Posts tagged “app store”.

iPad: Back to the future

February 2nd, 2010

Apple iPad

Apple finally introduced the iPad tablet computer last Wednesday, confirming rumors that have been circulating since before I started Newton Poetry a few years ago. From then to now, I’ve read article after article and rumor after rumor – everything from claiming this new device was the second coming of the Newton to a giant iPod Touch.

Sometimes keeping track of everything was exhausting. Even more than the iPhone, the mythical Apple tablet kept rumor sites in business for years. Then, when so many confirmations gelled together, most Apple fans knew what was coming when Steve Jobs hit the stage on January 27 in San Francisco.

Many, many tech writers invested in a lot of detective work to flesh out this device, and I think a lot of credit goes to them for softening the holy-crap blow that this device would’ve otherwise caused us to have. The iPad’s introduction was nothing like the iPhone introduction because we had all seen and heard it before. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Nothing remarkable, nothing earth-shattering – just steady progress, and tiny chips brushed away from the mobile sculture Apple is crafting.

This project, the giant move to mobile computing Apple has been working on since the day of the original PowerBook and Newton MessagePad, has essentially come to fruition in the form of the iPad. Jobs mentioned (and reports back him up) that Apple is primarily a mobile device company. It’s the powerful combination of a touch-based interface, a world-conquering application platform, and – most of all – the opportunity that is still to come.

That’s the key. I think the earth-shattering part will come in the form of something we haven’t even seen yet. We might even have trouble knowing it when we see it.

For some, the iPad doesn’t seem like much now. But just wait, says Steven Fry in a much-linked post:

In the future, when [the iPad] has two cameras for fully featured video conferencing, GPS and who knows what else built in (1080 HD TV reception and recording and nano projection, for example) and when the iBook store has recorded its 100 millionth download and the thousands of accessories and peripherals that have invented uses for iPad that we simply can’t now imagine – when that has happened it will all have seemed so natural and inevitable that today’s nay-sayers and sceptics will have forgotten that they ever doubted its potential.

All ready, I’m seeing fantastic ideas about what the iPad can become, given some time.

The iPad, like the original Macintosh, ships with basic task-oriented software titles, like iWork, that make it a capable machine. With the Mac, the explosion in innovation came when desktop publishers realized what a powerful machine they had sitting on their desks. With the iPad, a similar spark will happen.

The tech echo chamber is resounding this notion that the computer-as-appliance has finally arrived. The iPad is the computer your grandma can use without calling you for tech support every week. The details have been abstracted away – and use whatever car metaphor makes you comfortable here.

And that’s probably true. But something tells me the future is brighter than grandma. The iPad will gain mutant electro-superpowers after the proverbial lightning strikes.

Storms a-brewin’.

For Newton users, UNNA is our App Store

January 21st, 2010

While the original iPhone was a hit, some would say the success came when Apple offered the App Store – a one-stop shop for everything from games to to-do applications.

The Newton never had such a place. In the ’90s, if you wanted a Newton app, you could either get it in a box, or as shareware, with some software developers offering their wares on the web. But there was no encyclopedic interface for app shopping.

In later years, however, the United Network of Newton Archives (UNNA) has served as a modern day app store for Newton owners. Here you’ll find most of the available Newton apps in one easy-to-browse site (complete with eWorld icons). It’s an organized database that makes finding an app easy. Instead of hunting down an obscure app, you can visit UNNA and probably find what you need.

There are other sources for Newton software, sure. But UNNA offers the most App Store-like interface for Newton apps.

That got me thinking. With all the comparison between the rumored tablet and the MessagePad, how closely could UNNA offerings match what Apple’s App Store offers? Discounting iPhone social media, photo, or video apps, where do UNNA and the App Store reach agreement?

More simply, what can you find in the App Store that you can also find in the Newton app world?

Here’s what I found.


Interested in mapping our your biorhythm cycles? You shop around on the App Store, or you could check out NewtORhythm for your MessagePad or eMate. These apps are for plotting your physical, intellectual, and emotional…uh…potency (?) on any given day based on your birthdate. NewtORhythm would be more helpful if it labeled the plot lines (or if the Newton could handle color), but you get what you get.

The App Store offers plenty of GPS apps, now that iPhones contain a GPS receiver, but so can the Newton with a few add-ons. App-wise, look for GPSView, a landscape-only app that works with a DeLORME Tripmate.


For musicians, the App Store offers everything from metronomes to chromatic tuners. On the Newton, you need a good ear for Guitar Tuner, a “Simple wave based guitar tuner that plays individual samples of a guitar in standard EADGBe tuning.” No fancy dropped-D tuning, but if you want to tune a guitar you haven’t touched in a while (I’m guilty of this), Guitar Tuner is a useful app.


The App Store has no shortage of list management apps, including grocery list apps that help organize your next trip to the supermarket. The Newton comes with its own default to-do list app, but for food you can use Newt Grocery. There are other list management apps, like the (originally-named) Lists, so you can find something you prefer.

For the weekend chemist, the App Store features plenty of affordable periodic table apps (and games) to satisfy your inner iodine. Periodic Table for Newton OS 1.x devices.

Power Translator

Parlais Parlez vous Francais? Non? iPhone language translator apps are great for traveling overseas or in your nearest city’s Chinatown. The Newton has Power Translator, with 60,000 words in English, Spanish, German, French and Italian. You can even add and alter words in Power Translator’s dictionary – great for foreign language students looking for a more colorful vocabulary.

SmallTime stop watch

For fitness training or food eating competitions, you can pay $0.99 for a stop watch app on the App Store, or you can use the free and super-simple SmallTime (above) – an app so small I almost didn’t spot it. To start the timer, simple tap the little circle with your stylus and the countdown begins. That’s it. Nothing fancy.

And speaking of fitness, the Newton offers a few exercise apps to get your New Year’s resolutions off to a good start.


Night sky gazers have a wealth of apps to choose from through iTunes. If all you need is a simple star chart, the Newton’s StarChart.

The iPhone is the perfect personal information management (PIM) tool, but before the iPhone, the Newton carried Apple’s PIM title with all kinds of apps.

And if you need the simplest of simple tools, the iPhone can help with flashlight apps. So can the Newton if pointed in the right direction.


Feel like having some fun? The iPhone has become a competitive mobile gaming device. Back in the day, however, the Newton had its own selection of fun, monochrome gaming titles – like nBattleship (above).

Deep Green for Newton

Some games, like the Newton’s Deep Green chess app, made a successful transition to the iPhone.

There are a ton of other examples, from Newton system utilities to apps for getting online and getting some work done, where UNNA mirrors the App Store – even if UNNA offers neither the breadth nor depth of available software.

On the other hand, the openness and flexibility of Newton developers, plus the lack of an approval process from Apple, leaves the doors of the Newton app world wide open. Here we are, more than a decade after Apple killed off the Newton, and smart people are still developing software for the MessagePad. No app store makes Newton software harder to find, but at least it’s still there to discover. Apple can’t leave the latest version of NCX floating in approval process limbo.

Minus a jailbrake, will that be possible after the iPhone is gone?

Make your own iPhone app with HTML

November 26th, 2008

Pretty cool: an app called PhoneGap lets you turn your web site into an iPhone/iTouch app using nothing but your site’s existing HTML and JavaScript. PhoneGap is:

written in Objective-C and allows developers to embed their web app (HTML, JavaScript, CSS) in Webkit within a native iPhone app. We’re big advocates of the Open Web and want JavaScript developers to be able to get access iPhone features such as a spring board icon, background processing, push, geo location, camera, local sqlLite and accelerometers without the burden of learning Objective-C and Cocoa.

Right now, PhoneGap gives your almost-app access to the iPhone’s accelerometer and geo location services, but camera and vibration options are pending. Head to their Google Group to learn more about the project.

Seems like a neat idea to me. There are already PhoneGap success stories, where Apple has approved their App Store submittal. Is there any way to create a Newton-like shell on a web site (kind of like this blog does) and then throw it onto the iPhone with PhoneGap? One can dream.

[via Webmonkey.]

11 ways iPod Touch beats the Newton

September 29th, 2008

By popular demand (“popular” being the two comments I received on my original “Newton-vs.-iPhone” post a week ago), today we’ll explore how an iPod Touch beats the Newton MessagePad in a war of handheld Apple devices.

This kind of thing has been done before, but never have the iPod Touch and Newton gone head-to-head in a clash of styles and features. Clearly the iPod Touch has advantages, thanks to modern touch-screen technology and miniturization, that were but a gleam in the Newton’s monochrome eye in the late ’90s.

There will be the die-hards out there that won’t believe a word here. But the march of progress goes on. Here we present the top 11 ways the iPod Touch beats the Newton to a smashed-circuit-board pulp:

  1. It’s smaller. No duh, right? But really, Steve Jobs’s obsession with smaller-is-better comes to life in the iPod Touch. It’s thinner, lighter, and smaller than the classic “iBrick” Newton, and holds enough computing power to put a 1997-era Mac to shame. You can fit it in your pocket, and it rests comfortably in your palm.
  2. Web browsing is better. Much better. In fact, besides Flash and Javascript, the iPod Touch’s MobileSafari browser is just about all you’d ever need. Browsers like NewtScape can’t hold a candle, or a CSS file, to the iPod Touch. Try checking your Facebook profile on your Newt. ‘Nuff said.
  3. It’s the best music player out there. Yes, it’s possible to listen to music on your Newton. But give it a try on your next 3-hour plane ride and you might wish for an old fashioned Sony Walkman. The iPod Touch is the most interactive music player out there. Plus it plays videos, movies, podcasts, and audiobooks.
  4. The games are way cooler. While there are tons of games available for your MessagePad, the iPod Touch offers those games and more. Browse through Touch Arcade sometime and you’ll come to realize that, with your iPod Touch, you’re holding a PS2-capable machine in your hands.
  5. Easier syncing with modern Macs. There are ways to sync your Newton with OS X, but it’s kind of a project. With the iPod Touch, you just plug it in and – BAM! – your Address Book, iCal, and Safari info is magically synced with your Macintosh.
  6. App writing is easier. That’s at least party true these days. Find a NewtonScript manual, boot up your text file, and start slashing away at a Newton app. Now do the same with an iPod Touch 2.0 app. Which is easier? Which has the biggest learning curve? Chances are, you’ll enjoy yourself a bit more with the iPod’s SDK. With the Apple App Store, people can find your app easier, too (though UNNA is a godsend to Newton users). Plus you don’t have to hunt down long-gone registration keys and long-dead software companies.
  7. It’s sexier. This one’s more subjective (like the “underground” argument I made in the Newton-beats-iPhone post), but it stands to reason: the slick metal and glass is many times more lickable than the Newton. “Slickness” is an adjective that has come to define Ive-designed Apple products these days. The argument could be made for the eMate, but since no new product designs have come from the MessagePad camp, this one’s an easy win for the iPod family.
  8. Wifi comes standard. Putting Wifi on the Newton takes some work. Not so on the iPod Touch. Wifi is in everything these days.
  9. Two words: full color. A cheap-shot, but the iPod Touch’s gorgeous full-color screen is a beauty. We can check e-mail in color, browse the web in color, and see all our contacts in full, gleaming, rainbow-splattered color. The Newton’s 320 x 480 antique black-and-green screen held its own back in the day.
  10. Two more words: more memory. Those flash memory cards sure were handy. But 32 gigs? Who can compete with that? I could store 90% of my music collection on an iPod Touch. Fitting two or three songs on a Newton, however, would be pushing it.
  11. It’s the future. Let’s face it: there are no more Newtons in development. There may be Newton-like projects in the works, but most likely we’ll never see another Newton MessagePad. Ever. iPods? They come out every friggin’ year. And they keep getting better. There are only so many hacks you can perform on a MessagePad, and it’s a losing fight. Apple pays people to design new iPods. Newton hackers? Not so much.

So there you have it. The critics can be happy now that I’ve given the iPod Touch – a device some would argue most deserves the Newton mantle – it’s proper credit, we can bow before the modern Apple machine. The Newton, being ten years older, doesn’t stand a chance in this fight.

I say all this with a lack of passion. What Newton user can blame me? I like to stick up for the Big Green Machine whenever I can, especially when the fight isn’t fair, and I learned that the Newton brings with it a community of passionate users. The iPod Touch? Any 15 year old can go to a Wal-Mart and buy one. Where’s the passion in that?

iPhone app Brushes takes cues from Newton UI

September 17th, 2008

When iPhone developer Steve Sprang needed interface ideas for his new painting app, he looked to a platform he knew well – the Newton.

Sprang got hold of an MP2000 in college and created the Newton freeware app, Lathe, as a simple 3D modeler. Today, he’s working on Brushes – a “natural-media style painter” that, taking a look at the screenshots, looks like a beautiful, detailed app for the iPhone (examples of Brushes-created artwork can be seen at iArtMobile).

Sprang, a former software engineer at Apple, used the Newton’s undo/redo buttons (above) in his Brushes app as a nod to his former platform. Since he left Apple, Sprang has welcomed his new role as an independent iPhone app creator.

“Developing for the iPhone has been a good experience so far,” Sprang says. “I think it’s been a great move for me, and I hope to be able to do it long term — more projects are in the pipeline!”

Brushes is available at the iPhone App Store for $4.99.

Einstein emulator on Android: oh the possibilities

September 3rd, 2008

Is Google’s Android mobile platform the Newton fan’s savior at bringing a Newton-clone app to fruition?

When Apple announced the iPhone SDK, I wondered whether someone could use it to develop an Einstein-based Newton app – even just to mess around with – for Apple’s Mobile OS X.

Because of the licensing agreement, a Newton app is probably impossible. But on the open-source Android OS and its new Android Market, the dream of a modern-day Einstein hack might be realized.

Now that Android has its own “app store,” some bootstrapping developer could do something really cool. A touch screen, a stylus, some sort of handwriting recognition, and access to the OS’s dates and contacts and notes, and you might be all set.

I’m positive its nowhere near that simple to develop a Newton emulator for a mobile phone. But one can dream, right?

Review: Catamount’s PocketMoney for iPhone

August 27th, 2008

Browsing through Apple’s App Store, I lucked out on a program I’ve been meaning to try: Catamount’s PocketMoney. Previously available for $9.99, Catamount dropped the price to $0.99 for a few days only, and I snatched it up as soon as I saw it. How could I resist? Catamount was a dedicated Newton app developer. They’ve ported their PocketMoney finance manager to everything from the Palm to the PocketPC, and it only made sense for them to bring their piggy bank to the iPhone.

More… »

iPhone 3G: It’s the little things

July 17th, 2008

It’s typical of an Apple product to delight and amaze the more you use it. The iPhone 3G is no different. It’s been a ton of fun to use and explore in the week I’ve had it.

First, I discovered this blog looks good on the iPhone’s screen, both in vertical (above) and landscape mode.

Other blogs out there are helping me discover new things.

Lifehacker shows how, by holding down the “.” and “.com” buttons in Safari and Mail, you get more options:

First, in Mobile Safari, just hold down the .com button for a second to see other domain options (namely .net, .edu, and .org). Second, when the keyboard has the @ symbol but no .com key, you can hold the ‘.’ (period) key to get the same domain shortcuts – something that comes in especially handy when you’re manually entering email addresses or filling in login credentials in new apps.

Just the “.com” in Safari was enough to make me smile. But this? That’s handy.

Wired’s How-To Wiki taught me how to avoid SMS charges (I opted for no text plan): plug your contact into AOL’s free iPhone AIM client and text to your heart’s content for free.

I’ve tested it, and it works great.

To Do apps, however, were another story. I struggled with the multitude of options out there: free apps, pay apps, voice note apps. I hate to sound cheap, but I was mostly looking at free solutions, and the reviews were of little help because they went either way. Finally, a new app popped up in the App Store – Dobot’s To Do app – so I downloaded it on a whim. And so far, it suits my needs pretty well.

I was never a big fan of the Newton’s solution to to-do lists. The easiest way was to sync the Newton with Newton Connection Kit and type up the list on my iMac. The keyboard made the whole process more comfortable and quicker. But on the road, you have to scribble a note, highlight it, have Assist interpret it, and the it appears in your to-do list. Way too complicated, and awkward when all you want to do is have a list of check-off items. In fact, it’s one of the key gripes that I have against the Newton. I’m sure there’s another to-do app out there, but I’m limited with my Newton OS 1.0.

If Dobot’s To Do app fails me, I can always spring for app that costs actual money. What I’m hoping, however, is that somehow Apple includes some sort of iCal to-do list sync.

My experiment is to try and use only the iPhone for lists, to-dos, and calendars for the next few weeks. By forcing myself to one platform, I can get to know its ins and outs, and find out what it lacks.

Newton-like apps on the iPhone

July 14th, 2008

I couldn’t help but scour the iPhone’s new App Store for applications that mimicked what the Newton MessagePad offered at its height. Here’s what I came up with so far.

Good ol’ PocketMoney. This is a Newton classic, and they even brag about it on the description page. The Newton version is still available, and the new one will set you back $10. I was actually going to review the old school PocketMoney. Instead, it may call for a comparison.

Starmap here is a take on the Newton’s StarChart: basically a star-finder and map that helps you look for planets and such when you’re in your backyard with a telescope. Darned handy if you are an astronomy fan.

Squiggles is pure fun. You can take iPhone photos and doodle all over them in different colors. Your finger becomes the brush. I picked this one because it’s the first one I saw that, in whatever way, translates the MessagePad’s handwriting recognition into a creative app.

Sketches looks like it has the most potential to be Newton-ish. Basically you draw notes, diagrams, or whatever with your finger, and save the file for later. Notepad, anyone?

Have you tried out any of these, or another iPhone app that copies the Newton’s capabilities? Let me know in the comments. I’m going to try some of these myself, and offer a review later.

Why a Newton emulator would be fun on iPhone

March 20th, 2008

An iPhone on the Newton?

I took my suggestion from the iPhone SDK announcement and posed an offer to the Newtontalk mailing list:

So who wants to take up a collection for the $99 developer’s fee, grab a bit of Cocoa, and make a Newton Touch app? I’ve got $5 toward the effort!

One reader, Simon, correctly pointed out that the software developer’s kit was actually free; it’s the right to upload software to, and therefore receive the blessing from, Apple’s App Store that costs $99.

The point is still there. With reports of 100,000 downloads of the iPhone software kit, there has to be someone out there that is thinking, “You know what would be fun? A Newton emulator!”

Is this even possible? Plenty have reported on the limitations imposed on software developers – no app can remain open in the background, no scripting, etc. – so that Apple can keep the platform secure.

Mattias of says the limitations could cripple the entire thing:

The iPhone SDK has severe limitations in its license that would make an Einstein emulator useless. Apart form having to disable the ability to install packages in order to conform, we would also not be able to run in the background, so no alarm or calender events (it may be
possible to solve the first issue by wrapping Newton packages and have them installed through iTunes which would give the per-application control back to Apple). There is also the lack of pen input and a very high resolution, yet small screen, which makes HWR impossible and hitting a Newton button extremely hard.

But there has to be a way to, say, scribble something on your Newton Notepad app and have it show up in iPhone’s Notes. Or scribble in a contact into Newton’s Names and have it sync to Address Book. Same with Calendar and iCal.

This would solve one of the main dilemmas today’s Newton user faces: the difficulty connecting a MessagePad’s information with OS X. If an iPhone could run a Newton app, syncing would be a breeze.

On their own, the iPhone and iPod Touch are becoming what the Newton always dreamed of: a platform to organize your computing life on the go. So there really is no need for a Newton app other than to just play around with and show to your geeky friends. They’re based on two totally different input philosophies (though there is a stylus available for the iPhone now, as we’ve seen), and I can see why switching from one to the other would be pointless.

Someone on the Newtontalk list brough up Apple’s possible resistance to a Newton app being made available in the first place. All applications have to be certified by Apple before users can download them from the App Store, and Apple probably has no interest in seeing its ten-year-dead OS making any sort of reappearance. There are still jailbroken iPhones and iPod Touches out there, though, that provide a handy bypass system.

The idea of the Newton lives on in the iPhone: novel input mechanism, calendar and contact syncing, e-mail, web surfing, dock-loading applications, etc. And when developer start churning out to-do apps and financial apps and gaming apps, all that will be left untouched will be the Newton’s handwriting recognition. The iPhone will be what the Newton wanted to be when it grew up, in full color.

But when developers program videos like babes washing your iPhone’s screen, or apps that mimic the Nintendo Entertainment System (as Newton developers did with Newtendo), a fun Newton emulator doesn’t seem like such a worthless project.