NEWTON MOVING ON LINE APPLE'S INTERACTIVE DEMO LETS CONSUMERS TEST IMPROVEMENTS

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Apple Computer is going on line to show off Newton.

The marketer is putting an interactive demo of the personal communicator on four on-line services in a program tentatively set to start March 11.

Prospective Newton owners may download a demo of a Newton MessagePad and software to an Apple Macintosh or IBM clone. Current Newton owners will be able to download software demos onto a personal computer that then can be transferred to their Newton.

Apple decided to go on line after determining that more than 95% of Newton owners use computers, with a high percentage of them avid on-line fans, said Mark Kvamme, president of CKS Partners, Campbell, Calif., which works on Newton merchandising.

"It really made a lot of sense to have an on-line system where someone could gain conceptual trial," Mr. Kvamme said. "It gives someone a very good understanding of the product."

The on-line effort is part of a targeted marketing approach to put Newton on track after a disappointing introduction (AA, Feb. 28).

The demos will be promoted in ads for a new Newton, the MessagePad 110, that will start this week in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, via Apple agency BBDO Worldwide, Los Angeles,.

The Newton demos will appear on America Online, CompuServe, Apple's AppleLink and the Internet. Koen Bouwers, international marketing manager for Apple's Personal Interactive Electronics division, declined to comment on spending.

The demos feature text and animation to show Newton and software, allowing users to interact by clicking a mouse. Apple will ask participants to send e-mail about their reactions to Newton and the on-line approach.

Apple hopes the Newton demos will entice customers to visit a retailer. In stores, Apple is betting customers won't run into the problems with Newton handwriting recognition that drew negative publicity last fall.

The new MessagePad 110 features improved software to convert handwriting to type. Apple and CKS have also modified an in-store demo to guide users through the handwriting function. Mr. Bouwers said customers will be asked to write key words like "Newton," "buy" and "now."

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