The Rumor Mill

Apple Going Back to the Future

- 2000.06.28

6/28/2K: Pre-Expo rumors are hard to come by, but we have this one on good authority.

Old timers may remember Apple II Forever, the slogan Apple used to reassure Apple II users that they would not be abandoned in the mad rush to the Macintosh.

Well Marty McFly (of Back the the Future) would be proud: Apple is resuscitating the Apple II and some other abandoned product lines - full details await a Jobsian announcement at Macworld Expo next month.

First, realizing that lots of schools are still using those ancient Apple IIs (the II+, IIe, IIc, and IIgs, among other variants), Apple IIe EnhancedApple will unveil the Apple IIf, the final model in the series. It will look like the Platinum IIe Enhanced (right) but be a very different computer under the hood, starting with a dual speed processor capable of running at the Apple II's original 1 MHz or a stunning (well, for the Apple II series) 10 MHz.

Features new to the Apple IIf include motherboard support for the Apple 5-1/4" and 3-1/2" floppies, a USB port for the mouse and other USB devices, LocalTalk and 10/100 ethernet ports, support for inexpensive VGA monitors used in the PC world, an AirPort slot and antenna, and an internal IDE hard drive (size unknown). It will retain the original Apple II expansion slots and form factor - but colorful, like the iMac. All this and a whopping 128 KB of memory. (Remember, it's still based on the 8-bit 6502 processor.)

At the same time, Apple will introduce the Apple IIf PCI card, which puts the heart of the Apple IIf on a PCI card that can fit inside any PCI computer: Mac, Macintosh clones, or Wintel box. The IIf card will have an external port for connecting Apple floppy drives. The card will be fully supported under Mac OS 8.1 and later as well as Windows 98 and Me.

Another blast from the past is the ImageWriter III, which resurrects the time-tested concept of a dot matrix printer needed by teachers making ditto masters. The heart of the IW III remains the same as the rock solid IW II, but with LocalTalk and ethernet support added into the mix. Of course, this being 2000, it will come in translucent plastics like the iMac. Our guess is blueberry.

The other resurrected technology is the Newton, but with some serious twists. The NewtPad (we kid you not) retains the size and format of the original Newton, but with both an ARM processor for pen input and a PowerPC 750CX (the next generation G3) to run the OS, which is OS X. The NewtPad will have a color screen, rubberized grips on the side, and come in blueberry and tangerine, just like the iBook.

The other half of the Newton resurrection is the NewtBook, essentially a color, iBook-ized version of the lamented eMate. Both machines will ship with 32 MB of nonvolatile memory, include USB for pretty much any USB peripheral, and be built like tanks.

Apple believes that these five products will give them the leverage they need to grow market share in the education market, where Apple has gone from being the dominant platform to fighting for top market share in a market dominated by Windows PCs.

 - Anne Onymus

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