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TV-PGSeptember 21, 1998: Next year's consumer portable may well include Newton-style handwriting recognition-- and it may not. Meanwhile, unsanctioned peripherals are already starting to arrive for the iMac's hidden and secret Perch slot, while the man behind the iMac's design lends some springtime-fresh insight into the machine's form and function...
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That's All She Wrote (9/21/98)

So here we are, caught in that murky Twilight Zone between the Newton MessagePad and the eMac, waiting for Apple to release a compelling portable system that will be both low-cost and kick-ass. Apple's drifted somewhat from its promise to release new handhelds to replace the Newton in 1999, seemingly focusing on the upcoming consumer portable to fill that need instead. And while no one's likely to want to stuff a four-pound subnotebook in their pants (don't even say it!), since the MessagePad wasn't exactly pocket-sized either, it's possible that the "eMac" may indeed satisfy the requirements of some Newton users when it ships. Us, for example.

Then again, maybe not. Mac the Knife reports that Apple is considering yanking Rosetta, the Newton's handwriting recognition engine, out of Newton OS 2.0 and stuffing an enhanced version into the Mac OS for use with the eMac. The decision apparently hinges on whether or not Apple decides to bless the eMac with a pressure-sensitive screen-- a feature that, according to rumor, has been included in early prototypes, but apparently isn't a definite inclusion yet.

What surprises us is not that Apple may be implementing Rosetta in the eMac, but rather that they haven't etched that feature into stone yet. Back when the entire Newton operation was unceremoniously dismantled, Apple promised that it would re-enter the handheld market in 1999. They've already taken some liberties with the term "handheld," given that the eMac will undoubtedly be significantly larger than even the Newton MessagePad. But not to include handwriting recognition (arguably the modern Newton's best feature, and the lack of which keeps us from buying Palm III's) means all pretense is abandoned and the eMac is simply a cheaper, funkier-looking PowerBook without the expandibility. And while that doesn't sound bad, it also doesn't sound up to the standards of Apple's innovative spirit. We consider Rosetta a crucial feature for the eMac, and we hope Apple comes to the same conclusion.

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Hidden Capabilities (9/21/98)

Ah, yes-- the mysterious "Perch slot" lurking inside every iMac. What mysteries does it hold? What ancient secrets could be coaxed from its hidden depths? What brave company will ignore Apple's requests not to develop expansion products for that slot and make some cool stuff anyway? The answer to the last question, at least, is Griffin Technology. According to an article at TheiMac.com, Griffin is hard at work readying the first iMac expansion card, Apple warnings notwithstanding.

Griffin, the folks who are also working on the $40 iMate USB-to-ADB adapter, also have this neat thing going called the iPort. The iPort pops into the iMac's hidden Perch slot and yields two familiar ports peeking out through the knockout panel next to the USB ports: a monitor port, and a DIN-8 serial port. While the monitor port only supports video mirroring (and not extended-desktop multiple monitor support), it will allow the use of monitors at resolutions up to 1280x1024, while the iMac's internal display maxes out at 1024x768. The serial port is a standard Mac modem/printer port, and it supports all standard Mac printers (both straight serial and LocalTalk), external modems, and MIDI devices. Best of all, the iPort is due out in a few weeks and will reportedly only cost a measly $60.

One thing we're unclear on; in a Tech Info Library article, Apple says that they do not support "modification to the iMac logic board other than for approved upgrades such as memory;" any "unapproved" modifications will void the warranty of your iMac. So given that Apple won't even publicly acknowledge that the Perch slot even exists, can we assume that installing a Perch card such as Griffin's iPort qualifies as a warranty-voiding unapproved upgrade? Something to ponder. But there are plenty of people who would gladly toss their iMac's warranty out the window if it meant they could install, say, a 3Dfx Voodoo chip into their little blue friend...

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Now That's Flushing Cache (9/21/98)

Lastly, a quickie about the iMac's design. Thanks to a link from NoBeige, we stumbled across a nice article at PC World about Jonathan Ive, the veep of Apple's Industrial Design Group, and the gentlemen largely responsible for the distinctive design of Apple's new consumer device. What makes this interview stand out is the way in which Mr. Ive compares the iMac to, er, a toilet.

That's right; the inimitable Mr. Ive has had a long and varied career as an industrial designer, and there are toilets in his repertoire right in there with the consumer electronics. And according to Ive, the iMac's design borrows from the design of a toilet, in that it's "important that the function of the iMac as a PC be apparent from its form." (And the inspiration didn't end there-- it's a little-known fact that "Bondi Blue" was originally named "Tidy-Bowl Blue" before the marketing department got through with it.)

All in all, it's a nice glimpse into the ideas that formed the basis of the iMac's design. But we've got to say, now we're very intrigued to see some of Mr. Ive's toilet designs. But if we ever actually encounter a translucent blue toilet, we're going to run screaming.

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Previously, on As the Apple Turns...

TV-PGSeptember 20, 1998: Now that Apple's on more solid ground, Steve Jobs finds himself facing another challenge at his other company. Meanwhile, the next release of the Mac OS is coming soon, a little late but moving fast, and people looking for iMac bargains might want to consider a refurbished model...

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