Daniel Eran Dilger in San Francisco
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Microsoft’s Stephen Elop takeover of Nokia VS. NeXT’s Steve Jobs takeover of Apple

Daniel Eran Dilger

For a historian, the only thing more fun than seeing how history repeats is examining what elements do change as events recycle. Looking at Microsoft’s takeover of Nokia, I can’t help but contrast NeXT’s takeover of Apple Computer in 1996. Despite the similarities, there are stark differences that promise to make the results predictably different.
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This all happened before

Apple was in dire straits in the mid-90s, with a dead end platform that it had been struggling to reinvent or retrofit for the last half decade. But it did still have customers and a strong brand. Nokia is now in much the same position, struggling to keep its profits up while the smartphone industry it helped to originate is being pulled out from under its feet by none other than Apple itself, as well as a series iPhone knockoffs mostly powered by Google’s Android software.

Like the Old Apple, Nokia’s problem isn’t that it can’t build hardware, but rather that its software platform is simply failing to remain competitive with more modern alternatives. Also like Old Apple, Nokia realized that it couldn’t develop its own way out, because it simply didn’t have enough time to start from scratch again.

So like the Old Apple, Nokia looked at its options. It could align itself with a platform popular amongst nerds, one that served as essentially a slicker-looking version of its own. For Nokia, this meant replacing Symbian with Android, while for the Old Apple this would have meant replacing its old Mac OS with BeOS.

The problem for both Nokia and the Old Apple, however, is that they weren’t incorporated to impress nerds, but rather to return a profit to shareholders. Neither Android nor BeOS represented software that could make those companies profitable or unique; they would simply make them cooler amongst a small population that doesn’t put its money where its mouth is.

Instead, Apple went with NeXT, while Nokia went with Microsoft. NeXT was originally a competitor to the Mac OS, intended to deliver a more sophisticated experience based on better quality development tools, a more standardized and modern OS underpinning, and a stronger set of business-friendly features. One could say the same of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile/WP7 compared to Nokia’s Symbian.

Why OS X is on the iPhone, but not the PC: History of NeXT

This is the part where things diverge

Once the Old Apple acquired NeXT, it inherited an initially reluctant CEO who turned around and revamped the company into a viable entity, mercilessly slashing all sorts of products that had little realistic commercial prospects or which could simply be better replaced by open technologies.

Steve Jobs was so active in killing off dubious projects and products that “steved” became a verb within the company. Jobs steved the Newton OS and its MessagePad and eMate, QuickDraw 3D (shifting Apple’s efforts behind OpenGL instead), QuickTime Interactive and HyperCard 3.0 (both of which were essentially competing with the web), QuickDraw GX (replaced with a new, open PDF-based imaging model conceptually derived from NeXT’s Display PostScript) a confusing series of PowerMac models, and a bin of other old legacy, ranging from serial ports and other proprietary connectors to software that was falling behind the times. In its place he created a clear, very limited set of new products: Mac OS, iMac, the G4, and so on.

Nokia’s new boss is, in contrast, at least saying that everything Nokia is doing will remain in place before gradually fading away into a WP7 future. The company is still planning to release its next MeeGo device as an “experiment,” and continuing to push out Symbian releases. Elop has even suggested there will be minimal layoffs due to the Microsoft deal saving it so much in forward research and development costs. Really?

Unlike the series of decisive, hard choices made by Jobs, Elop appears to be consistently saying that Nokia will simply proceed forward with little real disruption or change thanks to a huge influx of billions of dollars from Microsoft.

Recall that in the Apple acquisition of NeXT, the money went from Apple to NeXT while the product went from NeXT to Apple, a transaction that makes sense. Here, Nokia is getting huge amounts of money to shift its products to WP7, a platform that indisputably bombed in the marketplace.

That’s not a straightforward business transaction; it sounds more like a bribe to influence a terrible decision. Microsoft desperately needs customers for WP7, and Nokia desperately needs an OS strategy, very much like NeXT and the Old Apple each did fifteen years ago. How they’ll work to make that happen is clearly different.

How CPR Saved Apple

This sort of thing takes time

Jobs hoped to transition Apple’s product line to use his own NeXTSTEP rapidly, but feedback from users and developers pushed that transition back for five years until the first mainstream release of Mac OS X 10.2 in 2002. Over all those years in the middle, Jobs’ Apple worked to sell the existing Macintosh as best it could, marketing Mac OS 8 and 9 as interim products and creating markets around Pro Apps, then iLife apps including iTunes, and integrating new products like iPod.

Nokia hopes to hit the ground running, with new WP7 phones due as early as the end of the year. Nokia might do well to consider who its customers are, and why they might want WP7 phones given that nobody in the market currently does. Would it be because Nokia has trumpeted an “open software” message for years in backing Maemo/MeeGo Linux and launching the open source Symbian Foundation (even assaulting the iPhone for not being “open”)? There was far more similarity between NeXT and Macs in terms of user experience and even development than there is between Symbian or Linux and Windows Phone 7. Won’t Nokia’s customers notice the swap?

At the same time, both Nokia and Microsoft have proven themselves incapable of launching new supporting devices and services. Nokia’s Internet Tablets are a flop, as is its iTunes-like Ovi services. Its attempt to launch mobile gaming with N-Gage was also a huge boondoggle. It’s hard to point out any risky new endeavors Nokia has taken that have ever paid off, in contrast to Apple’s new apps and services and products over the past decade. Microsoft has suffered a similar series of flops, from SPOT watches to PlaysForSure music stores to the Zune to KIN to various tablet failures and even a faltering weakness in its core Windows business. How are these two crippled ostriches going to take flight together?

Remember too that two years ago, Microsoft partnered up with LG to push Windows Mobile 6.5 and build a Mobile Marketplace of apps. That collapsed, resulting in the need to start from scratch in developing WP7 as an alternative. After that collapsed too, Microsoft has started over again with Nokia. How many years does Microsoft have to rerelease its platform before a complete lack of buyers will catch up to it? What market exists for WP7, were it even possible to put it on Nokia hardware in a reasonably short period of time?

And with the window of opportunity closing rapidly, why is Nokia talking about potential WP7 phones as being vaporware still nearly a year away, rather than building a path towards its future with relevant products to sell along the way, as Jobs did once he realized everything was going to take longer than planned? One problem Nokia has is that it can’t simply rename WP7 “Symbian ^4” and pretend that this is a simple transition, because it doesn’t own its future. It’s throwing away everything it owns to adopt Microsoft’s future, while talking like nothing is being thrown away at all.

Steve Jobs Ends iPhone SDK Panic: Less than totally open
Windows Phone 7: Microsoft’s third failed attempt to be Apple
Did Microsoft kill Android at Mobile World Congress 2009?

Selling a good product vs paying for sales of a bad one

It’s useful to point out that NeXTSTEP, while a very highly regarded product from 1988 through Apple’s late-1996 acquisition, was mostly a commercial failure. The company created high profile partnerships with IBM, HP and Sun, all of which abandoned NeXT before actually delivering anything. But what products NeXT did build got respect. And those that paid a premium for them did so for high end reasons, among them being the CIA and NSA, brokerage houses, cutting edge developers, even the creator of the web itself.

NeXT didn’t have a technology problem, it had a marketing and sales problem. It couldn’t get its foot in the door to sell its product. Further, the PC market was monopolized by Windows, with Apple sucking up all the remaining scraps due to its position as the minority alternative platform. NeXT needed a partner capable of productizing its technical strengths and selling them to a ready, hungry audience.

In stark contrast, Microsoft has partnered with nearly everyone in the smartphone hardware business, and most of them have produced Windows Mobile phones. Each partnership has been a failure, not because those companies abandoned Microsoft, but because Microsoft failed to deliver a good product. Even Microsoft’s staunchest supporters have nothing good to say about Windows Mobile, a wheezing, clumsy, stupid dog of a product that was simply given a facelift to become WP7.

While Microsoft’s enthusiast supporters oohed and awed over the Zune-like interface of WP7, they didn’t convince anyone to actually buy the phones last fall. It’s certainly not some incredible technology in search of wider distribution. The only thing great about Microsoft’s mobile software is the amount of money Microsoft is willing to spend to promote it.

On the one side, Nokia clearly doesn’t have a ready, hungry audience for its high end products. Despite an entrenched position in the mobile business, Nokia largely sells low end phones, and has not been able to match Apple’s iPhone, nor the iPod touch, not even to mention the iPad. So while there are some similarities, there are also some vast differences that hold out little hope that Elop’s efforts to shift Nokia to a Microsoft platform will work out anything like Jobs’ efforts to move Apple to NeXT.

There’s another repetition of history occurring in the new muddling of Microkia, which I’ll address tomorrow.

39 comments

1 adobephile { 02.13.11 at 9:28 pm }

As I study to become an iOS developer, I realize more and more the magnitude of effort it will take to somehow truly meet or beat Apple’s impressive development system. No committee, or corporate body, or bunch of geeks without some sort of inspired guidance along the way could hope for any substantial success.

2 lmasanti { 02.13.11 at 9:44 pm }

Another difference is that Steve founded the company.
This means, he is up to his heart inside it.
This makes possible that he earns $1- a year and works more than Ballmer or Elop ever did.

(Of course, not to mention his charism.)

3 stormj { 02.13.11 at 9:55 pm }

@adobephile’s point is well taken. One of the dumbest features of the tech industry is all of the major players’ compulsion to make their own version of everything. Why?

Why does Microsoft need a phone? Why does Google need a social network? Why does Apple need Ping, for that matter?

I think part of the answer may be in how Microsoft shaped the industry by screwing over its partners. It started to take everything over. First, its own operating system. Then its own Internet browser, etc. etc.

Microsoft would serve its shareholders well to STFU and continue to make Windows, Office and a few of its other successful products, like Dynamics, and, perhaps if present trends continue, the X-box.

But how many times does it have to fail in the mobile space before it just stops wasting money on it?

4 kdaeseok { 02.13.11 at 11:34 pm }

Nonetheless, interesting marriage that. Nokia hardware+WP7.

5 addicted44 { 02.14.11 at 12:05 am }

@stormj – Ping is just ridiculous. There is no reason for Apple to have been wasting time on it.

MS needs to be in the Mobile business because it will be a direct competitor to MS’s desktop business. A lot of people are not going to buy desktop/laptops in the future, but rather, simply use their cellphones (this is already the case in Japan), or iPad like devices.

Google needs to be in the social network arena because of the fear that Facebook will become people’s starting point on the internet. Currently, FB is partnered with Bing for Web Search, so if that happens, Google is screwed.

Neither of these companies are going to stop trying in either of these spaces.

6 Mike { 02.14.11 at 12:12 am }

Dan, all these articles coming out are turning trolls blue in the face… they can’t keep up ;)

7 salvo.dan { 02.14.11 at 1:15 am }

@stormj
@addicted44
The reason Apple created Ping as a standalone Social Network was that Facebook wouldn’t come to the party. If you recall, Facebook Connect was part of Ping for the first few days, then mysteriously disappeared due to some disagreement.
Facebook makes money from selling Advertising and User Data. The iTunes Store makes money reselling other people’s content and as a vehicle for iPod sales. I suspect that Facebook wanted more from Apple than Apple wanted from Facebook.

8 nextguy { 02.14.11 at 4:47 am }

As if they didn’t learn from Palm…

9 mikeg { 02.14.11 at 5:41 am }

An excellent article with a compelling history comparison. On a slightly different note, I happened to watch the HP video introducing the new WebOS products. Personally, I was reasonably impressed with what I saw in the product demos (understanding they were prototypes and Palm devices haven’t been market leaders), but HP has a long road ahead of it in this market. Any thoughts of how the upcoming HP product line might provide additional challenges to the Microsoft-Nokia alliance or even to the Andriod market?

10 Berend Schotanus { 02.14.11 at 5:43 am }

Well said, Dan. I especially agree upon the notion that Microsoft paying Nokia for featuring WP7 is a bad thing.

There’s another repetition of history occurring in the new muddling of Microkia, which I’ll address tomorrow.

In my eyes Microkia is more about mass than about innovation. The first comparison that comes to my mind is General Motors: you have a company employing 10,000′s of people and your product is getting out of fashion, what do you do? Immediate bankruptcy is not an option, too many people are having too much interest. A gradual process of decay is more likely.

B.T.W funny how I said 1.5 years ago: “Don’t be surprised when the Windows Mobile 7 / Zunephone appears to be a Microsoft/Nokia phone.” (… what was that … a “Zunephone”… ? :-)

11 Etreiyu { 02.14.11 at 7:02 am }

@ Salvo.dan – “reselling” content? check your business dictionary.

OT: “tie two birds together, and though they have four wings, they cannot fly.”

12 tamajama { 02.14.11 at 8:16 am }

Nokia is in bed with M$, who will still be playing the field. No exclusivity…didn’t this happen once before with IBM?

13 tundraboy { 02.14.11 at 8:49 am }

Of MS I couldn’t care less but it’s sad to see Nokia, the pride of the Finnish tundra, dying a slow, agonizing death.

14 Ludor { 02.14.11 at 9:20 am }

Good post, Dilger. Just one short outbreak of entitlement: sometimes I think it would be cool if your statements had links. Like the ones about who actually bought and used NeXT products. It wouldn’t look better, it would probably be annoying to read. But it would also move readers to look things up for themselves. How about it? If this is stupid – my apologies.

Moving on: does hard sales numbers of the Zune and WP7 actually exist? Anywhere?

15 gus2000 { 02.14.11 at 11:50 am }

“…Windows Mobile [is] a wheezing, clumsy, stupid dog of a product…”

You owe an apology to dog owners everywhere. No way my dog is THAT dumb!!!

16 John E { 02.14.11 at 12:46 pm }

great analysis of the historic parallels.

but – the blanket bad-mouthing of everything MS and Nokia have done is overdone. sure there are plenty of flops, but not utterly everything.

for one such thing, if we agree that “ecosystems” are key, as even Elop said – and i do – MS and Nokia both bring modest successes with them. Windows Live is making progress. it is still a mess in my opinion, but thanks to the XBox it is getting traction in the market. likewise, Nokia’s Ovi has been building a large base thanks to its bundling with Nokia devices for two years, including most of the featurephones. and Nokia has been gradually improving its multiple web services. Ovi at least has an understandable unified front to the user, which MS has never been able to manage.

There is clearly the potential to integrate these services, keeping the best aspects of each. and combined they would have a very large installed base of users internationally that should make them formidable.

but – and maybe the next post will address this – i doubt MS and Nokia will succeed in that. both have proven to have a very hard time simplifying and executing their products – alone. and that’s without the internal corporate power struggles that are sure to break out between them over one detail after another now. the Nokia software/web people know they are on the chopping block and will fight stubbornly just to survive. the MS people are drooling at expanding their power and will totally ignore cleaning up their own stuff. so the ecosystems will finally be bolted to each other in some klutzy way – with Windows in front and adding some chunks from Nokia – instead of rebuilt jointly from ground up, which is what they need.

still … Nokia has a huge global installed base of users. if it can hold them, fending off the competition from the Androids on one side and the no-names on the other, by making WP7 relevant to them (right now it seems aimed at XBox users), there is a chance for success. or at least survival. we’ll see.

17 Alan { 02.14.11 at 1:05 pm }

Nokia probably should have bought Blackberry when they were smaller or even attempted to partner with them now to share a common OS. Maybe a marriage of Blackberry and MeeGo? I am not saying that would have threatened iOS or Android, but as far as a last ditch effort to at least be a player it makes more sense than going with WP7. Nokia does have some pretty good phones in terms of the hardware and their actual call quality and antenna performance is second to none. They just got left behind in the OS race. If they didn’t want to continue with their own OS development anymore, at least go with a winner like Android instead of WP7 that really no one really seems to want or care about.

Elop is probably correct when he predicted that eventually RIM will be forced to make a similar decision and go with either Android or WP7. Their OS really looks tired and dated and all their perceived advantages like push are now available on iOS and Android. WebOS is probably safe because HP is a huge company with profits from other categories so they can afford to stick around and keep introducing new phones and tablets for a while.

Why would anyone buy a Symbian or Meego phone this year when they just announced both are a dead platform? Nokia seems pretty desperate and that seems like a pretty stupid strategy too far in the future. Had they made this announcement and then concurrently showed off 3 or 4 Nokia phones with WP7 ready for sale, then at least that would have made more sense. But a year from now?

I think it is pretty clear that Apple and Android together will control around 85% of the market in the not so distant future with RIM, WP7, and WebOS left fighting for the scraps. There is certainly room for a third or fourth competing OS in the smart phone market, but just great hardware specs and even a great OS is not enough anymore. It is all about the apps now.

18 kerryb { 02.14.11 at 1:29 pm }

Nokia’s fate was set when it hired an ex-Microsoft crony. Once along with Ericsson, Nokia was the pride of the Nordic nations. Corporate culture will claim another victim in due time, evolve or die, or nowadays just become an Android or WP7 clone.

19 Alan { 02.14.11 at 1:34 pm }

I didn’t realize that Microsoft is giving Nokia billions to make this switch. I wonder how companies like HTC will react since not only do they not receive billions from Microsoft to make a WP7 phone, they actually have to pay Microsoft. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nokia will be the only WP7 maker next year as the other companies just decide to abandon it completely and focus on Android.

20 JPTJr { 02.14.11 at 2:00 pm }

Alan – that is an excellent point. With the main terms of the MS-Nokia public and anemic sales of WP7 at the other manufacturers, there will be enormous pressure on MS to pay up or risk losing phones. OUCH!

21 John E { 02.14.11 at 2:28 pm }

yup. all the other OEM’s will pretty much drop WP7 soon now. they’ve been blindsided by MS (once again!).

but then all they are left with is Android (except for Samsung with Bada – if it is real). so we will see more and more customization of Android by each OEM. and their own ecosystems too. oh, plus their own customized Android tablets. aka “fragmentation.”

and then they will all have to pay Oracle to boot. what a mess.

22 Alan { 02.14.11 at 2:31 pm }

I don’t care how deep your pockets are, Microsoft can’t afford to throw away billions with no chance of getting anything close to that back in return. That money could have been better spent bribing Android makers to use Bing and other Microsoft apps as defaults for Android, RIM, and Web OS devices. Let Google spend all the money on R&D for the OS and then reap the financial rewards for ad clicks for search. Isn’t Bing already the default for some Verizon Android phones? I bet Google can’t be too happy about that, but they were the ones who let the carriers do what they wanted with customization so they have no one to blame but themselves.

23 HCE { 02.14.11 at 2:35 pm }

In all fairness to Microsoft, Windows Phone 7 seems to be a fairly good product. Pretty much every review I read liked the OS (though they all said that there were missing features and that it was at least a year behind the leaders). Microsoft *can* make good products – WP7 seems decent enough and the new Kinect might actually make the XBox a success. I think the problem is that there may not be enough room in the market for a third mobile ecosystem after iOS and Android. Still, I think the Nokia deal is the best chance for Microsoft to succeed in this market. They have the biggest smartphone installed base and they are focusing on WP7 exclusively. It will be interesting to watch what happens.

The one thing that puzzles me about this announcement is how dramatic it was. I might have expected something like this but I thought Nokia would go about it a little more cautiously – say, by saying that WP7 would be their primary strategy for the North American market and then (once the phones were in place) moving on to other markets. Now they two dead platforms walking and no WP7 phones for most of this year. Who’s going to buy all these Symbian devices?

– HCE

24 cadillac88 { 02.14.11 at 3:35 pm }

Nokia has saved one bullet and one last stand. The yet to be released Maemo or Meego phone. Who knows. At least we’ll all see what they got.
If that doesn’t pan out then it will be a rocky road.
As Dan has previously blogged, licensed OS’s have become very risky. From windows to Android. None of the handset vendors have an exclusive arrangement to use only one licenced OS. All are at least hedging their bets. Even Nokia to a lesser extent it would seem. If this MS thing goes down the tubes they will still have a few billion to pick up where they left off. We’ll know that Elop was a mole if they haven’t got anything in skunkworks to reveal when the time should look as if it has come.
We should assume Elop is not a mole and is intimately aware of MS’s double dealings and has make some sort of disaster plan plans with those billions. Else this is so farfetched that there is no way he could have gotten a unanimous show of hands at the board. Mobile is such a small part of the MS bottom line I can’t see anyone not seeing who has by far the most to lose in the short term. Of course, there is the long term to consider and there things are a bit more equal.

25 kilroywashere { 02.14.11 at 3:39 pm }

An interesting question is…what will happen to the trolltech Qt libraries now that Nokia doesn’t need a modern GUI api anymore.

26 elppa { 02.14.11 at 4:18 pm }

@Alan

RIM brought QNX. They have a decent platform to build on. My main concern with RIM is their developer story. Or should that be stories: Air, WebWorks, emulated Android apps — it seems to change every week.

And one of RIMs advantages now is BBM, not push. To me it says a lot that other OEMs didn’t club together to build an open alternative to negate the advantage of this simple (but very well implemented) service.

They also have a strong brand and very good relationships with many carriers around the world, which shouldn’t be underestimated. RIM are able to keep their selling prices reasonably high with hardware which can’t hold a torch (pun intended) to iPhone 4 and better Android devices.

27 John E { 02.14.11 at 4:50 pm }

But RIM has not yet shown it has the skill to produce a first rate smartphone OS (let alone a tablet). the Storm and Torch attempts to update the BB OS were weak. So why will their QNX products turn out better?

Apple and Android have been pealing away RIM’s consumer customers this last year. but it might be HP that kills them with WebOS. because HP also has a very strong enterprise division, RIM’s core business. if HP is smart they will aim there instead of the general consumer market.

RIM should have bought Palm and adopted WebOS, that alone might have saved their butt. Now i see them going down the same road of no return as Palm did … maybe Sumsung will buy what’s left one day.

28 adobephile { 02.14.11 at 5:48 pm }

Apple can cement its lead and dominance–almost irrespective of Mr. Jobs’ continued presence–as long as it preserves and continues to execute its successful actions with respect to the core design and functioning of both OS X and iOS, as these are the company’s strengths. Because of its OOP design, it can be easily scaled up and down to suit whatever application, thereby aiding if not ensuring maximum compatibility and interoperability amongst the products in its ecosystem.

I don’t think anything else out there now even comes close to the simplicity and elegance of Apple’s IDE. And THAT would be the main challenge of any would-be competitor: to somehow match and/or outdo the capabilities of OS X/iOS.

29 JPTJr { 02.15.11 at 7:57 am }

@ HCE

I haven’t used WP7, but I trust you when you say it’s decent. The two very major issues for WP7, however – issues that I believe cannot be overcome – are ecosystem and time to market. When potential customers look at the iPhone / Android / WP7 side-by-side, the novel interface of WP7 won’t be near enough to outweigh the lack of apps. Perhaps more importantly, WP7 is late, late, late. Nokia announced they’d have a phone toward the end of 2011! That is an absolute eternity in a market growing by 50-100% per year. MS won’t push its first update with basic improvements (cut-and-paste) until next month, 5 months after the first phones shipped. This will not fly. What happened in those 5 months? What will happen in the remainder of 2011 until Noikia ships its first phone meant to define its future? It’s over.

30 tundraboy { 02.15.11 at 8:12 am }

In an industry that is probably the most competitive today, why hire a CEO who honed his chops in a company that succeeds only in markets where they have monopoly power? There are certain skills that Microsoft executives do not have, like appealing to a consumer when he/she has the luxury of choice. When confronted with serious competition, the only weapon Microsoft has in its arsenal is “throw money at the damned thing”.

And now Elop has hired another MS castoff to head Nokia USA.

31 itdoug { 02.15.11 at 10:14 am }

Thought you also might mention that a similar plan was used by Palm to use Windows Phone (or whatever it was called at the time) to replace the Palm OS. Didn’t work for them and I don’t see it working for Nokia either.

32 Brian Willoughby { 02.15.11 at 4:58 pm }

@DED
I think that you were overly critical of BeOS in this article. They were never merely another Mac OS, or just aimed at the tiny Mac-head niche, but were rather a promising potential competitor for NeXT. The real issue at the time was that BeOS was unfinished. NeXT had been shipping for about three years, with Fortune 500 businesses basing their core computing on NEXTSTEP, so when the idea was pitched to Apple that NeXT should be considered, BeOS just looked like a baby. That, and the fact that Jean-Louis Gassée requested far more money for his unfinished pride and joy than NeXT’s $420 million.

@Ludor
I think your suggestion is great. I come here to read because the technical facts are nearly always correct, and that never seems to happen anywhere else in media. Links would only improve the situation. I don’t think it would be too messy, because there are already in-line links that are not even woven into the narrative.

For a taste of those companies that bought and used NeXT products, I offer Dell and UBS.

Dell was one of the first companies to discover the lucrative potential for online sales of hardware. This was before Amazon.com became the first web-only company. Dell was successful at selling so many computers largely because they launched their web site on WebObjects from NeXT. I do not recall whether Dell was hosting their site on their own server hardware or Sun’s, but the key was that it was NeXT software technology. Dell’s success with non-Microsoft solutions eventually caused the latter to fully fund a several-year effort to re-develop Dell’s web site on MS technology, something that proved far more difficult and expensive without NeXT’s WebObjects.

NeXT also saw a big customer base in Fortune 500, banking, and Wall Street investment firms. They used the high-reliability of the NEXTSTEP operating system to run their trading floor and core business. Warburg Dillon Read, Swiss Bank Corporation, Union Back of Switzerland, and USB AG, who were eventually known as USB Warburg, based their financial trading system on NEXTSTEP for Intel long before Apple came into the picture, and they were still maintaining the systems years later because it was so reliable.

There are more stories of specific businesses using NeXT tech, but some have obviously been inflated by NeXTophiles.

@John E.
You raised some good points. Even with the Apple+NeXT story, there was serious clashing between the old-Apple guard and the new folks from NeXT. Some of these battles lasted for years after the merger. Unknown to many Mac-heads, we lost a lot of great features from NEXTSTEP because the Apple folks didn’t want to think different. What’s really surprising is that NeXT had the usability tests to back up their design choices, while Apple’s choices were dated and not so recently confirmed by usability tests. It’s sad to have witnesses unique features of NEXTSTEP which made the system much more streamlined to use, go missing because of hard-headed NIH attitudes from old-Apple.

In other words, if these battles happened at Apple, then you’re absolutely right that they’ll happen between Microsoft and Nokia.

33 macsdounix { 02.15.11 at 9:05 pm }

Daniel,
This is great stuff, and it is a pleasure to read your work. I hope that you are finding some way to monetize your efforts, other than working for appleinsider.
All the best,
MDU

34 The Mad Hatter { 02.16.11 at 7:27 am }

A year and a half ago I made the prediction that Microsoft would enter Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in five years. I got laughed at. But…

You look at the things that have happened in the last year and a half, and they all back up my conclusion. Microsoft is failing, and failing fast.

35 tundraboy { 02.16.11 at 9:57 am }

@TheMadHatter. “A year and a half ago I made the prediction that Microsoft would enter Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in five years. I got laughed at.”

Well, I’m still laughing. Microsoft doesn’t have a lot of debt or physical plant. If business craters for them, they’ll just layoff people and sell any real estate. So vastly diminished, not improbable. Bankruptcy, no. Even if the OS business crumbles, MS Office will still be a cash cow, MS will just port it to whatever OS is out there.

36 The Mad Hatter { 02.16.11 at 4:03 pm }

tundraboy,

Don’t know a lot about business, do you? Assuming that Microsoft dumped every employee except those in accounting who were collecting the cash, yes, they could last a while. However the company has huge costs through out the system – go read their SEC filings and see for yourself.

37 FreeRange { 02.17.11 at 4:14 pm }

Apparently when you leave your job at microsoft you have a big “MORON” tattooed to your forehead as you have no real clue how to run a non-monopoly business. Why in the world would you announce this joint effort to the world up to a year before you can actually implement it in new devices, and before you’ve had time to effectively prepare/ transition your huge installed user base? Nothing says “abandon my brand” like “I’m going to dump the OS you are now using, because it has no future and I sold you crap, and we will not have something new to replace it for you for the next 12 months or so!

This is why Apple has such tight security on info leaks on new products et al. (Remember the intel switch that went so smoothly after it wasn’t announced until products were ready.) It is a competitive advantage to keep secrets and protect the existing business – sell what you have. Now all loyal Nokia users have been told / given permission to look for something else that is better because what they are using has no future. And that something new and better most certainly won’t be MSFT/Nokia handsets. ROFLOL at this one.

38 adobephile { 02.17.11 at 4:52 pm }

@FreeRange: So very well put. The last Nokia phone I had was one of those shaped kinda like a parking meter with its keys arranged in a circle. Pretty strange.

I stood in line for the first iPhone, gladly paying $600. Never looked back.

39 Google wants to be Apple as much as Microsoft did. But can Motorola help? — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 08.15.11 at 8:46 pm }

[...] Why is Google playing the Cold War patent game in the age of patent terrorism? Microsoft’s Stephen Elop takeover of Nokia VS. NeXT’s Steve Jobs takeover of Apple [...]

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