About a hundred Newton users, developers, ex-employees and other enthusiasts turned up for a peaceful demonstration at Apple headquarters in Cupertino on Friday.
It turned into more of a nostalgic get-together among the faithful than a protest meeting ? though a couple of plaster Newton mock-ups were smashed.
The organisers were happy with the turn-out, considering that the demonstration had only been called two days before.
Organiser Adam Tow, himself a Newton developer, said before the event that he had little hope to influence Apple?s decision. ?Apple has a reputation for listening to its customers?, said organiser Adam Tow. ?But do I think they will change their minds? No.?
?Something has got to be done to keep this product alive?, said protester Leonard Rubin, a computer dealer who has sold Newtons as well as PalmPilots and Psion Organisers. ?There?s nothing out there that does what the Newton does?, he said. ?I consider it one of the best products Apple has come up with?.
Rubin suggested Apple should either sell of the Newton product line, or bring the Newton OS source code into the public domain.
Another protester appeared to concur: he wore a ?Make Newton OS public domain? badge.
?They finally had reached the point where not only was the Newton a usable product, it was years ahead of the competition?, said a protester who called himself a former Apple employee.
A surprising number of those present were not die-hard Newton users but recent converts to the platform. One protester said he bought his Newton just last week ? after the product had been cancelled by Apple. ?I figured I should get one now, while they?re still around?, he said.
Among the demonstrators were quite a number of former Newton employees. Most said they had left after the spun-off Newton division was sucked back into Apple. ?Steve Jobs lied to us?, said one.
?He told us that no-one was interested in buying Newton. We knew that wasn?t so. There had been offers from Umax and Ericsson. He also said he was totally committed to the eMate? (the low-price notebook for schools based on the Newton OS.
Said Bruce Thompson, a former Newton support person: ?As we were being sucked back into Apple, we were making amazing progress, for instance in the medical market. But Steve Jobs doesn?t like vertical markets?.
Many Newton workers maintain that sales, up to that point, had been on target despite an almost total lack of marketing effort. Said ex-Newton worker Maurice Sharp: ?By December, the Newton was dead. The key people had left. There?s no one left at Apple who knows anything about the Newton?.
He said he and 16 other former employees were now working for 3Com, which sells the competing PalmPilot product.
Apple provided the demonstrators with free coffee and sodas, but not with much of a listening ear. A mid-level manager, business development manager Mark Rabkin, briefly came out of the Apple main building to greet the protesters.
All he said about Apple?s decision to terminate the Newton was: ?It?s very unlikely for this decision to be reversed?.
Adam Tow handed him an envelope with a list of questions from the Newton developer community. He said that if Apple did not answer the questions, the list would be released to the press. Rabkin took the envelope, and quickly disappeared back into the Apple building ? avoiding the journalists.
Apple spokesperson Russell Brady afterwards said Apple has ?no current plans? to develop any further products for the PDA marketplace. Apple does intend to bring out products similar to the eMate, the low-cost, low-power notebook computer that Apple sells into education markets. Apple will release an eMate-like product based on the MacOS in 1999, Brady said.
In the meantime, he said, ?We will continue to sell the current supply of eMates. We have significant inventory. We will provide a smooth transition to MacOS based systems?. He added that there were no plans for any further updates to the NewtonOS.
Apple re-integrated Newton Inc. into the company rather than selling it because it wanted to control some of the intellectual property contained in the product, Russell Brady explained. But he said he ?couldn?t talk about? which Newton technologies might or might not make it into future Apple products.
Brady said he couldn?t comment either on whether Apple had received offers for its Newton division. When asked whether Apple had any plans to soften the blow to the developer and user community, Brady suggested that Apple might work out some ?transition strategies?, but that he had no specifics to announce.
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