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Apple's response to protest low-key

As Newton developers gathered outside the company's headquarters, the computer maker offers free cookies and coffee.

CUPERTINO, California--As Newton developers gathered outside Apple Computer (AAPL) headquarters today to protest the computer maker's decision to discontinue the handheld device, company executives responded in low-key fashion.

Apple reserved space in its parking lot and supplied cookies,

Newton protest
Protesters gather outside Apple's headquarters.
pastries, coffee, and other drinks to Newton protesters on what has turned out to be a crystal-clear day after yesterday's rainfall.

Perhaps 100 protesters turned up, carrying signs reading "Newton forever," "Newton is my pilot," and "I give a fig for the Newton."

Newton executive Mark Rabkin appeared briefly to accept a list of ten questions the 200-member Newton Developers Group (NDG) prepared for Apple's interim CEO, Steve Jobs. The queries mostly regarded why Apple chose to fold Newton back into its operations only to discontinue development, instead of selling the division to a list of suggested candidates, including Sony, Dell, or Umax.

Apple indeed tried to shop the division around in recent months, according to sources close to the negotiations. The company talked to Umax, the only major Mac clone maker remaining, as recently as November of last year, but nothing came of the talks, sources said.

Apple has scheduled a teleconference Tuesday with Newton developers to answer questions and hear their feedback.



CNET Radio has more with Newton Developer Conference's Adam Tow
Meanwhile, Apple is offering a number of sweeteners to lure the Newton developers to the Mac platform, including a free membership in the Apple developers program.

Apple's Newton Group developed the eMate and a handheld computer called the MessagePad, products based on the Newton operating system. Saying it needed to focus on the Macintosh operating system and also profitability, Apple officially scrapped Newton a week ago, adding it would will resume competing in the handheld market with Mac OS-based products beginning in 1999.

"We understand it was a tough decision and they're disappointed," said Apple spokeswoman Rhona Hamilton. "Part of our giving them some space today is to appreciate that it's a technology that people like and we discontinued it.

"But it is very unlikely that we will change this decision because it was a business decision," she added. "We hope to convert them to using the Macintosh platform."

Thus it appears that the final chapter in the Newton's tumultuous history is being written.

Introduced in 1993, Apple's handheld was initially plagued by poor reviews of its handwriting recognition capabilities, and the Newton and other Apple handheld technologies never seemed to recover from those first impressions.

Only last July, Newton officially was spun off as an independent subsidiary with its own management and business plan, and the company looked as if it might move to license its technology to third parties, but that was before then-CEO Gilbert Amelio was ousted from his post and replaced by interim CEO Steve Jobs.

In September, under Jobs's direction, Apple reversed course and decided to bring the Newton team back into Apple and create a division for the eMate 300, a portable computer mainly sold to education markets. At the time, Apple said it considered the eMate 300 to be "a major strategic opportunity" and that it would commit resources to the product.

But by December 29 of last year, CNET's NEWS.COM reported that the Newton development effort had essentially ceased as demoralized Newton employees fled to other companies, while the company mulled over how to handle an official announcement to that effect.