How Apple evolved NeXTSTEP into Mac OS X

With the beginning of 1996, Apple realized that with the next generation PC’s running Windows NT to be released within the decade, they would need a new, modern operating system to run on their machines. Most in the industry were certain that Apple would choose Be, whose operating system, BeOS, already ran on Apple’s newest computers.

Amongst Apple’s other options were to license Solaris from Sun, NT from Microsoft, or to purchase a small net services company called NeXT which Apple ultimately chose. osOpinion/osViews has an article which explores Apple’s historical transition to today’s OS X.

Full article here.


  1. There is much, much more on that history. There are some things that never will be said. I remember that, on that time, they told that, with Steve on vacation, the people at NeXT went to Apple to show their OS and negotiate the buy-sell process. However, I think that Steve-o went on “vacation” in a convenient moment… Who knows? The history is written by the winners…

  2. My college had all NeXt computers in the mid 90s. I loved them. I remember most fondly doing voice emails that were editable. They were a blast.
    Would love to see that built into Mail…

  3. An interesting overview of what happened, but the author left out the more important details of how and why this choice was made, and how this choice impacted the initial development and still influences the current direction of Apple�s OS X development.

    For example, how were the inherent strengths and weakness of Solaris, NT, BeOS, and Unix evaluated; and how was the choice for Unix was decided over the other competing systems? Also, if the move to Unix was so intuitively obvious why didn’t Sun, Microsoft, Be, or NeXT develop the modern equivalent of OS X instead of Apple?

    I would be interested if the author is considering writing a book.

    “NT begat osX, osX begets Longhorn (someday)”

    Joe, I think you have failed to understand the meaning of pedigree. Besides, if Apple abandoned System 9 (aka Classic) to develop OS X why didn’t or doesn’t Microsoft abandon x86 for a Unix-based OS, too?

    It took Apple about 4 years to release OS X. Ten years is an excruciatingly embarrassingly long time to release nothing at all. What is the current gestation period for Longhorn?

  4. I think that by the time OS XI comes out we will be running virtual holographic 3-D displays, so the new operating system would involve all sorts of crap I can’t even think of…. so many dimensions…. perhaps just my dream though

  5. Now we’ll just have to wait a while to see Apple and Pixar do a reverse takeover of Disney. I’m sure Steve Jobs has already gone through all of the possible scenarios countless times.

    Disney already has a movie download service that runs on a crappy set-top box. After the reverse takeover, they’ll have a video iPod system where a Mac (or Windows if you don’t mind paying a little extra) downloads Pixlet-compressed HD movies onto its hard disk, and streams via Gigawire (gigabit wireless) to the iPod, which connects via DVI to a 60″ DLP Cinema display.

  6. DanK:

    But will it be UNIX (BSD) based?

    I love all of the different incantations of UNIX. Linux leaves a little to be desired, but it is “close enough” to fake it. Solaris, *BSD and Mac OS X feel close enough to each other (take a look at Solaris 10, it’s evolving a lot).

    Just before Rhapsody came out, Solaris was in a different place. The BSDs were fighting with each other and Steve ran NeXT. As far as the UNIces go, NeXTstep was very advanced from a usability stand-point. Hell, they were porting the NeXT desktop to Solaris because people liked it so much (I remember running it on my SPARC station).

    Bottom line is that Apple did the right thing. I know lots of other people wanted the next Mac OS to be BeOS, but it turned out to be a derivative of NeXT (BSD) instead. I know I switched. Not from Windows, but from UNIX. And I’m not the only UNIX geek to have done so.

  7. Well I think thats the real trick. As we’ve seen in the past, which this article points out very nicely, is that Mac OS X was a hybrid built ontop of a UNIX shell designed for modern computers, modern tasks, and modern apps. So I think we have to imagine the same philosophy (a secure UNIX system combining all the best known features of older Operating Systems) and then aply it to what new hardware will be coming out such as new ways of reading data. Would the next OS be fully universal with our common digital items? It would be nice if my PDA, digital camera, cell phone, iPod all ran on a core OS.

    With what ever happens in the future, I’m sure Apple will lead us there.

    (In 1987 Apple released the Macintosh. What will be the next apple to be released in 2087? Grannysmith?)

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