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Apple's buyout of NeXT reaches 15th anniversary

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.





by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +13

    What a road it's been

    Really it was more like the NeXT takeover of Apple, as it turned out, but regardless it'd be hard to argue that wasn't just about the best buyout in business history.

    It's particularly funny/interesting when you consider that iOS is loosely based on OSX, which is to say that the OS they theoretically bought NeXT for is not only the most popular UNIX variant in the world now, but also on something like 10% of all US PCs sold as well as about a third of all mobile devices. And even more interesting when you consider that among ultraportable devices--tablets and phones--it's on VASTLY more devices than Microsoft's OS.

    Who in their wildest dreams would have thought that 15 years ago?

  1. tundaman

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +4

    How would it BE...

    Looking back now, one can only imagine what could happened if Apple had decided to bought BE OS instead of NeXT... and yes, we are getting OLD! XD

  1. addisonx

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    the old days

    I think when that happened, I actually had the BeOS preview release on my Powermac 6400. Everyone was totally surprised by the announcement, but it was clear shortly after that it was a great decision.

  1. ethical_paul

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +4

    Not so loosely, Makosuke

    I'm not disagreeing with any of your points, Makosuke, because they're right on the money.

    But as an old Cocoa developer and iOS developer, I can tell you that iOS isn't loosely based on OS X, it's quite tightly based on OS X.

  1. malax

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Still a major influence

    The technology underneath iOS and OS X is fundamentally and former nextstep technology. Until I started doing some iOS development work this year, I didn't get this. But everything from what language you use to write code (Objective C--created by NeXT) to the framework you use to write your apps (the reason why iPhone and iPad apps work the same way and share so many UI elements) and a result of that acquisition.

  1. facebook_Travis

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Dec 2011

    -6

    Not created by NeXT

    Objective C was created by Stepstone in the early 80's and NeXT licensed it in 88. what is it with all these people that think steve jobs and apple / NeXT create everything from scratch.

  1. facebook_Randy

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Dec 2011

    +1

    Start up?

    NeXT wasn't a start up by the time Apple bought it by a long long shot. Is an 11 year old company still a start up?

  1. bitwrangler

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    musings

    Ah yes, I remember those days fondly. Apple choosing NeXT was indeed a shock as many thought that JLG had the inside track with Be. Though having a BeBox and working on BeOS at the time, NeXTStep was definitely way ahead of the game from a "completeness" point of view. I still have my NeXTDimension Cube and a few other pizza boxes laying around, it was and still is an awesome system.

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