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One of the men directly responsible for Apple's ill-fated Newton Message Pad has been rehired by Apple.

According to a blog post from The New York Times, Michael Tchao has rejoined the Cupertinians as VP of product marketing, reporting directly to the SVP for worldwide product marketing, Phil Schiller.

The timing of the hire, coupled with Tchao's experience in both shepherding the Newton's development and orchestrating the feeding frenzy at its release during 1993's Boston Macworld Expo, puts more credence behind the ever-increasing rumorfest about the imminent appearance of an Apple tablet.

The development of the Newton Message Pad was a rocky one, with Tchao deep in the thick of it. One bit of Apple lore, for example, has him passionately - and successfully - pitching the handheld to then-CEO John Sculley during a flight on then-chairman Mike Markkula's private jet.

The Newton, unfortunately, was torpedoed at launch by the early failures of its handwriting recognition. Mercilessly lampooned by no less a light than Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau (which led to a Newton Easter egg), it mattered little that the recognition learned your writing the more you used it or that the software behind it was improved over time.

After leaving Apple in mid-1994, Tchao took a series of positions in tech companies, most recently as general manager of Nike TechLab/Nike+, a division of the shoemaker that, among other efforts, works with Apple on the Nike + iPod runners' training system.

And now he's back at Apple, presumably being rehired by the man who killed off the Newton in 1998, Steve Jobs, and putting the lie to F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous dictum that "There are no second acts in American lives."

Tchao's Cupertino role is about to begin its Act Two. ®

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