Five years ago today Jobs axed Newton

Here’s a blast from the past:

Apple Discontinues Development of Newton OS

“CUPERTINO, California–Feb. 27, 1998–Apple Computer, Inc. today announced it will discontinue further development of the Newton operating system and Newton OS-based products, including the MessagePad 2100 and eMate 300.”

“‘This decision is consistent with our strategy to focus all of our software development resources on extending the Macintosh operating system,’ said Steve Jobs, Apple’s interim CEO. ‘To realize our ambitious plans we must focus all of our efforts in one direction.'”

“Apple is committed to affordable mobile computing, pioneered by the eMate, and will be serving this market with Mac OS-based products beginning in 1999.”

“Apple will continue to market and sell its current inventory of MessagePad 2100 and eMate 300 computers, as well as to provide support for their installed base of users. The Company is committed to working with its customers and developers to ensure a smooth transition to Mac OS-based products.”

Full release here.

MacDailyNews take: Just when they got it right (Newton 2100), Steve came back and killed it dead. Still, the Newton community struggles on today with handheld computers that in many respects are still the best on the market. Newton technology was used as the basis for the Inkwell component of Mac OS X Jaguar.

A useful site for Newton enthusiasts:


  1. I use my Newton 2100 every damn day and Palm users and Pocket PC users drool like infants. It is over five years old and is still a better handheld computer compared to the toys out there today. Steve hated Amelio and that’s why he killed it. He should have kept it alive. But, he did have to focus on the Mac, so I can bring myself to understand Newton’s demise.

  2. Steve ignored Amelio. He killed it, and refused to sell it because he wanted to stab at Newton’s creator, John Scully. If Apple needed money so badly, selling off Newton, or rather allowing the sell-off to go through (it was already in progress), would’ve made a tidy chunk of change, plus royalties for every unit sold without depleting one cent in Apple resources. Obviously, they managed without the money, but that only underscores the real reason Newton was killed. I often wonder if the miniscule use of certain Newton features in OS X is more a slap at Newton fans, or John Scully. Maybe Steve won’t bring it back because he’s afraid he can’t come up with an adequate successor.

  3. A slightly different take on VR1’s comments. Yes, Jobs killed the Newton out of spite against the Amelio/Scully era, however, the decision to not sell the technology was not based on any spite issue, they DID try to sell it. Several companies responded and inquired. The problem lay in the California law that requires a company to support a product years after it is dead. Any company buying Newton, would have to ramp up and produce the required support units until California law allowed them to discontinue supporting the “Apple’ version of the product. The support cost, in addition to Apple’s asking price was far too high for any takers. Apple’s refuseal to sell the technology, but keep the service in house was the deal killer. As it was, they converted existing inventory to service parts, and were able to meet the requirements with only one additional product run. Could Steve do a newer Newton PDA = you bet, he did a “new” 128k Mac in the iMac. In fact, almost all Steve has done since he’s been back is to redo what he did in the past. But I digress, the reason he hasn’t – just look at Palm’s financials – no money in it. Look at Microsoft’s finacial – Software is where the cash is, and where Apple is heading…….. (and yes, I too still have my Newton – and yes, I sure wish they would, but……..)

  4. This wasn’t a cancellation, it was infanticide. Jobs killed the product line just as it reached viability. Current use of the handwriting recognition in the Ink part of OS X disproved Steve’s reported statement that “real computers use keyboards.” I kept my Newton for several years, but found the pocket-sized Palm III much easier to carry everywhere. I finally sold it on eBay for about 70% of what I paid for it – not a bad ROI on a cancelled three-year-old computer. Try THAT with your Vaio!

    But the recent larger screens on smartphones brings me back to the idea that you just can’t really write on something smaller than a 3X5 index card! Sure, they’re cute, and, with today’s level of computing power, the devices have more available memory and processing power than did my updated 2000. But you can’t really write on them because the screen’s so small. Graffiti is a must for them.

    But the _software_ is where the Newton has yet to be surpassed. I swear, the thing had ESP. I couldn’t read the ink-scratch I’d make sometimes, but a double-tap would bring out the text every time.

    Imagine what it would be like now, with five more years of development!!! Now THAT’s a PDA that would scorch store shelves as it blasted through!!

  5. Just pulled my Message Pad 120 out of a box in the basement where it has been sitting for about 2 years. The original rechargeable batteries were starting to corrode, so I yanked them out and put in some fresh coppertops. The little back-up battery had done it’s job and I still had all of my data, notes and things from when I got it in 1996. Very fun to play with after all this time. Wild to think it’s only been gone 5 years… this industry moves so fast.

  6. There’s another reason Apple never sold the Newton technology as well. Apple did not fully own the rights to the HW recognition engine in Newton OS 2.1. They couldn’t sell that part. There were (AIR) several other parts of the platform that were only licensed by Apple, and that complicated the sales considerably. Consequently, nothing ever happened. I still love my 2100 and eMate, though.

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