Newton's return? Apple rehires guru behind its PDA bomb

Does the return of developer Michael Tchao to Apple mean that a Mac Tablet is on the horizon? Here's the scuttlebutt.

This is a guest post from Larry Dignan, Editor in Chief of ZDNet, TechRepublic's sister site. You can follow Larry on his ZDNet blog Between the Lines (or subscribe to the RSS feed).


Apple has rehired Michael Tchao, the developer behind the company's Newton personal digital assistant. May the Mac Tablet rumors begin.

Tchao's hiring, as reported by the New York Times, may indicate a Mac Tablet is on the way. In fact, there will be a lot of tablets on the way from multiple vendors. Tchao brings a lot to Apple's table. For starters, he knows what not to do with a tablet. He also has scars from the Netwon bellyflop.

However, let's not get carried away with this Mac Tablet talk. Tchao may be best known for his Newton experience, but it's not like that's the only thing on his resume. He was the general manager of Nike's Techlab, which integrated shoes and armbands to integrate with the iPod. Indeed, the iPod nano's pedometer and Nike integration may be as appealing as its other features.

Simply put, Tchao's return may not mean that the Mac Tablet, or Newton 2.0, is imminent. There are a bunch of things Tchao could do at Apple. Of course, it won't hurt to have Tchao around to tell Newton war stories.


Yeah it may have been a bomb. But as one of the first PDA's, with handwriting recognition and other goodies, it paved the way for the whole PDA genre. Apple gave me a Newton to use in 1995 while I was in college. I had to return it in 6 months with a summary of my thoughts. I loved it. I could use it to take notes in class (once it learned how to recognize my handwriting), store all my contacts, use the calculator, calendar and such. I believe people may have expected more from it then what it was designed for. It wasn't a Blackberry or iPhone, but for 1995 (with nothing to compare it to) it rocked!

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

The Newton was a bomb because it was a solution looking for a problem. It was gone by the time people discovered what it was good for.

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