by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor <email@example.com>
Just weeks after the release of Apple's latest MessagePad model, offering on-demand backlighting and on-the-fly orientation switching, sources at Apple have revealed that the company is poised to release a long-awaited larger tablet-sized model. The Newton LetterPad 200, slated for an 01-Apr-96 release, is about the size of a small portfolio and offers almost a standard sheet of paper worth of active screen surface.
As with the MessagePad 130, the LetterPad 200 is said to have a display that can be used with the backlighting on or off, and can be rotated and used in either a horizontal or vertical orientation. Unlike its handheld predecessor, the LetterPad 200 has all of its controls within the active screen area, so that such always-visible buttons as "Names," "Dates," and "Extras" can be rotated along with the display.
The LetterPad 200 features the latest low-power RISC processor from Advanced RISC Machines, Ltd, a 44 MHz ARM 640 chip that Apple hopes will let the Newton handwriting recognition technology keep up with a steady pace of notetaking during meetings or lectures. The deferred recognition feature introduced with the MessagePad 110 will still be available, but engineers expect the unit's recognition pace will be so impressive that most users will disable the deferred recognition and allow the LetterPad to process handwriting as it goes along.
Rather than the flip-down plastic cover of recent models or the slipcase of the original Newton MessagePad, the Newton LetterPad 200, which will be about an inch thick, will come with a leather portfolio whose cover will have room for business cards and up to four PC Cards. (The system has two Type II PC Card slots side by side, so it will not support such thicker Type III cards as SyQuest's removable cartridge drive.)
The most interesting new feature in the Newton LetterPad is a mode codenamed "Big Brother" that enables the wary executive to check up on what every other Newton user in the room is doing with his or her Newton. Gone are those unproductive meetings because the junior vice presidents are beaming love notes back and forth to one another, or because the CFO is playing Daleks again.
Answering a months-old criticism, Apple made the LetterPad 200's infrared port compatible with both previous Newton technology and the IRTalk ports built into the PowerBook 5300 series. The infrared port remains capable of communicating with many consumer electronics devices, and Apple has bundled a universal remote application that can control almost any known infrared-capable device.
Final pricing had not been announced as of this writing, but the Newton development group expected the LetterPad 200 would debut between $900 and $1,100 depending on configuration. Since the form factor is completely different from existing Newton models, no upgrade will be possible through chip swaps or software installation, but Apple hopes to curry the favor (and reward the loyalty) of existing Newton owners by offering a trade-up credit to those looking to exchange a MessagePad for a LetterPad.