The first computer powered by Steve Jobs’ NeXT platform, a pricey workstation produced during Jobs’ time away from Apple in the early 90s, flopped in the marketplace, but planted the seed for what became today’s Apple hardware and operating system.
CNET scribe Brooke Crothers writes about when he first saw the NeXT computer, talks about a visit by Jobs to the offices of InfoWorld, where Crothers worked at the time, and notes how the purchase of NeXT by Apple, and the return to the Apple fold by Jobs, led to today’s Mac hardware and operating system.
Jobs visited InfoWorld in the early 90s to show off the NeXT computer, along with its operating system NeXTSTEP. At the time, both Jobs and NeXT were considered on the downhill slide, so attendance for the presentation was sparse.
The small audience (and it was a relatively small conference room, to boot) didn’t seem to faze Jobs, though. He screamed for 30 minutes or so–that’s how I remember it–about how great the NeXTSTEP operating system was, implying that only idiots wouldn’t be able to see this.
By this time the NeXT computer, which had debuted at over $6,000, was on it’s way out, and the modern factory that produced the machine was on it’s last legs. Companies like Sun and IBM had loved the software, but spurned the hardware, and NeXT was largely ignored by the general public.
According to quotes from Walter Isaacson’s recent Steve Jobs biography, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates piled on by saying the computer was “crap” and said that instead of developing software for the computer, he’d “piss on it.”
With NeXT, Jobs wanted to make computers more accessible to users, thus creating a new market. Jobs called it the “professional” workstation market. Instead, Jobs create a computing revolution that the world won’t soon forget – the Macintosh and Mac OS X.
Crothers continues: “…back to my original point. The NeXT computer design was the precursor to today’s Macs. A clean, well-honed industrial design that is immediately recognizable as being different. And, lest we forget, Mac OS X is built on NeXT’s OpenStep. Apple purchased NeXT in 1996 for $429 million and Jobs went back to Apple. The rest is history.”