Long-lost video shows Steve Jobs launching his biggest failure

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Steve Jobs during the NeXT years.
Steve Jobs during the NeXT years.
Photo: Doug Menuez

Only a handful of products Steve Jobs introduced to the world became flops, but three years after he was kicked out of Apple, the tech visionary unveiled his biggest failure ever: the NeXT computer.

Video footage of Jobs’ first major public appearance since he left Apple in 1985 was lost to the world until researchers for Aaron Sorkin’s movie came across two videotapes of the NeXT’s gala unveiling at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall in 1988.

Looking back, Jobs’ machine was obviously doomed from the start. Not only was its launch delayed until 1989, it also cost $6,500 — plus $2,000 extra if you wanted an external hard drive. That didn’t stop Jobs from pulling out all of his patented charm during the 2.5-hour event.

Calling the NeXT a failure may be a bit unfair. After all, it laid the groundwork for OS X and Jobs’ return to Apple.

NeXT only sold 50,000 units of the expensive machine, but the computer was used to do great things. Tim Berners-Lee designed the World Wide Web on one, and both Doom II and Quake were created on Jobs’ futuristic computer.

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  • Tallest Skil

    Foundation of the modern Internet’s not really a failure.

    • tiferrei

      Exactly! WTF! Tim Berners Lee started it on a NeXT Cube!

  • ehutchins

    Foundation of Apple after 1998… also not a failure. Someone here is clueless. #obj-C #ipod #OSX #IOS …

  • digitaldumdum

    “Only a handful of products Steve Jobs introduced to the world became flops, but three years after he was kicked out of Apple, the tech visionary unveiled his biggest failure ever: the NeXT computer.”

    It’s a silly and short-sided way to describe NeXT. NeXT was an incredible platform, but expensive and ahead of it’s time, like a number of Jobs’ ideas. However, NeXT, both as a computer and a company, provided two very important things to Jobs. First, it laid the groundwork for what would be come the kernel (literally) of Mac OSX. Second, and more important, it taught Jobs—albeit the hard way—more than he ever appreciated about the crucial importance of design vs. marketing cycles. In short, NeXT is precisely why, when Jobs came back to Apple, he had success after success. I don’t really understand the point of calling NeXT “(Jobs’) biggest failure ever”, when the author himself points out the important positives. Then again, I •do• understand the point: slow day, clicks and taps needed.

  • Nem Wan

    In a way Steve Jobs never left Apple because NeXT also became Apple. The old Apple and NeXT were the new Apple’s parents. You could say Jobs founded Apple three times: Apple, NeXT, then the surgery to combine them.

  • DeanMN

    No one who was alive at the time saw NeXT as a failure. The company and its technologies were envied and well respected.

  • GrangerFX

    That’s no failure. It is the beginning of one of the greatest success stories in the history of computers. I use code beginning with NS, short for Next Step, every day thanks to Steve Jobs and Next.

  • NeXTSTEP is what it was called before its return to Apple. Significant parts of it were moved wholesale into the Mac, iOS, tvOS and watchOS. It lives in well over a billion devices today.

    They got so many things so right that the world takes them all for granted 30 years later.

    Just as an aside, while you mention the $2000 hard disk, you fail to mention the 400dpi, $1800 laser printer, which competed with Apple’s LaserWriter at the time, a 300dpi, $4500 device.

  • Adam PW Smith

    Clearly you need to rethink classifying NeXT as a failure. (Especially if you’re current typing or viewing on a Mac.)