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Former Newton developer rehired by Apple for marketing role

Fifteen years after he left Apple, one of the original developers of the Newton touchscreen handheld device has returned to the company, as it is believed to be developing that product's spiritual successor.

The hiring of Michael Tchao was confirmed Monday evening by The New York Times. In his role, he will report directly to Phil Schiller, senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing.

From June 1990 to August 1994, his title with Apple was group manager, product planning & strategy, personal interactive electronics. Prior to that, starting in 1986, he held a few other managerial positions with the Mac maker.

Prior to his re-hiring, Tchao worked with iPods as the general manager for Nike Techlab and Nike+. He had been with the shoe maker since 2002.

Given Tchao's involvement with Apple's now-defunct Newton, as well as persistent reports of Apple's anticipated tablet, expected to arrive in early 2010, the Times hypothesizes that his role could be to market the new device. Reports suggest it will be a 10-inch, 3G-enabled touchscreen device much like a large iPod touch.

"It is not clear what his new duties at Apple will entail; Apple would not comment further on the matter, and Mr. Tchao did not immediately respond to a phone message," the report said. "But identifying a market for the much-rumored Apple tablet could certainly be among them. Mr. Tchao gets the credit (or perhaps the blame) for convincing John Sculley, Apple’s former chief executive, to integrate the company’s handwriting-recognition technology into a consumer device."

One anonymous source said that Tchao is a man with "great ideas" —as well as his share of "scars" —regarding tablet computing.