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Harris bangs Apple's head over Newton

'We lost money when you cancelled Newton -- so pay up or else', claims vendor

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Apple's decision to nuke its Newton PDA division earlier this year provoked complaints from MessagePad aficionados and the platform's selection of software developers. However, loud though the grumbles were, no one sought recompense through the courts -- or, rather, no one backed up their asseverations with actions. Until now. Hardware vendor Harris is seeking legal redress for the $10 million and up it claims it lost by being forced to back out of a deal with Ameritech. Harris had been contracted to supply the US telco with machines based on the MessagePad 2000. Harris is seeking $17 million in damages, covering lost business and development costs. "Apple deprived Harris of the basic benefits Harris reasonably expected to receive from its dealings with Apple, and which Apple understood were being conferred on Harris," says the ten-page complaint. Apple interim CEO cancelled Newton development in February as part of his attempt to focus the company on its core competencies and reduce costs. At the time, the move generated much criticism since the division had at long last begun to offer products, specifically the eMate 300 education-oriented laptop and the MessagePad 2000, which delivered on the promises Apple originally made for the technology. Newton technology was originally intended for widespread licensing -- in addition to Harris, Sharp, Siemens, Schlumberger, Motorola and Digital Ocean and Sony also licensed the technology. Interestingly, the suit blames Apple's decision to distance itself from the Newton on the departure of erstwhile CEO John Sculley, who pioneered the technology, and the arrival of Steve Jobs, who ultimately cancelled it. Sculley, don't forget, oversaw Jobs' marginalisation at Apple, and it was widely claimed that nixing Newton was an act of petty revenge on Jobs' part, the logic being that if Newton was such a threat to Apple's revenue, either Michael Spindler or Gil Amelio, the two CEOs between Sculley and the returned Jobs, would have cancelled it already. Still, since so many of the so-called Jobs reforms were, in fact, initiated by his predecessor, it's entirely feasible that Amelio would also have de-emphasised Newton as part of his programme to cut back on the large number of technologies Apple was spending development dollars on. If that's the case, Amelio, who regards Jobs as the man responsible for his firing, as outlined in his book, On the firing line: my 500 days at Apple, will see the Jobs regime being stuck for $17 million as nothing more than poetic justice. Newton, of course, discovered gravity by having an Apple fall on his head, so perhaps its about time Newton banged Apple's cranium. ® Click for more stories

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