I want to clear up some crazy hype that has formed around Apple’s acquisition of NeXT as of late. Since Steve Jobs’ passing, there’s been a lot of attention, and a bit of revisionist history about the past.
Back when Apple was burying Copland, there was a hurry for a new platform. Basically, it was down to two key rivals; BeOS and OpenStep (previously NeXTStep). Solaris and some oddball deal for Windows NT were also on the table, but weren’t main choices.
Now it has come to the table that Apple bought NeXT because of ambitions to move to Intel. Well, not really.
Apple needed a modern kernel that wasn’t rooted in machine code. BeOS and OpenStep were great candidates for this. Windows NT too had shown it could exist on PowerPC and Intel at the same time, which was why Apple was eyeballing the platform too.
Really though, this wasn’t the main reason. Apple has always had ambitions to run Mac OS on Intel. This dates back to the Star Trek project, which began a good decade before there was even the idea that Apple would be in the shape it was in by the late nineties.
Steve’s passing has opened up a lot of history… people who weren’t there, weren’t rooting for Apple at the time, and even those that patently disliked Apple at the time… all want to know how Apple got to where it is. But, those that grandstand grand plans, will make history a bit too blurry to set the story straight down the road.
To be clear, Apple acquired NeXT because OpenStep matched BeOS in terms of being a potent operating system platform that Apple could build on. What gave NeXT the edge, was Steve Jobs himself, who was grooming Apple leadership to give him the bid.
For what it’s worth, Intel’s x86 talents would not give them an edge in the PC world until after Motorola spun off its PowerPC assets… there was, after all, plenty of competition in PowerPC, provided by Motorola, IBM, and newcomers like Exponential (which now as Intrinsity makes advances in ARM… but that’s for another day).