N.Y. Store Picks Apple’s Newton as Its Specialty : Retail: Newton Source’s owner wants his outlet to be a relaxed place for consumers to learn about the hand-held computer.


Across from the Plaza and down the street from Bergdorf Goodman is one of those specialty boutiques Fifth Avenue is known for.

But this one doesn’t sell hats or gloves or shoes or watches.

Just the Newton, the hand-held computer that is, depending on your view, the most successful new product from Apple Computer Inc. or the most ridiculed.

Owner Stephen Elms, a New Zealand native and former currency trader, decided to open Newton Source because he liked the Newton and disliked the way most stores sell computers.

“I’ve always been a consumer of these types of things and buying a computer is befuddling,” Elms said. “There’s a gap in the market that hasn’t been serviced directly and we took the opportunity to fill it.”


Apple introduced the one-pound Newton MessagePad with great fanfare in August. But its handwriting recognition drew criticism, including a one-week lampooning in the “Doonesbury” comic strip.

Nonetheless, Apple sold 80,000 Newtons through January, the fastest launch of any of its products, including the popular Macintosh personal computer. The one-pound Newton keeps track of notes, addresses, calendars, spreadsheets and other data.

The company released an improved version several weeks ago and more software and accessories have become available, including a way for Newton to receive messages of up to 500 words.

Because the idea behind Newton, including the planned use of its core software on other portable devices in the future, isn’t clear to most people, Elms believes his store is a relaxed place to learn about it. His business cards say “Personal Power Outlet.”

“We’d like to be like a Saturn dealership, where they don’t pressure you,” he said, referring to the popular General Motors car.

He marked his first month of business Friday and said sales were 10 times what he expected. But he acknowledged his expectations were low and one month’s experience does not mean success.

The store’s location on West 58th Street across from the Plaza Hotel helps tremendously. After technophiles, Elms said the first people to try products like Newton are those with a lot of disposable income.

On Thursday, the chief of Apple’s Newton division walked in.

“I was aware about this. We had never contacted him but I was very curious to see how he did it,” Gaston Bastiaens, vice president and general manager of Apple’s Personal Interactive Electronics Division, said of Elms Friday.

“It is a very great initiative. This guy really understands what it takes to sell a new platform. He can give full service to all Newton owners.”

But Elms also has the headaches of a small-business owner, including dealing with credit card companies, putting in a new floor and paying rent in a neighborhood where monthly rates typically start at a few hundred dollars per square foot.

But Newton Source is already gaining a reputation. Elms said he has had calls from people in other states who said they were given his number by other retailers.

One software company even boasted in a press release that its new Newton program was available in three places--the catalogues Mac Connection and Mac Warehouse and Newton Source.

“Those are multimillion-dollar companies,” Elms said of the comparison. “That to me is really funny.”