NeXT, Inc.
Company typePrivate
Founded1985; 39 years ago (1985)
FounderSteve Jobs
Defunct1997; 27 years ago (1997)
FateMerged into Apple Computer, Inc.
SuccessorApple Inc.
Key people
Number of employees
530 (1993) at the Wayback Machine (archived 1997-04-12)

NeXT, Inc. (later NeXT Computer, Inc. and NeXT Software, Inc.) was an American technology company headquartered in Redwood City, California that specialized in computer workstations for higher education and business markets, and later developed web software. It was founded in 1985 by CEO Steve Jobs, the Apple Computer co-founder who had been forcibly removed from Apple that year.[1][2] NeXT debuted with the NeXT Computer in 1988, and released the NeXTcube and smaller NeXTstation in 1990. The series had relatively limited sales, with only about 50,000 total units shipped. Nevertheless, the object-oriented programming and graphical user interface were highly influential trendsetters of computer innovation.

NeXT partnered with Sun Microsystems to create a programming environment called OpenStep, which decoupled the NeXTSTEP operating system's application layer to host it on third-party operating systems. In 1993, NeXT withdrew from the hardware industry to concentrate on marketing OPENSTEP for Mach, its own OpenStep implementation for several other computer vendors. NeXT developed WebObjects, one of the first enterprise web frameworks, and although its market appeal was limited by its high price of US$50,000 (equivalent to $100,000 in 2023), it is a prominent early example of dynamic web pages rather than static content.

Apple purchased NeXT in 1997 for $427 million, including 1.5 million shares of Apple stock. The deal appointed Steve Jobs, then the chairman and CEO of NeXT, to an advisory role at Apple; and OpenStep was combined with the classic Mac OS, to create Rhapsody and Mac OS X.

Many successful applications have lineage from NeXT, including the first web browser and the video games Doom and Quake.[3]



In 1985, Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs led a division campaign called SuperMicro, which was responsible for developing the Macintosh and Lisa computers. They were commercial successes on university campuses because Jobs had personally visited a few notable universities to promote his products, and because of Apple University Consortium, a discounted academic marketing program.[4]: 56, 67, 72  The Consortium had earned over $50 million on computer sales by February 1984.[5]

Jobs met Paul Berg, a Nobel Laureate in chemistry, at a luncheon in Silicon Valley held to honor President of France François Mitterrand.[4]: 72 [6] Berg was frustrated by the time and expense of researching recombinant DNA via wet laboratories, and suggested that Jobs should use his influence to create a "3M computer" that is designed for higher education.[7][8]

Jobs was intrigued by Berg's concept of a workstation and contemplated starting a higher-education computer company in late 1985, amid increasing turmoil at Apple. Jobs's division did not release the upgraded versions of the Macintosh computer and much of the Macintosh Office software.[9] As a result, its sales plummeted,[10]: 193  and Apple was forced to write off millions of dollars in unsold inventory.[10]: 227  In 1985, John Sculley ousted Jobs from his executive role at Apple and replaced him with Jean-Louis Gassée.[10]: 291  Later that year, Jobs began a power struggle to regain control over his company. The board of directors sided with Sculley, and Jobs took a business trip to Western Europe and the Soviet Union on behalf of Apple.[11]

Original NeXT team

Steve Jobs smiles in a black suit.
Steve Jobs, here pictured in 1984, founded NeXT in 1985.

In September 1985, after several months of being sidelined, Jobs resigned from Apple.[12] He told the board he was leaving to set up a new computer company, and that he would be taking several Apple employees from the SuperMicro division with him, but he also promised that his new company would not compete with Apple and might even consider licensing their designs to them under the Macintosh brand.[13]

Several former Apple employees followed him to NeXT, including Joanna Hoffman, Bud Tribble, George Crow, Rich Page, Susan Barnes, Susan Kare, and Dan'l Lewin.[14] After consulting with major educational buyers from around the country, including a follow-up meeting with Paul Berg, a tentative specification for the workstation was drawn up. It was designed to be powerful enough to run wet lab simulations and affordable enough for dormitory rooms.[15] Before the specifications were finished, however, Apple sued NeXT on September 23, 1985, for "nefarious schemes" to take advantage of the cofounders' insider information.[4]: 75 [15]: 44 [14] Jobs argued, "It is hard to think that a $2 billion company with 4,300-plus people couldn't compete with six people in blue jeans."[16]: 207  The suit was eventually dismissed before trial.[4]: 75 

In 1986, Jobs recruited graphic designer Paul Rand to create a brand identity for $100,000 (equivalent to $278,000 in 2023).[17] Jobs recalled, "I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said, 'No, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You don't have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.'"[18] Rand created a 20-page brochure detailing the brand, including the precise angle used for the logo (28°) and a new company name spelling, NeXT.[17]

1987–1993: NeXT Computer

First generation

A NeXT Computer workstation has a black monitor, system box, keyboard, and mouse.
This NeXT Computer was used by computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) to create the world's first web server and web browser, which is also a web page editor.

I want some kid at Stanford to be able to cure cancer in his dorm room.

Steve Jobs, on the purpose of the NeXT Computer[19]

In mid-1986, NeXT changed its business plan to develop both hardware and software, rather than just workstations. Rich Page, a NeXT cofounder who formerly directed Apple's Lisa team, led a team to develop the hardware, while Mach kernel engineer Avie Tevanian led the development of NeXT's operating system, NeXTSTEP. NeXT's first factory was established in Fremont, California in 1987, capable of manufacturing about 150,000 machines per year.[4]: 72  NeXT's first workstation is the NeXT Computer, nicknamed "the cube"[20] due to its distinctive magnesium one-foot (30 cm) cubic case. The case was designed by Hartmut Esslinger and his team at Frog Design.[21][22]

In 1987, Ross Perot became NeXT's first major outside investor. He invested $20 million for 16% of NeXT's stock after seeing a segment about NeXT on the 1986 PBS documentary Entrepreneurs.[14] In 1988, he joined the company's board of directors.[23][24]

NeXT and Adobe collaborated on Display PostScript (DPS), a 2D graphics engine that was released in 1987. NeXT engineers wrote an alternative windowing engine edition to take full advantage of NeXTSTEP. NeXT engineers used DPS for on-screen graphics such as title bar and scroller for the user-space windowing library.[25]

The original design team anticipated completing the computer in early 1987 and launching it for $3,000 (equivalent to $8,000 in 2023) by mid-year.[26] On October 12, 1988, the NeXT Computer received standing ovations when it was revealed at a private gala event, "NeXT Introduction – the Introduction to the NeXT Generation of Computers for Education" at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, California. The following day, selected educators and software engineers were invited to attend the first public technical overview of the NeXT computer at the event "The NeXT Day" held at the San Francisco Hilton. The event gave developers interested in NeXT software an insight into their architecture, object-oriented programming, and the NeXT Computer. The luncheon speaker was Steve Jobs.[27]

The first NeXT Computers were test launched in 1989, and then NeXT sold a limited number to universities with NeXTSTEP 0.9 beta pre-installed.[28] Initially, this targeted the United States higher-education institutions only, with a base price of $6,500 (equivalent to $16,000 in 2023).[20] The computer was widely reviewed in magazines, primarily the hardware portion. When asked if he was upset that the computer's debut was delayed by several months, Jobs responded, "Late? This computer is five years ahead of its time!"[29]

The NeXT Computer has the 25 MHz Motorola 68030 central processing unit (CPU). The Motorola 88000 RISC chip was originally considered, but it was not available in sufficient quantities.[30] The computer has between 8 and 64 MB of random-access memory (RAM), a 256 MB magneto-optical (MO) drive, a 40 MB (swap-only), 330 MB, or 660 MB hard disk drive, 10BASE2 Ethernet, NuBus, and a 17-inch MegaPixel grayscale display with 1120×832 pixels. In 1989, a typical new PC, Macintosh, or Amiga computer included a few megabytes of RAM, a 640×480 16-color or 320x240 4,096-color display, a 10- to 20-megabyte hard drive, and few networking capabilities.[31][32] It is the first computer to ship with a general-purpose DSP chip (Motorola 56001) on the motherboard. This supports sophisticated music and sound processing, including the Music Kit software.[33]

The magneto-optical (MO) drive manufactured by Canon Inc. is the primary mass storage device. This drive technology was relatively new to the market, and the NeXT is the first computer to use it.[34] MO drives were cheaper but much slower than hard drives, with an average seek time of 96 ms; Jobs negotiated Canon's initial price of $150 per blank MO disk so that they could sell at retail for only $50. The drive's design made it impossible to move files between computers without a network, because each NeXT Computer has only one MO drive and the disk can not be removed without shutting down the system.[34] The drive's limited speed and capacity makes it insufficient as NeXTSTEP's primary medium.[34]

In 1989, NeXT started a deal for former Compaq reseller Businessland to sell the NeXT Computer in international markets. Selling through a retailer was a major change from NeXT's original business model of only selling directly to students and educational institutions.[35] Businessland founder David Norman predicted that sales of the NeXT Computer would surpass sales of Compaq computers after 12 months.[36]

That year, Canon invested $100 million in NeXT, for a 16.67% stake,[37] making NeXT worth almost $600 million. This had the condition of installing NeXTSTEP on its own workstations, greatly expanding NeXTSTEP's market. After NeXT exited the hardware business, Canon produced a PC line called object.station—including models 31, 41, 50, and 52—specifically designed to run NeXTSTEP on Intel.[38] Canon was NeXT's distributor in Japan.[39]

The NeXT Computer was released in 1990 for $9,999 (equivalent to $23,000 in 2023). In June 1991, Perot resigned from the board of directors to concentrate on his company, Perot Systems, a Plano, Texas–based software system integrator.[40]

Second generation

A black NeXTstation computer and a black NeXTcube workstation; the latter is housed in a cube-shaped magnesium enclosure
A NeXTcube has a NeXT monitor.
The mainboard of the NeXTcube (1990) has the Motorola 68040 and other computer components.
The mainboard of the NeXTcube (1990) has a Motorola 68040 at the lower edge. To the right are the interfaces, to the left the system bus. The enlarged view of the image has annotations for most of the components.

In 1990, NeXT released a second generation of workstations, a revised NeXT Computer called NeXTcube and the NeXTstation. The NeXTstation's nickname is "the slab" for its low-rise box form-factor. Jobs ensured that NeXT staffers did not nickname the NeXTstation "pizza box" to avoid inadvertent comparison with competitor Sun workstations, which already had that nickname.

The machines were initially planned to use the 2.88 MB floppy drive, but its floppy disks were expensive and had failed to supplant the 1.44 MB floppy. NeXT used the CD-ROM drive instead, which eventually became the industry standard for storage. Color graphics were available on the NeXTstation Color and NeXTdimension graphics processor hardware for the NeXTcube. The new computers, with the new Motorola 68040 processor, were cheaper and faster than their predecessors.[41][42]

In 1992, NeXT launched "Turbo" variants of the NeXTcube and NeXTstation, with a 33 MHz 68040 processor and the maximum RAM capacity increased to 128 MB. In 1992, NeXT sold 20,000 computers, counting upgraded motherboards on back order as system sales. This was a small number compared with competitors, but the company reported sales of $140 million for the year, which encouraged Canon to invest a further $30 million to keep the company afloat.[43]

In its existence, Next has sold a total of 50,000 copies of Nextstep, says Jobs. It's not much of an installed base, so he predicts the company will ship 50,000 Nextstep packages in 1993. But Next needs to increase its volume three-fold in order to build enough momentum to forestall Microsoft and Taligent in the object-oriented software business.

UnixWorld, April 1993[44]

In total, 50,000 NeXT machines were sold,[45][44] including thousands to the then super-secret National Reconnaissance Office located in Chantilly, Virginia. NeXT's long-term plan was to migrate to one of the emerging high-performance Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) architectures, with the NeXT RISC Workstation (NRW). Initially, the NRW was to be based on the Motorola 88110 processor, but it was later redesigned around dual PowerPC 601s, due to a lack of confidence in Motorola's commitment to the 88000-series architecture in the time leading up to the AIM alliance's transition to PowerPC.[46][47]

1993–1996: NeXT Software, Inc.

The NeXTSTEP operating system interface, running a series of commands
The NeXTSTEP operating system interface

In late 1991, in preparation for NeXT's future withdrawal from the hardware industry, the company started porting the NeXTSTEP operating system to Intel 80486-based IBM PC compatible computers. In January 1992, it was demonstrated at NeXTWorld Expo. By mid-1993, the process was completed, and version 3.1 (NeXTSTEP 486) was released.[48]

NeXTSTEP 3.x was later ported to PA-RISC-[49][50] and SPARC-based platforms, for a total of four versions: NeXTSTEP/NeXT (for NeXT's own hardware), NeXTSTEP/Intel, NeXTSTEP/PA-RISC, and NeXTSTEP/SPARC. Although the latter three ports were not widely used, NeXTSTEP gained popularity at institutions such as First Chicago NBD, Swiss Bank Corporation, O'Connor and Company, due to its sophisticated programming model.[51] The software was used by many U.S. government agencies, including the United States Naval Research Laboratory, the National Security Agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office.[52] Some IBM PC clone vendors offered somewhat customized hardware solutions that were delivered running NeXTSTEP on Intel, such as the Elonex NextStation[53] and the Canon object.station 41.[54]

In 1993, NeXT withdrew from the hardware industry, and the company was renamed to NeXT Software, Inc. Consequently, 230 of the 530 staff employees were laid off.[55] NeXT negotiated to sell its hardware business, including the Fremont factory, to Canon, which later canceled the deal. Work on the PowerPC machines was stopped, along with all hardware production. Sun CEO Scott McNealy announced plans to invest $10 million in 1993 and use NeXT software in future Sun systems.[56] NeXT partnered with Sun to create a programming environment called OpenStep, which is NeXTSTEP's application layer decoupled for third party operating systems.[57] In 1994, Microsoft and NeXT collaborated on a port of OpenStep to Windows NT, which was never released.[58]

In January 1994, a developers' conference was held in Washington, D.C. Attendees of the 1994 NeXT East Coast Developer Conference had the opportunity to purchase a software bundle including NEXTSTEP 3.2.[59]

Stepstone, originally named Productivity Products International (PPI), was a software company founded in 1983 by Brad Cox and Tom Love, best known for releasing the original version of the Objective-C programming language. In April 1995, NeXT acquired the Objective-C trademark and rights from Stepstone.[60] Stepstone concurrently licensed back from NeXT the right to continue selling its Objective-C based products. Apple Computer acquired the rights to Objective-C along with NeXT one year later.

After exiting the hardware business, NeXT focused on other operating systems. New OpenStep products were released, including OpenStep Enterprise for Windows NT. NeXT launched WebObjects, a platform for building large-scale dynamic web applications. It did not achieve wide popularity, partly because of the initial high price of $50,000 (equivalent to $100,000 in 2023), but it did generate profit for the company. WebObjects is the first and most prominent early example of a web application server that enabled dynamic page generation based on user interactions instead of static web content.[61] WebObjects was used by many large businesses including Dell, Disney, Deutsche Bank, the BBC,[62] Ford, Nissan,[61] and later Apple for the iTunes Store and online Apple Store.[63][64]

1997–2006: Acquisition by Apple

We went for one of our, you know, signature Steve Jobs walks around Palo Alto, and ... we happened to see someone who was in that meeting from the [Apple] management team who said, 'You guys won easily, no problem. You have nothing to worry about.'

Avie Tevanian, presenting NeXT versus Be to Apple[65]

On December 20, 1996, Apple Computer announced its intention to acquire NeXT.[66] Apple paid $427 million in cash, shares, stock options, and debt.[67]: 277 [68] Steve Jobs preferred to only receive cash, but Gil Amelio insisted he take 1.5 million Apple shares to give the deal credibility.[69] The main purpose of the acquisition was to use NeXTSTEP as a foundation to replace the dated classic Mac OS.[70] Steve Jobs also returned to Apple as a consultant.[71]

The deal was finalized on February 7, 1997.[72][73] In 2000, Jobs took the CEO position as a permanent assignment,[74] holding the position until his resignation on August 24, 2011, shortly before his death on October 5, 2011.[75]

Several NeXT executives replaced their Apple counterparts when Jobs restructured the company's board of directors. Over the next five years the NeXTSTEP operating system was ported to the PowerPC architecture of Macintosh. At the same time, an Intel port and OpenStep Enterprise toolkit for Windows were produced. That operating system was codenamed Rhapsody,[76] and the crossplatform toolkit is Yellow Box. For backward compatibility, Apple added the Blue Box to Rhapsody, running existing Mac applications in a self-contained cooperative multitasking environment.[77]

A server version of Rhapsody was released as Mac OS X Server 1.0 in 1999, and the first consumer version, Mac OS X 10.0, in 2001. The OpenStep developer toolkit was renamed Cocoa. Blue Box was renamed Classic Environment and changed to run applications full-screen without requiring a separate window. Apple included an updated version of the original Macintosh toolbox, called Carbon, running existing Mac applications natively without the constraints of Blue Box.[78][79] Some of NeXTSTEP's interface features are used in Mac OS X, including the Dock, the Services menu, the Finder's "Column" view, and the Cocoa text system.

NeXTSTEP's processor-independent capabilities were retained in Mac OS X, leading to PowerPC, x86, and ARM versions. Only PowerPC versions were publicly available before 2006 and were discontinued by 2009, and ARM versions were not released until 2020. Macintosh moved to Intel processors by August 2006, and to ARM processors as of September 2022.[80][81]

Corporate culture and community

Entrance to NeXT's Redwood City office in 1995

Jobs created a unique corporate culture at NeXT in terms of facilities, salaries, and benefits. Jobs had experimented with some structural changes at Apple, but at NeXT he abandoned conventional corporate structures, instead making a "community" with "members" instead of employees. There were only two different salaries at NeXT until the early 1990s. Team members who joined before 1986 were paid $75,000 (equivalent to $208,000 in 2023) and those who joined afterward were paid $50,000 (equivalent to $139,000 in 2023). This caused a few awkward situations where managers were paid less than their employees. Later, employees were given performance reviews and raises every six months. To foster openness, all employees had full access to the payrolls, although few employees ever used the privilege. NeXT's health insurance plan offered benefits to not only married couples but unmarried and same-sex couples, although the latter privilege was later withdrawn due to insurance complications.[4]: 80  The payroll schedule was also very different from other Silicon Valley companies at the time, because instead of employees being paid twice per month at the end of the pay period, they were paid once per month in advance.[4]: 289 

Jobs found office space in Palo Alto, California, at 3475 Deer Creek Road, occupying a glass-and-concrete building that featured a staircase designed by the architect I. M. Pei. The first floor had hardwood flooring and large worktables where the workstations would be assembled. To avoid inventory errors, NeXT used the just-in-time (JIT) inventory strategy. The company contracted out for all major components, such as mainboards and cases, and had the finished components shipped to the first floor for assembly. On the second floor was office space with an open floor plan. The only enclosed rooms were Jobs's office and a few conference rooms.[67]: 323 

NeXT's expansion prompted renting an office at 800 and 900 Chesapeake Drive, in Redwood City, also designed by Pei. The architectural centerpiece was a "floating" staircase with no visible supports. The open floor plan was retained, with furnishings that were luxurious, such as $5,000 chairs, $10,000 sofas, and Ansel Adams prints.[4]: 80 

NeXT's Palo Alto office was subsequently occupied by Internet Shopping Network (a subsidiary of Home Shopping Network) in 1994, and later by SAP AG. Its Redwood City office was later occupied by ApniCure and OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc.[82]

The first issue of NeXTWORLD magazine was printed in 1991. It was edited by Michael Miley and, later, Dan Ruby and was published in San Francisco by Integrated Media. It was the only mainstream periodical to discuss NeXT computers and software. The publication was discontinued in 1994 after only four volumes.[83] A developer conference, NeXTWORLD Expo, was held in 1991 and 1992 at the San Francisco Civic Center and in 1993 and 1994 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, with Jobs as the keynote speaker.[84]


Though not very profitable, the company had a wide-ranging impact on the computer industry. Object-oriented programming and graphical user interfaces became more common after the 1988 release of the NeXTcube and NeXTSTEP. The technologically successful platform was often held as the trendsetter when other companies started to emulate the success of NeXT's object-oriented system.[85]

Widely seen as a response to NeXT, Microsoft announced the Cairo project in 1991; the Cairo specification included similar object-oriented user-interface features for a proposed consumer version of Windows NT. Although Cairo was ultimately abandoned, some elements were integrated into other projects.[58]

By 1993, Taligent was considered by the press to be a competitor in objects and operating systems, even without any product release, and with NeXT as a main point of comparison. For the first few years, Taligent's theoretical innovation was often compared to NeXT's older but mature and commercially established platform,[a] but Taligent's launch in 1995 was called "too little, too late", especially when compared with NeXT.[89]

Several developers used the NeXT platform to write pioneering programs. For example, in 1990, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee used a NeXT Computer to develop the first web browser and web server.[90][91] The video game series Doom,[92] and Quake were developed by id Software using NeXT computers.[93][94] Other commercial programs were released for NeXT computers, including Altsys Virtuoso—a vector-drawing program with page-layout features, which was ported to Mac OS and Windows as Aldus FreeHand v4—and the Lotus Improv spreadsheet program.[b]

See also


  1. ^ Attributed to multiple references: [44][86][87][88]
  2. ^ Attributed to multiple references: [95][96][97][98]: 4 : 63 


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Further reading