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Windows NT: Apple's 'NeXT' Big Thing

-- by Joseph C. Panettieri

There's no avoiding fate: Apple Computer must still devise a Windows NT strategy to fuel at least part of its recovery. That's the conventional wisdom, but Apple, of course, has never been conventional and sometimes not even wise.

Late last year, surprising just about everyone, Apple management revealed that the key to the long-suffering company's recovery lies in . . . NeXT Computer, the workstation and object technology vendor founded by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Apple spent a whopping $400 million to acquire NeXT, and later announced plans to merge its object technology with MacOS to create a next-generation operating system that boasts preemptive multitasking, multithreading and symmetric multiprocessing support.

But a couple of potential problems exist. First, the new MacOS won't run all existing MacOS products. Second, Apple has brought Jobs back on board. Remember, Jobs ostensibly saved Apple in the early '80s by leading the creation of an "insanely great" computer-the Macintosh. But only a few years later, Apple fired him. He has been bad-mouthing it ever since, and his return could spark fresh turmoil.

What does all this have to do with NT? Plenty.

Jobs formed NeXT to create yet another workstation platform. But when NeXT's hardware and OS efforts tanked, he refocused the company on object software called OpenStep for UNIX and, ahem, NT. One look at NeXT's site (www.next.com/OpenStep/Welcome.html) quickly reveals Jobs' preoccupation with NT.

Now that Jobs is back, he'll probably continue spreading the gospel of NT. He'll be preaching to the choir: Apple is already porting all its multimedia APIs to NT, and recently demonstrated PowerMac servers running NT. It even plans to ship NT-compatible PowerPC systems this year.

It seems like a stretch now-but Apple and Jobs could end up helping NT compete with MacOS.

Copyright (c) 1997 CMP Media Inc.

Windows Magazine, March 1997, page 52.

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