NeXTstation Intro 15 Sep 1990

Highlights from the presentation in which Steve Jobs introduced NeXT's second line of computers, the NeXTstation (nicknamed the "slab" for its pizza-box shape). The NeXTstation was more competitive than the expensive Cube but came too late to salvage NeXT's hardware business.

Video Transcript

Note: for some videos, timestamps on the transcripts might be off by a few minutes due to theĀ original videos having been edited for YouTube (typically, sections with music playing may have been removed).

Steve Jobs (SJ): Good morning. Today, we're going to introduce four new products. We're going to show you some of the neatest apps that have ever been created for any desktop platform. We're going to show you the best color that's ever been. And we're going to talk about what we think is going to be the most important new application area of the 1990s, called interpersonal computing.

People told us they loved NeXTSTEP, and that it was three, four, five years ahead of anything else they'd ever seen in the industry. And they love the fact that we built it on top of Unix. Because together this gave them the multitasking that they really wanted; it gave them the transparent networking that they needed; it gave them the object oriented development environment so that they could build applications in a third of the time; it gave them PostScript everywhere, not just on the printer, but throughout the system; it gave them multimedia; and they told us they loved how they could take computer illiterates and they could be using the system within a very short amount of time. So this is what people told us they love. We heard this over and over and over again, and it all came down to NeXTSTEP.

All four of these new products use the Motorola 6840. Every single one of them, running a 25 megahertz. And they turned out very fast. How fast? Let's take a look at a real world example. I got out Mathematica. And I use Mathematica to calculate and plot this chart. And all the NeXT 040 machines came in at 26 seconds. That's 10 times faster than the Macintosh ci's.


So we're really pleased at this performance. Let me take an opportunity to tell you a few other things that we were able to build into all of these products. Every single new product has a 2.88 megabyte floppy disc built in. That's twice the capacity of the current IBM PC world, although they're moving to this next year, we hear. And it's totally backward compatible with DOS. You stick in DOS floppies, they immediately show up in the NeXT Workspace Manager, you can read and write them all day long. The second thing we built into all four of our new products is to continue to increase our connectivity and networking capabilities. These are the first computers in the world with built in twisted pair Ethernet, right alongside the BNC for the thin Ethernet. All four new products.

And this is it. It's in a slab, sits right underneath the monitor. You'll be able to get your hands on one in a few hours. This is what it looks like. It's called NeXTstation. It's a slab, monitor, keyboard, the mouse, the software. It's what it looks like from the side. We have a new megapixel display that's the same as our old one, except it's 10 pounds lighter, has an anti-glare screen on it, it has a microphone built into the bezel.

So let's go through real briefly. It's got the 68040, running at 15 MIPS. Comes with eight megabytes of memory, expandable to 32 inside the slab. Our 2.88 megabyte floppy DOS compatible, and 155 megabyte Winchester preloaded with all the software. And you can expand that to up to 340 megabytes inside the slab. It's got twisted pair and thin Ethernet. Our mega pixel monitor, keyboard and mouse. It's got all of our sound stuff in it - DSP CD sound, microphone. And NeXTSTEP 2.0, and our bundled applications. And the complete system is $4,995, whether you want to be a standalone user or network user.

One of the neatest things to me is that we have been recognized as having the most automated factory in the computer business. Every single one of the products here today at Davies was built in that automated factory. And after we finished building the boards, the NeXTstation goes together with only seven screws.

Now we've updated the Cube as well, for 1991. We've added a floppy disc inside. An 040 board. And we've added some new storage options. In addition to the floppy disc and the 256 megabyte optical disc, which is optional in the Cube, we've added full support for CD-ROMs in our NeXTSTEP 2.0 release, and you can get a CD-ROM drive inside the Cube. And we are also announcing 1.4 gigabyte drives today. Which you can add one or two of inside the Cube for a total of up to 2.88 gigabytes in this one-foot cube to be used as a server.

For existing customers, we're offering them the same 040 board as an upgrade, with release 2.0, for $1,495. So no one is getting left behind as we speed these machines up by a factor of at least four.

And we've decided if we're going to be successful, we have to be best of breed in each of these three existing categories. So let's take a look at where we are. In terms of spreadsheet analysis, here's a sampling. Today, Lotus is going to introduce Improv. The company that invented the modern spreadsheet with 123 is going to reinvent the spreadsheet for the 1990s.

Jim Manzi: Improv takes us into an entirely new realm. Why do we choose NeXT for this fundamentally new product? Quite simply, we would not have been able to invent such revolutionary new product on any other platform. That's the absolute truth. In fact, NeXT provided far and away the best platform for us to innovate. Improv would not have been nearly so good, not nearly so innovative anywhere else. We wanted a platform and we wanted a spreadsheet, not just for next year, but for the next decade. We wanted a spreadsheet that gives users new, better ways of viewing information. And that goes hand in hand with NeXT's innovative graphical user interface, big screen and high resolution. There is categorically, no better development environment in the world.

SJ: Let's move on to publishing. In publishing, we have some equally exciting news. WordPerfect is announcing their product today. Just like Lotus, we went to the mainstream provider in the category. WordPerfect as you know, has a greater than 70% market share for mainstream word processing. And they're announcing a very fine product today. Quark XPress is also announcing a very fine product today. Quark as you know, in our opinion, is the number one provider of the high end publishing software. And we're extremely excited to have them on our platform. So we think with these products, we've got an awfully good start at the publishing market, which is one we care deeply about.

Let's talk about the third one. People want to build their own custom apps and we've heard universally that NeXTSTEP is allowing people to do this, faster than ever. Generally around a third of the time, and in a much more interactive fashion with their customers or internal users. For custom apps, I'm going to build an app today.

So I'm going to pick the customer info database. And this is now going to automatically hook me up to the customer info database. The next thing I'm going to do is get a data list here, just drag this over and stick it in the window where I want it, pull it down here. And I'm going to hook this up to my customer info database. Well, how do I do that? I simply drag a line and it's going to say, here are the databases that you have; the tables in that customer info database. You have customers with ID, last name, first name, company, name, phone address, and stuff. You have some feedback as we've been taking it off our 800 number, where they call in and give us feedback. And then we have something about their computer. Might've come from another part of the company - the CPU type, the disc size, the memory size. So I think what I'm gonna do is pick customer last name and put it in there. And then I'm going to go back to my standard Interface Builder palette, and pick a button. And I think I'll go put my button over here maybe, and I'll make my button big so you can see it. And we'll go ahead and bring up our font panel. And make our button a little bit bigger font, maybe Helvetica 24 point. Good. And I'm going to call this "Get data". And what I'm going and to do is connect it to the customer info database again, and I'm going to say select data, which is the message that we'll go ahead and get the data. And I'll go over here and I'll say, okay, test my little program out here. And this is live when I say "get data", hopefully if it's working, there's all the last names of the customers popping up in there. From the live database here on stage.

Let's go a little further. Let's go a little further. Let's go back to our database palette here. And let's grab a field. And let's go ahead and make a few of these here, we can make a bunch, but we'll just make three. Make it a little bit longer. And we'll take this one and connect it to the customer info database. And what do we want to put on here? Well, why don't we put phone number? Customer's phone number in case we want to call them. And we'll take this one and connect it to the database. And maybe on this one, we'll put a feedback, you can put the ID number, why don't we put the disk size? And on this one, why don't we go ahead, and put the memory size, how about that? Alrighty.

So now we've got these three here and we'll go ahead and move those down, maybe down here, and make our window a little bit wider. Even after these are hooked up, I can relay them out. I can add new controls, do whatever I want. And now I'll go ahead and get a rich text field and bring it over here. We'll make this one big, cause this is going to be used maybe in a customer service application. And I'm going to take this and hook it to the customer info database. And in feedback, I noticed the comments field down here. So let's hook that up.

And now let's go back and test our interface. Let's go get the data. It's opening the connection with the Sybase database, pulling out the data we want. Here we go. Prices outstanding. There's Mr. Bennet's phone number. There's Mr. Greeley. He's got a 105 megabyte disc drive with eight megabytes of memory. Phone number, phone numbers and messages.

Now, this database object has come about because we've been working with Fortune 500 companies for the last two years as they have done their development work, building custom applications on NeXTSTEP. And they have been able to build them in a remarkably short amount of time. What they're telling us is that most of those are database based. So could we help them out and extend our object oriented technology even further to not only help them build their applications faster, but let them choose whatever backend database they want without rewriting their application. And that is our goal for our database object, which we are collaborating on with our customers.

We've seen building custom applications with NeXTSTEP. And we think in those first three categories, we absolutely have achieved best of breed. But we also believe that there's a fourth area.

What we're hearing from everyone is that the competitive advantage of the nineties is going to be squeezed, not out of more individual productivity, but out of improving the productivity of teams and groups of people working together. That's where it's going to come from. And so we think that the most exciting thing of the early nineties is going to be to link these islands of personal computers together into interpersonal computing, which has as its mission to improve group productivity and collaboration.

Interpersonal computing has three fundamental parts: communication, collaboration, and content. We're gonna explore all of those. The content is primarily the productivity apps from the personal computing marketplace. And we saw those. So if we're going to improve group productivity and collaboration, we have to start with the communication and the best communication medium that we've ever seen is a multimedia email system. And again, it can't just be text. We've got to integrate the voice into it. We've got to integrate images into it. And we have to integrate eventually video into it.

Now, in addition to PostScript and scanned-in images and sounds, if I have just finished a spreadsheet, and I want to see send my spreadsheet to the entire marketing department or to the entire senior team of the company, I bring up a mail message, type in a few words to address it, and I drag that document right into the mail window. And I can put it anywhere I want here. I've put it between some texts. And the recipient simply double clicks on this. The spreadsheet launches and the data is apparent in a matter of a few seconds, through the mail system, spread out to as many people as you like.

So this is Ashton Tate's PowerStep program, and here's a graph from PowerStep. And I see some lips in here and I can't help but click them.

Mail message: "Steve, this recent data from the national research council is really alarming. The spreadsheet rapidly illustrates how fewer PhDs are planning on careers in higher ed. Click on the graph, grab a corner, and spin it to get a much better sense of the problem."

SJ: Okay. In PowerStep, I can simply grab the graph and move it. So we can have PostScript texts. We can have scanned-in images. We can have voice. We can have music. And we can have any document created by any application that exists today or tomorrow on the NeXT system.

Built in to release 2.0 of NeXTSTEP is fax capability. Let me show you what I mean. I go to print and up pops my print panel, the new print panel for 2.0, lets you select printers very easily. But I'm not going to say print, cause we've added a new button down here called fax. And I'm going to pick fax, and up pops the fax panel. And here are all the people whose addresses I have and phone numbers. And I can enter new ones, very easily modify the ones that exist, and they want me to fax this to somebody. So I would just pick Adobe and I would say fax.

We've saved ourselves a few thousand dollars sending fax machine. We've saved ourselves, having to print something out and go find a fax machine and send it. And we get a far superior result on the other end. All the software is built into 2.0. You need an approximately $500 fax modem to make this work, but you can put one on the network and share it with groups of 50 or a hundred people if you want to.

So the likes of this stuff has really never been seen on machines before. And this gives you a brief sampling of what we mean by interpersonal computing.

So let's examine color. We wanted the best quality color. So how do we find it? Well, first we have to say, what is quality? How do we define quality? We define it in two ways. One is by the number of colors. Most companies ship systems with 8-bit color, which gives you only 256 colors on the screen. While that is enough to do pink borders around your windows and purple menus, it is not enough - (laughter) it is not enough to put a photograph on the screen, which is what we believe the true market opportunity is.

First thing I want to show you is the quality of the color. This is a GE projection system. It is nowhere near as vivid as the real monitor. Here we have an image of a beach, and a mountain in the background. And one of the things I'm going to do is I'm going to bring up a Ferrari here.

Now this is how every other computer, if it could, would bring up the Ferrari and I'm sure it wouldn't be able to move it around much, but let's say it could. That's not so exciting. I'm going to go use a feature that's built into every NeXT system, and eliminate the black background and show the transparency. And if you look carefully, you'll see that you can even see the mountain through the windshield.

These are full 32 bit color images that we're looking at. And we have added an Intel i860 on a board we call NeXTdimension inside our Cube. So this is what our NeXTdimension board looks like. Let me go through the features briefly.

A million pixels. All 32 bits with alpha channel, that's that transparency that lets us see through the windows. And Intel i860 graphics accelerator. And every system comes with eight megabytes of RAM expandable to 32 I believe. Full color PostScript on every system. Everything you've seen today has been drawn by color PostScript. Full NTSC and PAL video in and out. And full JPEG hardware compression. At $3,995.

Now in order to get a system, we need a NeXTdimension card. And we're going to be selling the Sony 16-inch Trinitron display for $2,995. And you need a Cube, and you can buy a Cube without the black and white display. And that's what a NeXTdimension system costs.

But we also wanted a low cost color alternative, and it turned out beautiful. And I'm pleased to announce that we have a version of NeXTstation in color called NeXTstation Color, our fourth new product today. And NeXTstation Color is the same as NeXTstation, except it's got a million color pixels. Not quite photographic quality, but full 16-bit color, 4096 colors, which is near photographic. It's got 12 megabytes of Ram and a 16 inch Sony Trinitron display included in the price. And that price is $7,995. This is our product family.