Critical Success

Press clips

NEXTSTEP opened to rave reviews in the mainstream PC press as the usually bare-knuckled critics took their first look at the operating system running on Intel-based hardware. PC Magazine, Byte, PC Week, and Computerworld all ran strongly favorable reviews and evaluations during the summer. Mixed in with cautionary notes about the OS needing more drivers and the relative paucity of shrinkwrapped apps were comments about NEXTSTEP's "breathtaking interface" and how it "reduced development efforts by anywhere from three to 100 times those of other platforms and languages" and "ran like a Swiss watch." Typical excerpts are shown below.

Garry Ray, Computerworld senior editor, explains that the magazine's "Firing Line" evaluation of products gauges reactions and expectations from typical users. "People are pretty willing to express both the positive and negative," he says, noting that even with that, NEXTSTEP got the highest rating to date – 4.3 out of a possible 5.0 – of any product evaluated.

That fact was further surprising, because Computerworld's readership comprises mostly CIOs and "dyed-in-the-wool MIS types," Ray says. NEXTSTEP was supported so strongly that even though "three out of the four respondents mentioned [NeXT's] financial situation as being a concern, they immediately dismissed it and said they would buy the OS. That's not common in people who make large purchasing decisions. It's pretty unusual, in fact. The product would normally not get a hearing whatsoever," he says.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a longtime computer journalist with experience on many UNIX variants who authored the PC Magazine article, wasn't surprised by what he found. "NeXT's OS has always been seen as being a bit wonky," he says, "a wonderful, nifty, but overpriced system." The transition to commodity-priced machines, however, brought the speed/cost ratio down, he explains. NEXTSTEP still won't be for everyone, but "with a lower price for now, and possibly lower prices in the future, NeXT could really gain."

The articles included lab reports, full reviews, and first looks. In all cases, comparisons were made to other operating systems, with NEXTSTEP getting the nod in networking, development tools, interface, and ease of use. The PC Week review went the farthest in comparing NEXTSTEP to Solaris x86 for PCs and Novell's UnixWare and testing it with a variety of PC-based networking and database products. All pointed out that NEXTSTEP runs faster on white hardware than black.

Attention to the benefits of NEXTSTEP in the press is a new trend, which gets away from all the negatives that NeXT has weathered in the past, says Paul Cubbage, principal analyst of the software group at San Jose–based Dataquest. "All this press is very good for NeXT. It's the old adage: " 'I don't care what you say about me as long as you spell my name right.' "

by Eliot Bergson

First and foremost is a breathtaking interface – the Workspace Manager – that rivals and even surpasses that of the Mac . . . NeXTStep worked like a fine Swiss watch both in standalone mode and concurrently as a node on NetWare and TCP/IP networks. . . . We foresee NeXTStep taking a place similar to that of the Macintosh: an operating system that's not for everyone, but extraordinarily powerful and easy to use for those willing to travel a path away from the mainstream.

PC Magazine, August 1993

[NeXT is] delivering system software that offers many of the benefits of object orientation that Taligent and Cairo still only promise. . . . NextStep is more complete [than Windows NT] and it is easier to develop applications. . . . By providing commonality among the applications and utilities, Next has made its operating system very easy to learn – despite its Unix underpinnings. . . . While it's unlikely that an operating system with such a small following and so demanding of system resources will ever come to dominate the huge Intel arena, the move to a platform where even high-end hardware can get real cheap real fast will help to ensure this elegant operating system's future.

Byte, August 1993

NeXT Inc.'s NEXTSTEP for Intel Processors 3.1 is not your Dad's Operating System. It combines an arresting interface with excellent connectivity, multitasking muscle and a powerful object-oriented development environment. . . . NEXTSTEP is the most approachable and full-featured of the Unix systems available on the Intel Corp. platform. And for developers of corporate information systems and custom applications, NEXTSTEP provided an integrated object-oriented programming environment and access to databases.

PC Week, June 28, 1993

Evaluators said Next, Inc's NextStep for Intel is a robust implementation of the operating system and development environment. They were surprised that performance on the Intel platform exceeded that of Next's proprietary hardware. . . . The relative shortfall of commercial applications for NextStep is of continuing concern. But the evaluators claimed the NextStep development environment outweighs this issue. . . . From a developer perspective, the evaluators said NextStep for Intel has no peer. Starting with the complement of developer tools such as Interface Builder and extending to the enhanced and simplified Unix utility programs, NextStep has few rivals as an operating environment, the evaluators said.

Computerworld, June 14, 1993