Jean-Louis Gassée, Apple’s former head of Macintosh product development between 1981-1990, has commented on Apple’s crucial choice of Steve Jobs’s NeXTSTEP as their operating system back in 1996 instead of BeOS, his own creation. Much of NeXTSTEP code would make possible Mac OS X, later adapted for Apple’s mobile devices.
Speaking at a Churchill Club “Steve Jobs’ Legacy” talk event (which is fantastic the whole way through – above) in San Jose yesterday, Gassée remarked (at about an hour in):
Thank god that didn’t happen, because I hated Apple’s management.
BeOS was pretty good, mind you. Positioned as a multimedia platform, BeOS benefited from symmetric multiprocessing, pervasive multithreading, preemptive multitasking and BFS, a custom 64-bit journaling file system known as BFS. It too was developed on the principles of clarity and an uncluttered design.
So why did Apple side with NeXT and acquired the company on February 4, 1997 for $429 million? In hindsight, even though beOS was pretty good, it was the aquisition of Jobs that was worth to Apple more than the NeXTSTEP software. Or, as Gassée put it, “Jobs’s acquisition of Apple”.
When Apple bought NeXT, NeXT had almost given up on NeXTSTEP and was focusing on web objects. NeXTSTEP was the basis that gave the Mac a new life. [...] So, NeXT was very important, including – in my opinion – the fact that Steve realized that having new technology is not good enough. NeXTSTEP was very good technology, but wasn’t good enough to get a foothold in the marketplace.
And this bit about Jobs acquiring Apple:
Apple acquired NeXT, but in fact Steve took over and we know what happened. By re-acquiring Apple, NeXTSTEP finally produced the kind of fruit that justified the labor that went into it. This was very nice technology that had trouble finding its footing.