Becoming Steve Jobs, the new biography of Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, will be officially released tomorrow by Crown Business/Penguin Random House, and is currently available as a pre-order from Amazon ($12+) and Apple’s iBookstore ($13). While some of the book’s material will be familiar to avid followers of Jobs and Apple, there are some interesting details inside about how Jobs’ companies Apple, NeXt, and Pixar interrelated.
On NeXT: The book notes that the computer industry changed during Microsoft’s leadership, shifting to an environment where companies — the largest buyers of computers — were seeking reliability and stability rather than innovation. According to the authors, NeXT’s key failure was that it successfully identified a real market for $3,000 workstation computers targeted at the higher-education market, but went so far beyond that price point — in some cases in pursuit of industrial design goals — that few actual customers existed for its product.
NeXT, which was headquartered in the same business park where Steve Jobs first saw Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and graphical user interface, came tantalizingly close to undermining Microsoft at a key point in its growth: IBM licensed the NeXTSTEP operating system for use in workstations, and might have used it to compete against Windows personal computers.
“But Steve… held up IBM for more money, leading to another round of protracted negotiations. He overplayed his hand. Cannavino stopped taking Steve’s calls and just abandoned the project, although there was never any real announcement that it was over. It was a minor disappointment for IBM, ending its ‘Plan B’ fantasy of creating a real alternative to Microsoft’s new Windows graphical operating system for PCs.”
And there’s more…