THE NeXT WORLD

Pilgrim's Progress

Dan Ruby Most months, we at NeXTWORLD find ourselves caught up in the issue of the moment the latest twist or turn in the long-running soap opera we call the NeXT market. These monthly blips on the screen provide a nearly real-time reading of the flow of events.

In our role as the chronicler of the evolving NeXT world, we periodically take a moment to present a stop-action snapshot of the market. This is when we dip our measuring rods into the available data to provide benchmarks for evaluating the progress of various market segments.

We did this last in our Summer 1992 issue with NeXTWORLD's first listing of top NEXTSTEP customer sites. This time, we've broken out the top 50 sites by industry grouping, to give a better idea of the breadth of the NeXT market. Research on the list was done entirely in-house by Assistant Editor Paul Curthoys, with direction from Managing Editor Eliot Bergson. Because customer lists are so proprietary, we got very little help from NeXT itself or from any of the major third-party vendors. Therefore, the list is composed of publicly known sites for which we were able to acquire verifiable data.

For our second market benchmark in this issue, we update another NeXTWORLD tradition with the return of Dock Soup, a comprehensive index of rated NEXTSTEP products drawn from the last 18 months of NeXTWORLD product reviews. Ever since we dropped Dock Soup as a monthly feature, we have heard regular requests from readers to bring it back. For those of you who have had to search through back issues to find a dimly remembered review, it will serve as a handy reference guide to shipping NEXTSTEP products. The list was compiled by Associate Designer Beth Kamoroff, with direction from Senior Reviews Editor Dan Lavin.

In our previous market snapshot, we included a customer survey covering attitudes and buying trends. While we plan such a research project this year, it was not ready for inclusion in this issue.

Customers and third-party products are the two of the most reliable measures of the strength of this market. Unfortunately, because of the lag time involved in both software development and customer-purchase cycles, both measures are trailing indicators.

Recent activity that may be very promising is not reflected in the listings. Thus, we don't see many of NeXT's newest customer sites, where today's small prototype project may turn into tomorrow's enterprisewide deployment. Nor does Dock Soup reveal the many interesting software products that have been announced but are not yet shipping.

Looking at the lists, I am struck once again by the sense of transition. A lot of monthly blips have passed since our last survey, including the cataclysm that hit almost exactly one year ago. Therefore, we find missing from the lists many prominent names from NEXTSTEP's past. On the other hand, we find here the old standbys the Swiss Banks and William Morrises, the HSDs and Insignias that have weathered the storm and emerged ready for the new challenge. Finally, lead time or not, we see the beginnings of a new roster of players who are signing up for the challenge of the object future.

This year, NeXT will ship its foundation product on two new platforms and further define its leadership position in the emerging object wars. Next year, when we once again get out our measuring rods, we'll see how much impact these developments have had on the growth of the NeXT market.

Dan Ruby is NeXTWORLD's editor in chief.