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Nov 93 Editorial
Volume Number:9
Issue Number:11
Column Tag:The Editor’s Page

It’s a Newt!

Apple has started another platform. It doesn’t run DOS or Windows, and it isn’t a Macintosh, but this Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

This issue focuses on Newton (among other things). Since we are a developer journal, we aren’t interested in covering Newt at the consumer level - we’ll leave that to other magazines. We will briefly talk about what Newton is and does so that we have a frame of reference to continue. But, then we’ll move on to more technical topics. In addition to this column, there’s another article in this issue that talks about the Newton Toolkit (the development environment for Newton). If you are already familiar with Newton, you might want to skip the next couple sections until we get to the more technical information.

What is a Newton?

First, Newton is not a product - it’s a platform. The first product in the Newton product line is the Newton MessagePad by Apple. In addition, the Newton technology has been licensed to other companies - Sharp, Matsushita (the parent company of Panasonic), Siemens, and Motorola. These companies will be coming out with their versions of Newton using Apple’s Newton Intelligence.

Physically the Newton is smaller than other PDAs - 7.25 inches tall, 4.50 inches wide, 0.75 inches deep and weighing 0.9 lbs. The processor is a very low power 20MHz ARM 610. ARM stands for Advanced RISC Machines Ltd. - one of Apple’s investments in recent years. This CPU is roughly comparable in processing power to a 25MHz 68040. The processor is fully static - in other words, it consumes zero power when the clock is stopped. It’s power consumption is less than .5 watts and it can do 28K Dhrystones.

The screen is a low-power, reflective (non-backlit) LCD display that is 336 x 240 pixels. There is a transparent tablet with a “passive” pen that the user uses to communicate with Newt via writing, tapping and “penning”. As you might expect from Apple, there is a very large 4MB ROM. The basic unit comes with 640K RAM (which sounds like less than it is) and a slot for one PCMCIA Type II card. Finally, there is a LocalTalk compatible serial port and a low-power, half-duplex, infrared transceiver (9600 baud at 1 meter).

Communications support is very strong. At introduction, support is built in for StyleWriters and PostScript laser printers accessible through LocalTalk. In addition, the unit works with most popular PC printers via the Print Pack option. A fax modem (send only initially) is available. Plus, you have the ability to connect to a LocalTalk network as well as the ability to “beam” information via infrared. In Fall, 1993 (hopefully by the time you read this), NewtonMail will be accessible.

Newton runs on four AAA alkaline batteries or on nicads that “trickle charge” when the unit is plugged into AC. The battery duration is pretty good especially when you use it a “normal” amount (as opposed to constant use such as when one is reviewing a product). Like PowerBooks, you get plenty of warning before you run out of battery. Also, since the unit needs a constant, tiny amount of power to store your data, Apple made it fairly difficult to take both the main and backup batteries out at the same time - good job Apple!

What can it do?

The first thing that you notice about the Newton is that you don’t use a keyboard, you use a pen. As you write on the screen, your printing or handwriting is transformed into text on the screen. It is very impressive, although far from perfect, in its recognition. I’m sure that developers, more than anyone, can appreciate the difficulty of this problem. I’m also confident that Apple will continue to work to improve the recognition - they have to for Newton to succeed in markets outside its current target.

Newton can also recognize and clean up shapes that the user draws on the screen. This works fairly well and if you are the type of person who would use such a feature (i.e., a designer of some sort), it would come in handy.

But Newton does more than recognize your writing - it is meant to provide the tools and applications to manage your personal data. There are built in applications for notetaking, a name card file address book, and a calendar with a daily “things to do” list. There are utilities for helping you find data, work with new applications and set preferences.

One of the most interesting features is Newt’s Intelligent Assistant. The idea here is that Newton tries to help you do things that a personal secretary might. For example, if you write “Call Bob”, Newton will put up the call dialog ready to dial the number either via the modem or through the speaker. If there is more than one “Bob”, then you can choose from a list. Further, if there is more than one number for Bob, you can select the number. By the way, the dialer through the speaker works pretty well except for the one time that I asked it to dial my home phone and I got “911 Emergency” instead (my number is x9x-11xx). This was probably my fault though (I accidently banged the phone while it was dialing) and it has never happened since.

As another example of the Intelligent Assistant, if you write “Remember to Quark file”, the IA will put “Quark file” on your things to do list for the current day. We talk more about the IA in the next article (in this issue). You might want to look at that section.

The Interface

As I said earlier, you use a “pen” to interact with Newton. Things like “clicking”, “typing” and “dragging” are easily imagined with a pen although you might use “tapping”, “penning” and “dragging” on a Newt. There’s nothing special about the pen that comes with Newton except that it fits in a slot (for storage) and it has a relatively fine point for writing. You could use your fingernail if you wanted. Newton is smart enough to know that something wide (i.e., using your finger surface to clean a smudge on the screen) is not “penning” and should be ignored.

When you write with Newton, it will at times (some more than others) have problems recognizing your handwriting. In these cases, you can double tap on a word and a list comes up. If the word is not one of these guesses, you can tap on the “virtual keyboard” and type (by tapping with the pen) the word in. If Newton doesn’t know the word, it will ask whether you want it added to its built-in dictionary.

When you first get a Newton, you will need to spend probably 4-6 hours working with it to personalize its handwriting recognition. This fine tunes what it knows about handwriting (i.e., it eliminates styles of characters that you don’t use). But, in addition to Newton learning, you will need to learn what it can recognize and conform to it as well.

Communications

When Apple thought about Newton (aka a communications device), they tried to focus on what users want in communications. The result of these efforts are in three areas: enterprise integration, consumer market, and mobile communications.

Enterprise communications include transactions, queries, electronic mail, WAN, LAN, and wireless connections. When they considered the consumer market, they thought about the things in the home (i.e., fixed appliances) and what level of intelligence is needed to handle a wealth of information. For mobile communication, they realized that it was going to be important for both business and personal use.

The most important things to realize about Newton communications are that they are integrated, simple and modular. These “features” are prevalent not only at the user level, but at the developer level as well. For example, the Comm Toolbox (that name that Macintosh developers have come to love and hate) has learned a lot from the Macintosh. For one thing, developers only have to develop to a single API - whether it is fax, e-mail, printing, filing or beaming (or whatever else comes out in the future).

You’ve heard about NewtonMail. NewtonMail is going to be the default mail setup to use with Newt. The client is already built into the unit and all we’re waiting for is the service to be activated. If you remember back several months ago, Apple invested a bunch of money in America Online - now you know why.

You should know that CE Software has announced that they are developing a QuickMail client for Newton so that Newt can integrate into your existing QM network.

Support for Newton developers?

You might be wondering how Apple will support Newton developers. First, as you may already know, the beta version of the Newton Toolkit is available through APDA (although there are apparently delays in getting them to customers). Second, Apple is expanding their Developer Support programs to include the PIE Partner program. This program is meant to give special attention to those who qualify. As a result, the price of this program is $2850. While this program will be more expensive than other developer programs, it is geared to be very much in line with others in the industry. It will be more than just technical support - it will include compatibility testing, production assistance, e-mail support, access to marketing services, purchasing pre-release hardware, etc

At the time of this writing, there have been many rumors about the royalty on products developed using NTK. The information we have at this time is that it will be 1% of sales. Freeware and shareware will be exempt. By the time you read this, Apple probably will have firmed up their policies on this issue.

There will also be a “Pioneer Program” for early adopters of Newton. This will be your typical “one to many” program from Apple. There will be other programs and details to come (although information was not available at press time) to support Newton.

Your next thought might be “What will MacTech Magazine be doing?” We’re investigating a number of different possibilities. What you can do to help is tell us what you think about Newton and what you would like to see. For example, would you like to see a regular column in MacTech? Would you like to see a separate publication? Do you want a monthly or is a quarterly publication ok? Send your answers and any other comments to one of the editorial addresses shown on page 2.

What’s it like to develop a Newton Application?

One of the questions undoubtedly on your mind is “What is it like to develop a Newton app?” The good news is that Newton has been designed in part so that developers will have a “low cost of entry” to produce new products.

Already, there are all kinds of people interested in developing for Newton. Due to the approach that Apple took with the

Newton OS and NTK, development is much easier than on most platforms. For example, there are companies and individuals who started development in June (a couple months before release) and now after a few months, they are almost done.

Of course the best way to understand developing for Newton is to understand NewtonScript and NTK. Take a look at the NTK article in this issue. Here you will see examples of NewtonScript, using the NTK and find out more technical information about Newton and its operating system.

Remember, Newton is not tied to Macintosh, even though many of the utilities have been released first for Macintosh. Rumor has it that Apple didn’t want it this way - they’re aiming to be “desktop neutral.” The problem is that even though Apple put twice as many resources into developing tools for Windows (as opposed to the Macintosh based tools), the Windows versions are far behind the Mac versions. As a developer, you will have to remember that Newton customers could easily be “tethered” to either a DOS/Windows machine or a Macintosh.

Remember that products for Newton are not necessarily for the Newton MessagePad alone - they are for the entire Newton family. Initially, this will be MessagePad and similar devices (i.e., Sharp’s ExpertPad), but there will be more Newts in different setups and form factors. If your software, peripherals and accessories are “Newton Compatible”, then they will work with the entire Newton family.

Distribution media

You might also be wondering what it is like to actually manufacture a Newton application. There are several different methods. You could distribute via the online services (i.e., CompuServe’s GO NEWTON forum), but obviously, that’s not for commercial applications. You could also copy your applications onto floppy for users to download to Newt via a Connection Kit. There are several publishers that are planning to ship both DOS/Windows and Macintosh version floppies in the same box to reduce SKUs. Finally, once NewtonMail comes online, there will be the ability to distribute software via that mechanism and be paid for it. (Remember, to set up your account on NewtonMail, you give Apple your credit card number).

Of course, there is the “ultimate” Newton medium - the PCMCIA Type II card. PCMCIA is a “masked ROM” similar to video game cartridges. PCMCIA stands for Personal Computer Memory Card Industry Association (some say it is “People Can’t Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms”). Apple settled on this standard because it has twice as many letters in the acronym as most Apple acronyms and is therefore twice as good. [But seriously] Apple settled on the format because it has become a standard in the industry - the hope here is that costs will come down as more people make use of the standard.

For now, PCMCIA is an expensive medium. If you are talking about thousands of units, the cost is approximately $15 per card. Another way to look at it is $10 for the base card plus $5-6 per megabyte for a card. The minimum run for a PCMCIA card is probably 500 units. Fewer could easily be run, but you will pay a “masking charge” that will probably be too expensive to have this make any sense. If you do decide to go with PCMCIA, expect the lead time to be 6-8 weeks for a first run card. (Although during August and September, there is a substantially longer lead necessary because these months are when game cards are produced for the Christmas season).

Bottom line: unless you are going to make a whole lot of copies of your product, your best bet is using the online services, NewtonMail, or floppies.

How can you work with Apple?

There are three main ways that you can work with Apple concerning Newton. First, you can become a Newton developer. To do this, you will need the NTK and you may want to apply for one of the new Newton developer programs. Contact APDA for the NTK (800-282-2732).

The second way to work with Apple is to use them as a publisher of your product. This arrangement is done through Apple’s new group called StarCore. StarCore folks will listen to your pitches before, during or after development - it’s up to you. They are more interested in broad-based solutions or at least broad vertical markets. Products should be at “popular” price points. Apple is looking for a lot more titles than Claris has with their “Claris Clear Choice” program for Macintosh. Finally, if StarCore does publish your product, your company (as the developer) will get a “prominent position on the product” and therefore the recognition (or blame).

The third way to work with Apple is as a distributor. StarCore has an affiliate distribution program. The label will be yours, but Apple will distribute the product and require exclusive distribution rights. StarCore will put the titles in promotions, in-box materials, point of sale materials, etc You (as the publisher) will be responsible for inventory, running advertisements, technical support, etc StarCore distribution will include Apple’s direct sales, distributors and corporate accounts.

For more information on the developer services or either of the StarCore programs, contact Apple Developer Services for information (408-974-4897) or Apple’s main number (408-996-1010).

Newton’s Technology

So what is important here about Newton? Will it succeed? What are people saying? These are all important questions.

In the first several weeks of Newton being available, G.B. Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip showed Newton and the problems it was having with handwriting recognition. In addition, magazines all across the country have been talking about Newton - Fortune, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, etc Most of these articles complain about the handwriting recognition.

Why is this important? First of all, for any product (or person) to garner as much attention as Newton has in its first couple months is nothing short of incredible. There are politicians who strive for years to be satirized by Trudeau. Newton did it in a matter of a few weeks.

Second, most journalists are missing the point with Newton. The MessagePad is designed for a specific target audience with specific characteristics. If you are outside this target, forget it - the MessagePad will be the most frustrating experience that you’ve ever had. But, if you are the target - the MessagePad is a great product.

Most journalists type at high speed and are particularly anal about minor typographical mistakes. In addition, when they got their review units, many let other people use their new toy without putting it in “Guest Mode” (completely screwing up any training Newt had accomplished). As a result, for journalists the handwriting recognition is too slow and inaccurate when compared to typing. Now, if you are more accustomed to writing, are more interested in the data you are carrying than the data that you are producing, write relatively neatly, and are on the move a lot, MessagePad will work for you.

But, let’s put all of this aside for a moment. Newton’s beauty goes far, far beyond the initial MessagePad product or the applications built into it. Where the Newton technologies really shine is in the ability for developers (like yourself) to quickly develop solutions for people’s needs. Furthermore, Newton has learned a lot from other platforms (including Macintosh).

For example, Newton has a 4 Megabyte ROM (compared to the Macintosh which has 1 Megabyte ROM or less). Granted, a lot of this is used for handwriting recognition and other features, but a lot of it is used for the prototypes of user interface and other tools that Newton gives developers “for free”. The Macintosh Toolbox gave Macintosh developers a lot for free as well, but Newton goes a lot further beyond this. End result: shorter development times, more stable software, and easier development all the way around.

Another example: on a desktop machine, applications build walls between them by having different file formats. Newton is different. All applications completely abstract data into a “soup.” In other words, there is a general database and everything accesses the one database. Any application can access this, furthering the seamlessness and integration of all applications. On desktop machines, the developer has to build “pipelines” like AppleEvents or file translations to accomplish the same thing.

One last thing on Newton development. Apple has taken the approach of simplifying the API of Newton and making it processor independent. The NTK manual is a few inches thick - compare this to the original Inside Macintosh!

The Bottom Line

Newton will have to do better with its handwriting recognition (although it did recognize mine most of the time). There are bugs in the utilities and development environment, but these are pre-release versions. Most importantly, there are a lot of vertical solutions that if developed would be very useful for people. Development cycles will be short, and therefore Newton will succeed because it will solve problems for people. Good luck Newt!

Your dose of inside information

For those of you that have been long time readers (back into the days of MacTutor and the previous publishers), you know that we’ve added quite a few regular features to the magazine over the last 18 months - Getting Started, Tips & Tidbits, NewsBits, Programmer’s Challenge, THINK Top 10, and Editor’s Page. These have been added to the existing columns - Jörg’s Folder, Mail Order Store, etc. - and to new kinds of articles - C++ Workshop, Hardware Interface, Legal Eagles, etc. This month, we’re proud to announce yet another regular columnist to the magazine - Chris Espinosa of Apple Computer, Inc.

Each month, Chris will be authoring a short column called Inside Information. The purpose of this article is to give you information from someone at Apple who knows the Macintosh inside and out - where it has been, where it is and where it is going - all from a developer’s point of view. We think that this type of information is critical to those in the developer community.

For those of you who recognize Chris’ name - you should - he’s been a part of Apple for a very long time now. Just to give you an idea, in 1976-1977, Chris wrote demonstration and test programs for Apple I and II in the proverbial “garage” with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. In early 1977, he was hired as Apple’s employee number 8. In 1978-1981, he wrote the Apple II Reference, the Apple III SOS Reference and User Guide, as well as other technical and end-user manuals for the Apple II and Apple III. From 1981-1985, Chris managed the Macintosh User Education Group, which was responsible for producing all user and technical manuals for Macintosh. He also wrote the QuickDraw and User Interface Guidelines chapters of Inside Macintosh. From 1985-1987, he managed Macintosh System Software Product Marketing, and was the product manager of Macintosh System Software from versions 2.0 through 4.2. Chris was also the product manager of HyperCard 1.0, as well as the product manager of A/UX during development. From 1988-1992, he Managed System Software Marketing for Apple USA, and was the Marketing Manager for System 7 in the U.S.

In the past, he wrote the Help Folder column in MacUser for a couple of years. He also has been (and still is) a frequent speaker at Macintosh and industry conferences.

Today, Chris is the Technology Licensing and Business Development Manager in the AppleSoft Development Products Group. He is responsible for technology evaluation and managing relationships between Apple and other companies, including Taligent Inc. and Kaleida Labs.

Comments to Chris can be sent via any of our editorial addresses shown on page 2 of this issue. Remember, let us know what you think! Join us in welcoming Chris to our MacTech Magazine family.

Neil Ticktin

Editor-in-Chief

 

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