Jobs NeXT-logo-designed-by-Paul-Rand

I saw the Movie Steve Jobs on the flight back to California from Abu Dhabi. It brought back some old memories. I was present at Davies Symphony Hall on Sept 19, 1990 for the announcement of NeXt computer. If I remember right, Steve Jobs said that he already had orders for 15,000! That turned out to be a little bit of an exaggeration.

In 1992 Novell acquired USL (UNIX Systems Lab) from AT&T and became the owner of UNIX operating system. That made me the Czar of UNIX as it was I who had done the deal and USL reported to me. USL had distributed UNIX as source level product to OEMs ,who ported it to their various processors and distributed along with the hardware to their customers.

I felt the companies like Sun had a hard business model; they were doing the Sparc Chips and competing with Intel; system boxes and competing with Compaq; and doing UNIX and competing with Microsoft. And all this on a relatively low volume platform! I felt that Novell could level the playing field with Windows NT by converting UNIX into a binary product running on the same hardware as NT. In that case UNIX and NT would compete on their own merit. UNIX was a mature OS and had a very good SMP version while NT was still maturing and was only a single processor implementation.

I can’t recall the exact date but I think it was in late 1992, I got a call from Steve Jobs requesting a meeting. We agreed to meet for a dinner at Gaylords restaurant in Menlo Park. Steve liked Indian food and Gaylords was his favorite. Steve showed up with an entourage for our dinner. Gaylords already knew what Steve wanted and there was no need to order. Steve told me that I would like what he had pre-ordered.

He got to the point very quickly. What the hell was Novell up to with UNIX? I told him what we were trying to do. He got very upset and started to shout at me profanely. He said that it was the dumbest thing he had ever heard. As food started to get delivered he got very agitated as things were not to his liking. He told me that we should look at NeXT OS UI to compete with Windows UI. I told him that our focus on server side and not on the desk top side. Again he thought that was an even dumber thing and started to berate me. Then he abruptly got up and left, leaving me to eat alone and pick up the tab.

Movie resonated with me. Steve Job I remember from that night night was portrayed truly in the movie.





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