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Wednesday, December 21, 2011, 02:33 pm PT (05:33 pm ET)

Apple's 15 years of NeXT


Jobs turns Apple around
The day after Apple purchased NeXT, Jobs wrote "Much of the industry has lived off the Macintosh for over ten years now, slowly copying the Mac's revolutionary user interface. Now the time has come for new innovation, and where better than Apple for this to spring from? Who else has consistently led this industry—first with the Apple II, then the Macintosh and LaserWriter? With this merger, the advanced software from NeXT will be married with Apple's very high-volume hardware platforms and marketing channels to create another breakthrough, leapfrogging existing platforms, and fueling Apple and the industry copy cats for the next ten years and beyond. I still have very deep feelings for Apple, and it gives me great joy to play a role in architecting Apple's future."

After first expressing a lack of interest in taking over management of Apple, Jobs announced the following July at the 1997 summer Macworld Expo that he would be acting as the company's interim chief executive until a replacement to Amelio could be found.

Jobs had led the effort to remove Amelio (both shown below, at Macworld Expo 1997), and immediately began undoing his decisions. That included Amelio's spinoff of Newton, which Jobs brought back into Apple just weeks after the new subsidiary had been created. Jobs then orchestrated a series of cuts that simplified Apple's product lineup and scope.



Key among Jobs cuts included the abandonment of the Advanced Technology Group, a research lab that had generated lots of products that weren't making any money, including QuickTime TV, QuickDraw 3D, OpenDoc, HotSauce, Macintalk speech synthesis and Newton handwriting recognition. Jobs also terminated the company's cloner contracts, enabling Apple to maintain control over the destiny of the Macintosh.

While cutting a variety of pet projects and bringing in Tim Cook from Compaq to similarly straighten out Apple's convoluted global operations, Jobs also built Apple a new online store using WebObjects, similar to the one Dell had abandoned. This enabled Apple to begin selling "built to order" Macs direct to users.

Jobs also slashed the number of Macintosh products down to just a tower and notebook G3, subsequently adding the iMac as an iconic new compact all-in-one the next year, followed by the consumer iBook notebook in 1999. While cranking out new hardware, Jobs also reinvigorated the classic Mac OS, adding what could be salvaged from the Copland project while working on Mac OS X (based on NeXTSTEP) as its eventual replacement.

Apple server history


Jobs' Apple also focused on how to grow Mac sales, launching an effort to begin building Apple-owned retail stores while also buying up key software developers to assemble a suite of Pro Apps and consumer counterparts in iLife, followed by an iWork suite of productivity apps.

Apple goes open

In addition to its continued work in developing proprietary software, Apple's NeXT-centric development team announced plans to make the core Unix OS foundation of Mac OS X an open source project named Darwin. Along with Apple's own open code, the company began funding open development of existing and emerging projects, ranging from an adoption of open specifications such as OpenGL (in place of Apple's proprietary QuickDraw 3D) to the purchase of and continued maintenance of CUPS, the open printing architecture used by Mac OS X and other free Unix and Linux distributions.

Apple also embarked upon building its own Safari web browser, developed under an open source WebKit program that would eventually shift the balance of power on the web from Microsoft's Internet Explorer to open source. Following the same development strategy underlying the open development of NeXTSTEP's BSD Unix core, WebKit has become the world's most popular web browser engine and the only significant browser among mobile devices.

Apple also began plans to completely replace the GNU Compiler Collection development toolchain of GNU/Linux (shared with Mac OS X) with an advanced new LLVM compiler architecture under development at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and offered under under a BSD style open source license. Apple added LLDB and Clang to the mix, dramatically shifting how the future of Unix-like software would be written.

In addition to backing OpenGL, Apple also created the OpenCL specification for using GPU hardware to run general purpose number crunching, acting as neutral intermediary to gain the support of competing graphics vendors. Apple also played a key role in advancing WebDAV, CalDAV and CardDAV as open standards for working with Internet files, calendars and contacts.

Additionally, Apple cracked open the highly proprietary worlds of audio streaming, video encoding and distribution by supporting MP3, AAC, and MPEG H.264, defeating plans by Sony and Microsoft to replace open audio playback with proprietary standards intended to lock down music. Similar efforts to control video playback streaming on the Internet by Adobe's Flash were dashed when Apple leveraged all of its market power to break the back of Flash, opening video to everyone.

On page 3 of 3: Jobs' golden decade of Apple, A world without Apple's NeXT, What's next for Apple