Originally published in 1993, this is the story of Steve Jobs’s ambitious attempts after he left Apple in 1985 to create a new company, NeXT Computer. This period was the nadir of Jobs’s professional life, as NeXT’s products failed to find a welcome in the marketplace. The company burned through more than $250 million without managing to eke out a profit. It would eventually be rescued by Apple and Jobs would return there after the close of the book’s narrative. When he did, he took with him lessons learned during his NeXT years in how not to manage a company.
If you love computers and technology, and enjoy biographical information on the people that make them, you should thoroughly enjoy Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing by Randall E Stross. If you're a huge Steve Jobs fan and tear up at the thought of how he died so young, though, you might want to pass.
Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing doesn't sugar coat the life of Steve Jobs as it applies to his failed NeXT experiment. It instead goes out of its way to explore with agonizing detail how he failed, why, and by how much. It lists all of his sins and his amazing ego and how it helped him destroy the company he built.
The book stops about the same time NeXTSTEP for Intel was being completed, so it doesn't talk about how Steve Jobs sold his company to Apple, and how the company took NeXTSTEP and turned it into OS X. If it had, I'm sure it would've reminded us that when that transformation took place and Apple was tasked with making an Apple OS out of NeXTSTEP, Steve Jobs didn't run the show and wasn't allowed to also run Apple into the ground.
I'm a big Apple fan and a lot of love for Steve Jobs. My first exposure to Macs was in the 2015 and all I know is they were much, much faster than my windows computer. They seemed awesome. Later, other consumer operating systems joined the fray, including OS/2, Windows 95, and Windows NT.
Mac OS, is the best example of modern OS by any stretch of the imagination.The computers were excelling at desktop publishing, and they have these utmost fast chips. Apple recently announced the M1 Pro and M1 max, and boy are they fast.
I didn't really know about NeXT. It's only recently that I've become more interested in the company, and Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing is the best book that describes it.
The book is a bit pretentious, though, so unless you're reading it on dedicated reader with a built-in dictionary, you might want to have one near by so you can look up the countless words that you'll likely not know the meaning of. It's also long winded but thorough, and appears to accurately depict an interesting time when computer technology moved forward despite the visionary who tried his best to stop it.
While Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing doesn't tell the story of how Steve Jobs helped Apple ultimately succeed, bringing its operating system up to current standards and finally giving users of Macs multitasking, but it does tell us of a visionary who failed to predict market trends, and was unwilling to listen to those who might have helped him save the company he built and others funded.
Read pages 57-60 of Andy Grove's "Only The Paranoid Survive," and you will learn more in those 4 pages than in this entire book. Stross has such a huge axe to grind against Jobs that the failures of Next are all essentially laid at the feet of Jobs himself. Grove actually provides some context about the forces shaping the computer industry at the time, insight which Stross lacks because he's so blind with attacking the Jobs Hero Cult.
Caveat: whether Jobs is worthy of praise or censure is irrelevant to my point: to describe the failures of Next as the failures of Jobs is to miss the fundamental forces shaping the industry. It emphasizes trivia and ephemera at the expense of real understanding.
Steve Jobs & the NeXT Big Thing is an interesting book written at a very specific time when Steve Jobs was not in the spotlight. It details the trials and tribulations of NeXT up until they were about to move to a software-only focus. While I feel like the author had an agenda against Steve, I also think he paints a fairly accurate picture of the man and his way of doing things at the time. Going into this I knew very little about NeXT other than knowing about the hardware and software a bit.
I knew a lot about Steve Jobs at Apple, but never looked into this period of time outside of some videos or what I knew from reading other books. NeXT is looked upon favorably these days, but this book paints an entirely different picture than what people would tell you about the company now. The lack of strong leadership, the costly decisions made in the name of perfection, and the absolute misreading of what people wanted out of the products.
You won't learn a lot about the operating system, hardware, development environment, or anything else technical in this book, but it covers the the business of NeXT in-depth, as well as some of the competition at the time, such as Sun and Microsoft.
An enjoyable dismantling of the tiresome myth of Steve Jobs as visionary genius. The slew of mistakes born from arrogance and hubris at NeXT was probably what helped him to not repeat the same glorious mess when he went back to Apple and went on to lead such huge successes as iMac, iPod and iPhone
On the spectrum of great non-fiction about technology, you have Tracy Kidder and “The Soul of a New Machine” on the “great” side. Then you have this.
The author clearly has it out for Jobs. He then proceeds to blame NeXT for bankrupting countless companies. I’m pretty sure at one point he claims NeXT kidnapped his family.
Nearly every prediction he made is wrong. Steve Jobs is not a perfect person, nor a particularly good person, but there is clearly a vendetta here.
He also omitted critical information about the importance of NeXT. The first World Wide Web server was a NeXT machine. Doom, Quake, Hexen, and Heretic were designed on NeXT computers. First pizza ordered online??? Powered by NeXT! You can thank modern NeXTSTEP for the look, feel, and function of todays macOS.
A fascinating story that isn't told enough times in book form -- Steve Jobs's post-Apple attempt to come up with the next great computing platform. After he was ousted from his day-to-day role at Apple, Jobs resigned and took a number of employees with him to form Next Inc, which would make computers for universities. While the hardware ultimately failed because it was too expensive, the software eventually became the basis for the Apple Store, the iTunes Store, macOS, iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and audioOS. The story of Jobs's journey there and back again, so to speak, is one of the most entertaining in the history of the industry.
I was there, times were crazy, I remember the excitement, the rumors, the sellout... Oh, didn't mean that. It'd have been interesting to see if and how NeXT could have done on its own I've always thought. Hard to believe a design freak who cared little for actual HW/SW actually was responsible for being behind the putting together of one of the more respected, yet little remembered by many, advanced operating systems at the time. When I think of him I think of slick marketing slogans, rad ad songs and lots of colors. When I think of tech I think of Woz. Interesting book.
Stress takes a huge shit on NeXT and Jobs for 350 pages. His take down would have probably been justified if it wasn’t for Jobs saving throw of selling NeXT To Apple and changing the course of computing history. Without a doubt Stross’ portrait of Jobs as a childish ass is accurate, but you’re unlikely to find a more thorough retelling of where 100 million of Ross Perot’s spar echange went.
Interesting story of how Steve Jobs founded Next Computer after leaving Apple (with plenty of info about Apple's early history as well). Did you know Ross Perot was one of Next's early investors? the book doesn't cover whether Perot got his $10 million investment back, because it was published before Apple bought next and made NextStep the cornerstone of OS X. A follow up is in order...
I have been an admirer of the NeXT computer and its operating system for some time, even though I've never owned one or even seen one. This book explains how that computer came to be and how Steve Jobs made it a failure. If reading Walter Isaacson's bio of Jobs left you hungry for more this book might do the trick for you. It is a fascinating story, well told.