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Apple snagged NeXT 15 years ago

Apple picked up NeXT 15 years ago to this day. Probably its most important acquisition ever because of the person who came along with the deal.


On December 20, 1996--15 years ago today--Apple announced that it would acquire NeXT. Oh, and its CEO was part of the deal.

That CEO of course was Steve Jobs, as CNET reported.

"Jobs...will leave his post as Next's chief executive to become an 'adviser,' reporting directly to Apple chairman and CEO Gilbert Amelio," CNET said.

Daniel Kunstler, at that time an analyst with J.P. Morgan, may have had the most prescient understatement of the decade (at least). "I really don't see any downside to Steve Jobs returning to Apple," he said.

The $429 million deal centered on Apple's quest for a new operating system. The company had "been shopping for an operating system since abandoning its own Copland system...and had been negotiating with Be and other companies to fill that void," CNET said.

Be was not to be, though. Apple opted for Next's object-oriented, Java-enabled NextStep. And, lest we forget, Mac OS X is built on top of this.

Prior the acquisition, NeXT struggled mightily, though.

Before it was a software-only company, NeXT made hardware too. It built upscale workstations--which debuted at more than $6,000--at a cutting-edge factory in Fremont, Calif.

Jobs attempt to control everything from circuit boards to software ran into trouble pretty quickly when the workstations didn't sell. (Jobs' goal was laudable, though: imagine building a factory in California today to assemble cutting-edge computers.)

So, in the early 1990s, Next turned to its Japanese partner Canon for cash. On top of an original $100 million investment in 1989, Canon provided another $10 million to $20 million in 1991 and extended a $55 million credit line in 1992, as CNET reported.

Then, in February 1993, Next said it would stop making the Nextcube and Nextstation and focus on object-oriented software for mainstream platforms.

That move worked. The company posted a profit in 1994 and licensed its WebObjects to more than 275 customers, including Chrysler, Nike, and Walt Disney.

And take a gander at this video of a master salesman explaining NeXT to the rank and file.

Via Engadget and TUAW