In the late 1990s, Apple was in big trouble. The company’s effort to come up with a new operating system had failed. Thankfully, Apple’s CEO Gil Amelio made the best business decision he’s ever made.
In a spectacularly humbling moment for Apple, the company began searching for a company from which it could buy or license an operating system or, at the least, use as the foundation of a new version of Mac OS. The company’s management, led by CEO Gil Amelio and CTO Ellen Hancock, clearly had come to the conclusion that Apple itself was incapable of building the next-generation Mac OS…
The two most obvious targets were small companies with operating systems that had the modern features Apple wanted most. Both were, perhaps unsurprisingly, being run by former Apple executives.
In one corner was Be, Inc., run by Jean-Louis Gasseé. Be was developing a new, modern graphical interface from scratch, and it ran on the same PowerPC chips Apple used at the time. You could even reboot from Mac OS into BeOS on certain Power Mac models. BeOS was gorgeous, fast, and offered advanced search capabilities that were far ahead of its time. Its biggest liability was that it was unfinished, so if Apple were to buy it, there would be a huge amount of development ahead of it.
In the other corner was NeXT, founded by Steve Jobs. Although perhaps a bit less cutting-edge than BeOS, NextStep was a more complete package, and it also had the Steve Jobs factor. Amelio and Hancock were apparently convinced, and brokered a $400 million deal to buy NeXT and bring Jobs back to Apple in an advisory role… NextStep, that operating system that came over in the deal, was essentially the core of Mac OS X. The software decisions made at NeXT in the 1990s reverberate to this day, in code that runs not just on the Mac, but on all of Apple’s devices — iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.
MacDailyNews Take: Despite his short tenure (February 2, 1996 – July 9, 1997), that one decision places Gil Amelio among the best CEOs that Apple’s ever had.
There’s much more in the recommended full article here.