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The next NeXTs

Last week, NeXT announced a new line-up of computers, all based on the Motorola 68040 chip. The computers range from the $4995 standard NeXTstation (monochrome display, 8 megabytes of RAM, 105 megabyte hard disk, 2.8 megabyte floppy that also reads and writes DOS disks) to the $29,295 Division Server (monochrome display, 64 megabytes of RAM, two 1.4 gigabyte hard disks). Color NeXTs are included in the line-up, and NeXT also announced version 2.0 of NeXTStep.

The smaller, less expandable NeXTs are now housed in pizza box-style boxes that (unlike pizza boxes) are sturdy enough to hold the MegaPixel Displays, whereas the more expensive, more expandable NeXTs remain traditional cubes. The 256 megabyte optical drive is only available as an option in the cubes. Color NeXTstations start at $7995 and with the NeXTDimension boards, have the ability to take in and play up to 60 minutes of real time video. To avoid the storage crunch with video, JPEG (I don't know what it stands for) image compression from C-Cubed is built in and the compression amounts are user-selectable. For those wishing to trade data around, the 2.8 megabyte floppy is good, but a third party, Pacific Microelectronics, now has a 1.4 megabyte floppy that reads and writes IBM, Mac, and NeXT formats.

Along with the computer announcements, NeXT emphasized the amount of "personal productivity" software available or soon-to-be-available for the NeXT. FrameMaker, Wingz, and WriteNow are among those currently available; Improv (from Lotus and hopefully not a Jazzed-up version of 1-2-3), WordPerfect, SoftPC 2.0, MicroPhone II, PowerStep (a spreadsheet from Ashton-Tate), and Adobe Illustrator are among those coming real soon now. Another "announced-but-not-shipping" program is HyperCube, a HyperCard-like program from Thoughtful Software. If HyperCube uses NeXTStep and allows non-C programmers to develop useful applications, it could be an extremely popular program. Heck, I'd buy it.

Will the new NeXTs catch on? I often consult on computer purchases and have showed many people what the NeXT is like, but most of them were merely curious, knowing its price was out of reach. With Display PostScript, Unix, graphical interface, DSP (digital sound processor) chip, and optical 256 megabyte read/write drive, the NeXT stacked up a great array of features for a price that few individuals could afford. The new pricing puts the price of a low-end NeXT in the same range as the cost of a Mac II setup. I expect to see more people at least seriously considering the NeXT, although issues surrounding compatibility with existing systems should still be a major factor in some people's minds. (We wouldn't be adverse to seeing a Mac emulator, perhaps based on ROMlib, along with SoftPC.) If NeXT can ship its machines soon (NeXT hopes to sometime this fall), and if Motorola can supply the needed 68040 chips in a timely fashion, then the NeXT could become a major force in the computer industry.

Pacific Microelectronics -- 415/948-6200

Information from:
Tonya Byard -- TidBITS Editor
NeXT's Fall 1990 "List Prices" brochure

Related articles:
InfoWorld -- 17-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #37, pg. 6
InfoWorld -- 17-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #37, pg. 17
MacWEEK -- 11-Sep-90, Vol. 4, #30, pg 1
InfoWorld -- 10-Sep-90, Vol. 12, #36, pg. 5
InfoWorld -- 27-Aug-90, Vol. 12, #35, pg. 1
PC WEEK -- 27-Aug-90, Vol. 7, #34 , pg. 1


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