Now It's Apple Who's Watching Newton

After years of sturm, drang, and upheaval, Apple Computer's Newton personal commmunicator has arrived. Chairman John Sculley unveiled the machine on Aug. 2 at a Boston Symphony Hall packed with such Apple groupies as actor Tom Selleck and author Tom Clancy.

Can Newton live up to its hype? It does produce a nifty "poof" sound effect when you cross out a mistake. But the vaunted handwriting recognition software doesn't work well without customized "training." One demo unit asked a normally tidy BUSINESS WEEK reviewer to scribble "Apple" three times before giving up. At the introduction, Apple's own demonstrator had problems getting her Newton to set up the right lunch with the right person.

Customers testing Newton at New York's J&R Computer World also griped about the small screen. And the product measures 7 inches by 4.5 inches--hardly the "shirt-pocket-size" Apple promised. No cellular communications yet, either. And most customers found the $699 base price intimidating: By midday following the introduction, a J&R manager said just 20 Newtons had been sold--far fewer than expected. Not to worry, said one enthusiast: "It's first generation. Give it time."

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.