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Newton Conference
Volume Number:10
Issue Number:3
Column Tag:From The Field

Newton Developer Conference

What happened at Apple’s first attempt at a Newton Developer Conference?

By Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief

For those of you who aren’t in the Newton community, Apple held their first Newton Platform Development Conference at the Santa Clara Convention Center, December 7-8, 1993. This two day conference had three “tracks” - International Newton Marketplace, Orientation to Newton Development, and Advanced Newton Development.

The International Newton Marketplace track was the “business” track for Newton development. In this track, Apple and other vendors discussed such things as solutions for the enterprise, PCMCIA as a delivery vehicle, vertical market applications, StarCore and other distribution options, and Newton in the world market. The Orientation to Newton Development track was meant for those that have used Newton, but didn’t know about how to develop for it. Apple had several discussions entitled: Introductions to Newton Programming, NewtonScript, View System & Prototypes, Soups & Stores, Newton Connection to the Desktop, and Building Electronic Books. Finally, the Advanced track discussed such topics as: advanced NewtonScript programming techniques, communications & routing, application design & performance tuning, intelligent assistance, debugging your Newton application, and leveraging system services. There was also the Motorola sponsored party and of course, Newton Jeopardy - testing Newton development knowledge.

Most of the sessions covered information is covered in the Newton Toolkit, in our November, 1993 Newton issue or in the literature received by developers from Apple. The advanced sessions obviously included information for more experienced developers. There was information about working around NTK problems and making your applications run more quickly.

The best place to ask questions is the online services if you run into specific problems with Newton development. Apple is best supporting Newton on AppleLink, but there is a good amount of support on CompuServe, AOL, and the Internet. Apple has received a lot of complaints from developers about AppleLink (with both serious quality and pricing problems), but feel free to complain more. They claim that cost issues will go away when Apple Online Services moves away from the GE system to the new in-house Apple system. NewtonMail is based on this new in-house system. AppleLink users will be migrated to this system sometime starting in the first half of 1994.

The most important news from the conference is that Apple is planning on releasing a version of the NTK that will produce compiled code. Today, NTK produces byte code that is interpreted in real time on the Newton. The new version will generate not only byte code, but compiled native code for whatever processors are available at the time. By generating both compiled native and byte code, Newton apps will retain their hardware independence. Developers will have the option of turning on/off different types of generation so that they can generate smaller applications. Compiled versions ran anywhere from 5-40 times faster depending on the type of code. Apple recommends that you only use compiled code on those portions of the application that really need it. Why? Because only byte code (interpreted code) will be able to take advantage of some of the system performance enhancements to come. Note that this new version of the NTK is not a product announcement, it was just a technology demonstration. If it is to ship, and it will if the audience response has anything to do with it, expect it to ship sometime in 1994.

One of the most interesting things at this conference was the mix of people. Typically, a developers’ conference is almost entirely male computer engineers. This conference was quite different in two ways. Not only were more women in attendance than in the past, there were also many people who knew more about content and potential solutions than they did technical development issues. Apple will eventually be developing tools for Newton so that end-users can build solutions for themselves and others.

At the end of the conference, Apple gave a CD to each attendee. This CD contained technical information about the Apple Media Tool, Newton developer training and technical information, PIETechnical Support, guidelines on shipping your Newton application, information about StarCore and other miscellaneous tools. All in all, the conference had predictable content and was a good first developer conference for a new platform - hats off to Apple’s Philip Ivanier and everyone else who worked on the conference.


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