Newton Protest in “Make Something Wonderful”

The Steve Jobs Archive has released “Make Something Wonderful,” which collects a number of Steve Jobs’s interviews, speeches, and emails into an e-book. Midway through, there’s a reference to the Newton Protest, which I organized in March 1998. Jobs’ email to employees on the day of the protest:

From: Steve Jobs
To: Apple employees
Subject: Newton protest today
Date: March 6, 1998, 8:09 a.m.

Some people are understandably upset that Apple has decided to stop developing future Newton OS based computers, especially the MessagePad. Today some of them are coming to Apple to protest our decision. This is OK. We are reserving a space for them on our campus and will provide them with coffee and other hot drinks (it may be cold out there!).

Our decision to end Newton development was not taken lightly, and is unlikely to be reversed. Even so, let’s welcome the Newton customers and developers who come to protest this decision. Hopefully they will feel our enthusiasm about the future of Apple, and leave more settled than they arrived.


Excerpt From
Make Something Wonderful
Steve Jobs
This material may be protected by copyright.

For historical context, I ran into Steve Jobs coming out of Homma’s Brown Rice Sushi, a (now closed) hole-in-the-wall sushi restaurant in Palo Alto. It was August 7, 1997, the day after Jobs spoke at MacWorld Boston. I remember saying to him, “Nice speech yesterday!” to which he said, “Thanks!” while getting into his car. That night, I wrote him a long email about the Newton community’s concerns about the cancellation of the Newton Inc. spin-off.

To my surprise, Jobs responded to my email with the following:


The Emate has a bright future – and it is for this reason that I am pulling it back into Apple -which has the resouces to market and sell it much more broadly. You can imagine that a small spin-off company would not have such a large sales force or marketing budget. With the appropriate investments in sales and marketing, we hope that the Emate can become a great success.

We are a little more confused about the MessagePad. Since it costs more ($1K or more vs $700-799 for the Emate) and has no keyboard, its market seems more limited than the Emate. However, sales of the current MessagePad are brisk, so who knows… What do you think?

Don’t worry – we are pulling this group back into Apple so that we can invest even more sales and marketing resources into these products, rather than dumping the products into a small spin-off which lacks such resources.


Fast forward a few months. It’s now the end of February, 1998. There were many rumors flying around about an announcement from Apple regarding Newton. Would they be selling Newton technology to another company? Would they be doubling-down on Newton? Or, would they be cancelling the product?

On February 27, 1998, I was living in Palo Alto and decided to do an early morning bike ride with the Stanford Cycling Team. Back then, not many people had cellphones, let alone cellphones that could connect to the internet and retrieve emails. When I got back home, my inbox was filled with emails from members of the Newton community. The reason? Apple sent out a press release announcing the discontinuation of the Newton product:

Apple Discontinues Development of Newton OS

CUPERTINO, California–Feb. 27, 1998–Apple Computer, Inc. today announced it will discontinue further development of the Newton operating system and Newton OS-based products, including the MessagePad 2100 and eMate 300.

“This decision is consistent with our strategy to focus all of our software development resources on extending the Macintosh operating system,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s interim CEO. “To realize our ambitious plans we must focus all of our efforts in one direction.”

Apple is committed to affordable mobile computing, pioneered by the eMate, and will be serving this market with Mac OS-based products beginning in 1999.

Apple will continue to market and sell its current inventory of MessagePad 2100 and eMate 300 computers, as well as to provide support for their installed base of users. The Company is committed to working with its customers and developers to ensure a smooth transition to Mac OS-based products.

Apple Computer, Inc. ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II, and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Apple is now recommitted to its original mission – to bring the best personal computing products and support to students, educators, designers, scientists, engineers, businesspersons and consumers in over 140 countries around the world.

The statements in this document regarding future products and strategy are forward looking and subject to risk and uncertainty. Potential risks and uncertainties include, without limitation, the demand from consumers and businesses and competitive factors. For a detailed discussion of factors that may affect the Company’s operating results, interested parties should review the Company’s SEC reports, including Apple’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended September 26, 1997, as well as the Form 10-Q for the quarter ended December 26, 1997.

Press Contacts
Tami Begasse
Apple Computer, Inc.
(408) 974-3156

Katie Cotton
Apple Computer, Inc.
(408) 974-7269

NOTE TO EDITORS: For additional information visit Apple’s website (, call Apple’s Media Helpline at (408)974-2042, or contact Cara Lewis at our PR agency, Niehaus Ryan Group, Inc., (650)827-7052. 

Apple, the Apple logo, Macintosh and QuickTime are registered trademarks and of Apple Computer, Inc. Additional company and product names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of the individual companies and are respectfully acknowledged.

To say that I was bummed was a serious understatement. I had been making a go as an indie developer creating software for the Newton, and this announcement was a death knell for that dream. Motivated to make my feelings known to Apple, I started mobilizing the community to hold a protest at Apple the next week. I even made sure to contact Apple PR and the Cupertino Police Department so everyone was in the loop regarding the protest.

The protest was held in the parking lot in front of Building 1 at Apple’s Infinite Loop campus. I would estimate that there were less than a hundred Newton fans present. One could easily make me out from the crowd, as I wore a suit! Don’t ask me why!

I remember giving several interviews in-person at the event and over the phone. This was in the days before easy-to-use video conferencing technology like Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom. I found a few articles documenting the event here:

I later learned that it was Tim Cook’s first day at Apple; he had to walk through our picket line to get into the building.

If their first meeting was impactful, so was Cook’s first day on the job.

“When I came to Apple, my first day on the job, I crossed a picket line to get in the building,” he says. “It was a picket line of customers who were protesting because Steve had decided to kill the Newton device, if you remember the Newton.”

People Magazine – Cook Says He Never Felt He Had to Fill Steve Jobs’ Shoes

Lastly, I’ll refer back to what I wrote about Jobs after he passed away in October 2011. In Steve Jobs Was Technology’s Change Agent, I thought about his line during his famous Stanford Commencement Address about how death was life’s change agent. The products that Apple fans once held dear are now gone, in a museum, recycled into something new, or merely memories in our minds: Apple II, OpenDoc, the floppy drive, Cube, PowerPC, Mac OS Classic, Final Cut Pro (pre-X version), iPod mini, and the Newton. In order for technology to progress, these products went through their own lifecycle. Some live a long time, and others like the Newton, burned brightly for just a few years before fading away.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address — June 12, 2005

It has been twelve years since his death, and those words continue to resonate with me. It was a blast reading through Make Something Wonderful, and I encourage everyone to get a copy (it’s free), download it to your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and give it a read.

3 thoughts on “Newton Protest in “Make Something Wonderful”

  1. I was there at the “Protest”! While there I acquired a wooden Newton “prototype” that had been used to consider the size of the device. (I also remember meeting you, Adam, at Printers Inc. in Palo Alto for a Newton meetup.)

  2. Do you have any memories to share from the protest? I have seen over the years a few more photos from that day; need to dig them up and see if we can spot you! Yes, I have fond memories of the Stanford Newton User Group meetings at Printer’s Inc. in Palo Alto. Those were good times! I remember many of us using Metricom Ricochet wireless modems to get fast (for the time) wireless internet on our Newtons.

  3. I enjoyed reading about the protest you organized and the correspondence you had with Steve Jobs. That the protest happened to be Tim Cook’s first day at Apple was an amazing coincidence. Who knew that 25 years later, people still would be talking about your event!

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