Based on my strong report, Steve decided that NeXT boxes wouldn't automatically sign you up for an Internet connection - since we couldn't debug or support the customer when things went wrong.
Candidly, I've looked back on that report and wondered if I set back the entire industry. We weren't looking at browsers - but we were looking at access to all communication possibilities across the Internet as well as the access to University and Government resources (ftp and remote mounts.)
I constantly think about how them meeting that day may have moved the mainstream adoption of the web up by 5 years.
Mass adoption of the web was held back by lack of ISPs. It may seem strange now, but in 1991 there was no way to connect to the Internet unless you were affiliated with a university or a big R&D company. in 1991, TimBl's WWW wasn't any more relevant to NeXT than Gopher or Brewster Kahle's WAIS or, for that matter, CompuServe.
Some of us at NeXTWorld, including John Perry Barlow, Simson Garfinkel, and Seth Ross saw the potential of the WorldWideWeb, but we never wrote about it at NeXTWorld because most NeXT users couldn't connect to the Internet. I don't know when Jobs first saw the WorldWideWeb but he had many opportunities and it never was important until he got excited about WebOjects at Apple. By that time, Marc Andreessen had released Mosaic, the first web browser for Windows, and ISPs were sprouting up to enable consumer connections to the Internet.
NeXT computers would have needed to provide a modem, and PPP for TCP/IP over dialup, and NeXT-provided connection points (through a 3rd party partner?) to make the web useful to NeXT users outside of academia and government.
Ultimately, it came down to "unsupportability" by NeXT. Several people other than me told Steve that things would go wrong connecting to the Internet, and when they did we would be mostly helpless to support them. At the same time, the organization in Virginia didn't want to support the software either - the software was a "black box" mostly provided by us on their machines. So we killed the project. I never heard anybody mention browsers.
Not sure exactly what you mean by that since WebObjects was created at NeXT way before Steve was back at Apple. In fact before the acquisition Steve was the main WebObjects promoter so way before being back at Apple.
True at Apple, Steve did continue to promote WebObjects internally for a couple years but afterwards he moved on.
In 1989 Jobs was still selling (very few) Next computers for an entry price of $10k.
At the time, NextStep was a struggling niche OS. Jobs didn't get any real power until he returned to the helm of Apple in '97, and NextStep technology didn't hit the mainstream until 2001 with the release of the consumer version of OS X.
In contrast, Netscape's first product was released in late '94, and it was popular enough that they IPO'd in 1995.
The "cross-platform" part is the most optimistic, to be sure. But if Jobs believed that NeXT's real value was the software (as OS X, and especially iOS, bear out), then you can imagine a strategy that used a web browser as a Trojan Horse for a platform that could overthrow the currently dominant Windows monopoly. That was basically Netscape's strategy a few years later, after all.
The problem with the NextStep stuff at the time was that it required high-end hardware. Even years later when they started to make cross-platform development tools, they were limited to niche markets where you new your users would pay up for plenty of RAM. That was fine for, e.g., financial trading.
So I think they would have had to start basically from scratch, sullying their hands by writing for the sad world of 16-bit Windows 3.1. If they had done it, though, it could have been incredible.
On the other hand, they could well have been killed by the same issue that killed Netscape: the web, being definitionally open, doesn't provide a lot of defensible advantage to early movers.
Still, I do find it totally plausible that Jobs could have been inspired to redirect NeXT's struggling business to the nascent web. Some of those old WebObjects interviews that get posted to HN periodically demonstrate the he "got" the web and its potential as an application delivery platform much earlier than most.
Even today the only real cross-platform product Apple makes is iTunes, and that only exists so they can sell iPods (and now iPhones) to windows users. Facetime, ApplePay, iBooks... all would be better as cross platform apps, but Apple isn't interested because it doesn't help them sell more macs/iphones.
While it seems a given that the iPod was to be made compatible with Windows, Jobs was very resistant to the idea. At one point he said that Windows users would get to use the iPod "over my dead body". After continued convincing, Jobs gave up:
"Screw it," he said at one meeting where they showed him the analysis. "I'm sick of listening to you assholes. Go do whatever the hell you want."
Think about what iPod sales would have been if iTunes never made it to the PC platform. Would there have been enough profit to fund the development of the iPhone? Would we be where we are today?
Perhaps hard to imagine, but they actually did it. OPENSTEP Enterprise allowed you to use the NeXT development tools to build apps for 32-bit Windows platforms. That came toward the end of the NeXT saga, so you could argue it was a move of last resort. But it clearly wasn't out of the question.
"We almost met once.
There was a get-together of NeXT developers in France, and we set up demos at tables around the room.
Robert Cailliau and I set up the WorldWideWeb.app on one table.
Steve arrived, and started making his way around the tables chatting with each project
He didn’t get to us before he had to leave."
Isn't that incredible?! Even if you aren't a fan of Steve Jobs you have to admit he would have instantly understood the power of what Berners Lee was showing him.
I think about that story a lot. Gives me goosebumps.
NeXT, for all its technical merit, was a repeated commercial failure. It failed as hardware, it failed as an OS for other people's hardware, and then it failed as developer tools of other people's OSes. The Jobs of 2007, at the helm of a successful company, perhaps could take an obscure technolog7 and get it widely adopted. The Jobs of 1992 had no leverage. The NeXT was full of amazing tech but he couldn't get anybody but a few koolaid-drinkers, myself included, to use it.
So if he'd adopted the WWW into the NeXT OS a year or two earlier than everybody else, I think it would have been another cool technology on the NeXT platform that everybody ignored. Mosaic and Navigator made a difference not really for what they were, but because they were available to a large audience of Windows users.
If anything, I think the later history of Apple suggests that Jobs's talent wasn't in cutting-edge technology, but in taking established technology, making it user friendly, and marketing the hell out of it. The iPod wasn't the first music player and the iPhone wasn't the first smartphone. They were just the first ones built for and marketed to the broad consumer market. There was never really a consumer market for browsers, which is part of what killed Netscape.
Well, we seem to forget that OS X 10.0 is basically NeXT with a new skin. So it might have failed as an "OS for other people's hardware" meaning PCs, but it did phenomenally well with Apple's hardware.
And even the "failed" NeXT company got sold for a cool half billion, an order of magnitude better than e.g. BeOS ($11 million).
And NeXT's itself market performance was OK enough to allow it to live and reach several versions all these years up to 1997 until it was bought.
They definitely had some success in niche markets, I think they turned a modest profit one year, and I don't think their investors lost any money. But it's not like they made a ton for the level of risk they took.
Yes, Jobs managed to make lemonade out of his multiple failures. But NeXT was never a commercial success.
Steve Jobs was for a long time seen as someone with brilliance who tripped up on his own misguided and dogmatic world view, not the current picture of him as the ultimate visionary who sees and knows all.
> Even if you aren't a fan of Steve Jobs you have to
> admit he would have instantly understood the power of
> what Berners Lee was showing him.
Berners Lee himself writes about the possibility decades later. Decades later! The inventor of the web browser! Remembering and writing about something that almost happened... but didn't. He's clearly given some thought to the matter.
It's not like you remembering the time a co-worker ate vanilla ice cream at lunch time last week. This is Tim Berners Lee reminiscing about an opportunity to show Steve Jobs his wares.
Jobs wanted Pixar to be a hardware company. Not a terrible idea as NVidia has shown us, but definitely the wrong time, and he did not foresee the brand that Pixar Animation Studios would become.
NeXT was a 2nd attempt at the overpriced workstation that was Lisa. Both were market failures.
Sure, they got an OS, and they got some good people. But it was basically an acquihire. NeXT had approximately no commercial success. If Apple had only wanted a next-generation OS to compensate for their failure to develop one internally, they could have bought Be, and for a much lower price. There were no other suitors to acquire NeXT; without Apple's acquisition, they surely would have died out within a couple of years, just like Be did.
And I'll note that the OS wasn't that great a deal for Apple; it took them more than 4 years to get a consumer-grade release of it together, far longer than they were predicting at the time. I'd again put that down to the power of Jobs's reality distortion field, not any kind of market success.
Easy to say in retrospect. But at the time Jobs was the guy who was once ousted from Apple and hadn't done that great of a commercial job with NeXT (besides the technology they created). So there wasn't much ground at the time for Jobs to be considered as some kind of "miracle man" that will save Apple.
So, while we now can say "they purchased Jobs", I think it was mostly the allure of a turn-key next-generation OS that the needed sorely at that point that made them go into it and for half a billion.
Let's not forget that Apple had just killed Copland, and was simultaneously discussing to buy BeOS.
>And I'll note that the OS wasn't that great a deal for Apple; it took them more than 4 years to get a consumer-grade release of it together, far longer than they were predicting at the time.
Again that's in retrospect. At the moment they didn't think "we're really buying Jobs, who'll do miracles and make the company #1 in the world". They thought: "We need an OS, and this NeXT thing looks like it can be turned into the next OS version soon".
>I'd again put that down to the power of Jobs's reality distortion field, not any kind of market success.
But they weren't looking for market success. After all they didn't want to buy an existing userbase but an OS to turn into "OS 9 successor" to give their (Apple's) users and attract new ones.
So, what they wanted was a good platform for what they do. And given Apple's enterprise, dtp and graphics focus in the 90s, NeXT was pretty damn close.
If this was a read-write version, then it's easy to mentally box it into a network-backed word processor (since that's what it would have been most similar to).
The power of the web took quite a few leaps in terms of a distributed effort making it into something new each time. When cast in the original scientific philosophy, it's not clear that this would seem any more important than the prodigies, compuserves, and aols that already existed.
> WorldWideWeb_0.16.tar.Z is the only wysiwyg hypertext editor for the NeXT.
Aren't they these? There's a missing leading 0.
Oh, how I wish I had that computer.
I'm afraid of malicious or less skilled people playing with the machine and breaking it (software-wise).