Apple rehires Michael Tchao, one of the original Newton developers

“If you were gearing up to launch a tablet computer — and these days, who isn’t? — who would you hire to market it? One obvious candidate would be Michael Tchao, one of the original developers of Apple’s groundbreaking but failed Newton personal digital assistant,” Brad Stone reports for The New York Times.

“Mr. Tchao joined Apple on Monday as vice president of product marketing, Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, confirmed. He will report to Phil Schiller, a senior vice president. Mr. Tchao is returning to his old Cupertino stomping grounds after an absence of 15 years,” Stone reports. “During that time, he has had a high-profile career, most recently as the general manager of Nike Techlab, the company’s technology arm, which designed armbands and sneakers that integrate with the iPod.”

Stone reports, “Mr. Tchao gets the credit (or perhaps the blame) for convincing John Sculley, Apple’s former chief executive, to integrate the company’s handwriting-recognition technology into a consumer device.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Until the iPhone arrrived, the Newton 2100 was still the world’s best PDA – nine years after it was discontinued. Anyone who says differently never used one.

21 Comments

  1. Newton was (and still is) the Sh*t! Its a classic case of the market was not ready for such an advanced product for the time. Lets hope newton 3.0 (without the stylus) will finally get its due time.

  2. When I was an intern in 1998-99, one of the senior residents had a Newton he used every day and loved it and held onto that thing until it finally died many years after buying it.

  3. Such a difference between Apple now and then.

    The first Newton OS was widely panned because of its poor handwriting recognition. Steve Jobs would never have let such an unfinished product out the door. First impressions count. Why do you think Apple’s product packaging is so obsessively planned out.

  4. I heard the top criteria for the first Newton was whether it fit into the pocket of John Scully’s suit, although I forget which pocket. Such amazing testing requirements! No wonder it left the door with the poor hard-writing recognition software; Scully probably never tested that part.

    I’m sure Michael Tchao is being hired because of his overall excellent resumé, including everything he has done AFTER his work on Newton.

    Newton was certainly a cool device. I was given a second-gen model (and I know it’s not the last gen 2100) about a year ago; I found it somewhat awkward to use. Granted, I never became a “power user.” By comparison, I found the early monochrome Palm devices much easier to use, with the hand-writing input done in a restricted area, an overall simpler interface, and much smaller physical size. Even when I first got one (it was actually a Handspring Visor), I was using it effectively almost immediately. I can’t say the same thing for Newton. The “MessagePad” was certainly more powerful; but it was not a better “PDA,” compared to those early Palm (and Handspring) devices.

  5. hell steven segal used a Newton to foil the bad guys in Under Seige 2 so that’s enough for me…” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  6. Where would Newton be today if “#%€# Jobs did not discontinue it. Version 12.1 with pen/finger input, awesome drawing pad, all the connectivity you need, 10 different models, 70% market share etc.

    I actually use my 2100 once in a while, but iPhone is getting ready to take over. My MP130 looks like a dog chew on it, it got a lot of use.

  7. Now we know why the Newton’s inkwell handwriting recognition is an integral part of OS X even now. I guess they new even back then that there was a plan for it one day.

  8. MDN is absolutely correct. I still have my Newton 2100, never went to a Palm – too primitive. Yes, it was way too big to fit in anyone’s pocket except Captain Kangaroo’s, but for me that was compensated by a (relatively) big-ass screen, which came in handy working with spreadsheets and actual text documents. Also pretty good for email and printing wirelessly. I won’t go on looking back (although I could), but instead will look forward to a very tasty new device.

    PS Even if Apple simply brought back the handwriting recognition in the final Newton, it would still beat anything out there now. But I’m sure whatever they come out with now will be even better.

  9. I love this! I’ve never owned a better PDA than my Newtons. Apple always said that the Newton ‘learned’ over time to recognize your handwriting, and that was true with mine, but it was also a key to its downfall. Prospective customers trying out a few words or sentence or two on the Newton while at the store usually got bad results. In my case the Newton became very accurate and reliable in recognizing my scrawl. I’ve had Palm Pilots too. They NEVER held a candle to the Newton, although their size was more convenient. The Newton learned my handwriting, but with the Palm I had to learn its special characters for print recognition. And the Newton’s To Do organizer app is still the best I’ve ever used. I wish the iPhone could duplicate its functions. Sadly, my Newton slid out of jacket pocket while stowed in an airline storage bin, and I never got it back. The iPhone could do well with a little more Newton DNA.

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