When the hype died down, the reaction to the NeXT computer

When the hype died down, the reaction to the NeXT computer was muted, especially since it was not yet commercially available. Bill Joy, the brilliant

and wry chief scientist at rival Sun Microsystems, called it “the first Yuppie workstation,” which was not an unalloyed compliment. Bill Gates, as might be expected, continued to be publicly dismissive. “Frankly, I’m disappointed,”

he told the Wall Street Journal. “Back in 1981, we were truly excited by the Macintosh when Steve showed it to us, because when you put it side-by-side with another computer, it was unlike anything anybody had ever seen

before.” The NeXT machine was not like that. “In the grand scope of things, most of these features are truly trivial.” He said that Microsoft would

continue its plans not to write software for the NeXT. Right after the announcement event, Gates wrote a parody email to his staff. “All reality has

been completely suspended,” it began. Looking back at it, Gates laughs that it may have been “the best email I ever wrote.”

When the NeXT computer finally went on sale in mid-1989, the factory was primed to churn out ten thousand units a month. As it turned out, sales were

about four hundred a month. The beautiful factory robots, so nicely painted, remained mostly idle, and NeXT continued to hemorrhage cash.

Hovering Backstage

“It’s rare that you see an artist in his thirties or forties able to really contribute something amazing,” Jobs declared as he was about to turn thirty.

That held true for Jobs in his thirties, during the decade that began with his ouster from Apple in 1985. But after turning forty in 1995, he flourished. Toy

Story was released that year, and the following year Apple’s purchase of NeXT offered him reentry into the company he had founded. In returning to Apple, Jobs would show that even people over forty could be great innovators.

Having transformed personal computers in his twenties, he would now help to do the same for music players, the recording industry’s business model,

mobile phones,

apps, tablet

computers, books,

and journalism.

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