If people wanted object-oriented, modular, engine-based publishing applications, they would ask for them. But they don't. What they do ask for every day is tried-and-true shrinkwrapped applications.
Ordinary people don't care about technology; they just want good products. They don't buy injection-molded plastic and extruded aluminum; they buy Hondas and Harley-Davidsons. There's a lot of talk about "custom applications," but that's only because there isn't anything else to talk about.
NeXT continues to be plagued by the same chicken-and-egg conundrum that exists for any new computer manufacturer: People don't buy computers without software, and people don't develop software without a lot of computers in the market. Today, there are a few great NeXT developers shipping excellent products, and a lot of weak ports of old technology. There are still 15 or 20 absolutely critical applications that are missing.
The need is especially acute in the area of page layout and publishing. The NeXT is a natural-born publishing machine, as the advertisements from a couple of years ago pointed out. The only problem: no applications. People want QuarkXPress, but unfortunately (or fortunately, given that it's old technology) it doesn't exist on the NeXT platform. We at RightBrain believe we're filling that gap with our PasteUp page-layout application.
Nobody argues with me when I tell them that the NeXT platform is the best computer in the world today. If the NeXT were a high-end Macintosh and all it did was run Mac software, it would sell in the hundreds of thousands, because it is, quite simply, a lot better than any of the Macintosh line. And it's cheaper besides.
Instead, we all console ourselves because a few big companies are buying NeXTs to develop in-house software. That's fine, but nobody is really going to get serious about the computer until there's great software available for it.
NeXT already provides a dazzling array of technology that nobody quite understands. We don't need more bewildering technology; we need lots of great applications. NeXT really is a better Macintosh Ð just what the public wants it to be.
Glenn Reid is president of RightBrain Software.