updated 02:30 am EST, Wed December 21, 2011
Purchase changed fortunes of Mac maker
December 20th marked the 15th anniversary of the day Apple announced a buyout of NeXT, the startup technology firm founded by Steve Jobs that eventually provided both the technology and the executive team that formed the basis of Mac OS X, the operating system that set the company on a new path. The $429 million paid for NeXT was until recently Apple's largest-ever acquisition, but the investment has stood the test of time.
The day also marked another acquisition as Apple bought flash memory technology company Anobit for somewhere near $500 million. While few expect the purchase to be as strategically important as buying NeXT turned out to be, the Israeli company does promise technology that will once again give Apple a competitive edge against rivals, and is part of an overall strategy to further differentiate the Apple "experience" from competitors by giving the Cupertino giant more control over the entire manufacturing process.
The NeXT home page from the day (seen below) referred to the buyout as a "merger," and over time Jobs returned fully to Apple and installed many of the executive team he had assembled at NeXT into top positions at Apple, including Avadis Tevanian and Jon Rubinstein. The codebase of NeXT's software OPENSTEP was based on the Mach kernel Tevanian had worked on in college, and eventually became the core of Mac OS X. To this day, vestigial evidence of NeXT's influence on the design of OS X remains.
Other than Jobs himself, most of the NeXT veterans moved on in the mid-2000s, having rescued Apple from the brink of bankruptcy, introduced a new operating system and new products that would revolutionize the market, and seeing the stock rise from a low of $4.97 in June of 1996 to over $90 by the end of 2006. Since then, the company has continued to grow both its computer and non-computer product divisions to staggering successes, but both Mac OS X and iOS share roots in the forward-looking company Jobs founded after being kicked out of Apple: NeXT.