Technology: Net future planned for Apple's Newton

Will the Newton PDA be repositioned as Apple's take on the "network computer"?

"The Newton's day is very close," says Mal Thompson, group director of local Apple distributor CED, after meetings at the start of the week with Apple Australia head Steve Vamos. Vamos was en route from talks with new Apple CEO Gil Amelio. "There are some major developments coming for the technology. Just don't think of the form factor we've got now."

Such a path for the Newton would fit with Apple's new focus on network connectivity in all its technologies a point made strongly by Vamos. Apple has formed a focus group to concentrate on its Internet technologies, he says, and will be working to make Internet access and use smoother for Macintosh users. Refinements to Apple's sucessful Internet server platform, such as the CyberFinder (see below) would be ongoing. Other developments include:

CED has commissioned a localised version of the Apple Internet Connection Kit, a CD-ROM collection of "best of breed" Internet software. The local version will be pre-configured for dial-up registration with several Internet provider companies, including Internet Express, CED's annointed successor to eWorld. Internet Express, a joint venture between Actrix, Iprolink and others, has kicked off charging for eWorld subscribers at $8 an hour for access and will be styling itself as a Mac-centric ISP. The first batch of CDs are earmarked for IE subscribers, but many more will be given away this year (in contrast to the US, where the kit sells for US$46). CED will also be beefing up its own Web presence as apple.co.nz.

Apple's Web empire now includes Cybertech, a support page of sorts for owners of the AICK. The site, at http://cybertech.apple.com, currently carries MacPPP 2.5, the latest version of the perennial public domain favourite, for which Apple now seems to have assumed development responsibility.

Also at Cybertech is a demo of CyberFinder - which, as the name suggests, takes the MacOS Finder into cyberspace. It's intended to act as a prettier front end for ftp archives, with folders and Finder-style file names. CyberFinder will soon be given out free to anyone using a Macintosh Internet server.

Apple wants a piece of Java. Technical staff are in conference with Sun's JavaSoft at the moment. Incorporation of OpenDoc as a Java class would considered a good result.

The connectivity of Apple's Pippin games platform is also being talked up. Bandai, which is manufacturing the "crippled Mac" under license in Japan, has already begun selling it as the client machine for an online games service in the mould of the Sega Channel.

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