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Crossed wires spark laptop fear

Computer chiefs have rushed to quell fears that a popular and acclaimed laptop for schools will be affected by a decision to scrap the technology it's based on.

The Apple eMate 300 has proved a huge hit with teachers and pupils in primary, secondary and special schools. Thousands have been sold since its launch a year ago and it has won a string of prizes, including a Gold Award at this year's BETT educational technology show.

Teachers were alarmed when Apple Computer, which developed the distinctive tough, green laptop, announced it was dropping the Newton operating system which eMate uses.

Xemplar Education, which markets eMate, has fielded calls from schools worried they had bought a system which has become obsolete overnight. Nick Evans, its head of marketing, admitted Apple's announcement had been "fairly bald" but said fears were unfounded.

"We shouldn't read too much doom and gloom into this," he said. "There are plenty of machines available - we'll continue selling them, we'll continue supporting them and we'll continue being enthusiastic about them."

Xemplar says eMate will continue to be upgraded, but future versions will use the Apple Macintosh operating system - a new model is due early in 1999. New and old versions will be compatible - the present model is already compatible with Mac, Windows PC and Acorn systems, allowing users to create networks or send files via cable or using the laptop's infr- red beam.

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