Those expecting Apple to introduce a new tablet computer soon may have another clue to the device's imminent arrival.
Apple has rehired Michael Tchao, one of the original developers of Apple's Newton personal digital assistant, according to a report Monday in The New York Times.
Tchao, who rejoined Apple on Monday as vice president of product marketing, most recently served as general manager for Nike Techlab, where he oversaw creation of new digital products and services for fitness enthusiasts. Tchao spent 10 years at Apple, overseeing product marketing for the Newton and reportedly persuading former Apple CEO John Scully to include the company's handwriting-recognition technology into what would become Apple's first consumer device.
Introduced in 1993 as the brainchild of Sculley, the handheld was plagued by poor reviews that pointed to the difficulty in its handwriting recognition capabilities. Beyond the initial snags, the Newton and other Apple handheld technologies never seemed to catch on, and Apple announced in 1998 that it would discontinue development of the Newton operating system and Newton-related products.
Rumors of an Apple tablet have been swirling for a couple of years, but speculation has ramped up in recent months, including reports that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been focusing intensely on a tablet device since returning to work in June after a liver transplant.
Apple representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday evening, but Apple has apparently been laying the groundwork for a tablet PC for years. The company was granted a patent in 2005 for tablet PC design, and the company was granted a patent last year for a tablet-like device that incorporated a touchscreen. Apple has also long had some of the key technologies for a tablet computer with Inkwell--a handwriting recognition feature having been in Mac OS X for some time.