Apple NZ awaits next generation of portables

pple Computer New Zealand has promised to look after its Newton OS customers until it can deliver "the next generation" of portable MacOS devices - but that may be too long to wait for one local organisation. Plunket had tested a range of handheld devices and settled on the Newton Message-Pad 2100, for which Pen Computing was developing a custom application.

Apple Computer New Zealand has promised to look after its Newton OS customers until it can deliver “the next generation” of portable MacOS devices — but that may be too long to wait for one local organisation.

Plunket had tested a range of handheld devices and settled on the Newton Message-Pad 2100, for which Pen Computing was developing a custom application, says Plunket IT manager Michelle Honey.

Plunket was about to take delivery of an initial order of 25 MessagePads when Apple New Zealand general manager Zane Hall called to pass on the announcement that Apple was halting Newton development.

Honey says she has no quibble with Apple New Zealand’s handling of what was “a difficult situation for everyone”, but waiting until next year to buy handhelds is “probably not an option for us”.

“The Newton held a very special place and there isn’t really anything that can fill the same role for us,” she says. “Unless somebody else was to pick up the Newton technology, my feeling at the moment is to go with a Windows CE device.”

Hall says he called Plunket on the day of the announcement and invited them in the following day to recommend that they consider another PDA device. “It wasn’t in our interests to sell them technology we wouldn’t be able to deliver.”

Hall admits the Newton announcement came out of the blue for Apple managers both here and in Australia, but he says the bright side is that Apple’s entire product line is converging around the MacOS.

“It had been rumoured that the Newton division was going to be sold, and I think that’s what people’s expectation was. But there’s a lot of functionality out of the Message--Pad and the eMate that’s still useful to the K-12 market. And the expectation is that some of that will be transferred into the eMate replacement in 1999.

“I don’t look at the eMate as being obsolete. The eMate product came in, designed for the education market, at a price point we couldn’t achieve on a standard CPU. The next-generation product will come with a similar look, but with the MacOS, which is in line with every other product in our line.”

Delivery date for the new devices has been signalled only as some time next year, but Hall expects an announcement in time for the traditional K-12 sales period, in May, in conjunction with the Apple World Wide Developers’ Conference. The conference should see G3 server announcements and possibly further MacOS NC and Rhapsody details. Strategic alliances could also be announced at an upcoming Seybold conference.

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