoc was premised on common document "data sets" and integrated, but autonomous, "workflow structures."
In the fallow period before Steve Jobs returned to the Company in 1997, OpenDoc was a relatively big push by Apple (read about it HERE).
That stated, OpenDoc's failure was total, best evidenced by Jobs putting a bullet through its head almost immediately after he returned.
But, I would argue that the moral of the story on OpenDoc is less a case of a solution in search of a problem, and more a case of poor execution meets poor timing on the wrong platform.
Specifically, I would assert that today's APPLE -- with the iOS Platform of 100 million mobile devices and 150 million credit card-validated consumers -- is very well-positioned to solve the meta-problem OpenDoc pre supposes.
Case in point, this post was a stream of thoughts shuffled between Pages and Mail on my iPad; and then on to my MacBook Pro, with final push off to the Web, where you are reading this. The end-verdict (for me, at least) is that in creating this post on iPad, there is still too much friction from a workflow and data flow perspective. And don't even get me started on the kludgey-ness of mashing and syncing data repositories and managing information lifecycles, which are still somewhat primitively handled in this model.
The bottom line is that, as configured, it relegates the device to "lite" content creation and data input when the iPad has the potential to be so much more, given all of the nooks and crannies of times, tasks and activities that the device has inculcated itself into my life (and many others, per the recent 'The State of iPad Satisfaction' Survey).
As such, none of my current truths mitigate my core belief that we are on the cusp of completing the "last mile" to rich, persistent information mobility; a domain where compute, communications, gaming, media playback and media creation tools are literally at your fingertips.
Exciting times, to be sure.