Wired News’s Leander Kahney noted that the
Newton is still going strong years after being discontinued by Apple, largely due to a community of dedicated users who still continue to support each other and the platform.
Apple discontinued the Newton back in 1998 after Steve Jobs returned to the company. At the time, Palm was dominant in the market and Apple was looking for ways to cut costs and trim production as the company struggled to come back from the brink after disastrously unprofitable years marked by tepid marketing and mediocre product development.
Although the Newton hasn’t been in production since then, that hasn’t stopped enthusiastic developers and users from continuing to support the device with new and interesting hacks that have kept the platform going — 802.11b wireless networking, for example, or MP3 playback and iTunes plug-in support.
Why do folks keep going with the Newton? Kahney said that the Newton’s handwriting recognition — widely maligned during the device’s early years but later made much more robust and easier to use even than Palm’s Graffiti technology — may be one answer. Another is sentimentality.
One expert estimated that 20,000 Newton users are still active, about 1/10th of what the system had at its peak. They’re keeping their machines alive by cannibalizing old systems they pick up for cheap from grey market resellers and auction houses.
“People stick with the Newton because the community is so strong,” explained a researcher who is studying the Newton community.