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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

January 30, 1994|CHRIS GOODRICH

STEVE JOBS AND THE NEXT BIG THING by Randall E. Stross (Atheneum: $24; 374 pp.). The mission statement of NeXT Inc.--formulated, tellingly, years after its founding in 1985--commenced with the goal of building "computers that change the world and that our friends can afford to buy." Mission unaccomplished, for now--and indeed forever, as early last year NeXT founder Steve Jobs decided to axe the company's manufacturing business in order to concentrate on software. Jobs, half of Apple Computer's famed two-geeks-in-a-garage, said at the time that NeXT was simply positioning itself to join the first-tier software companies like Microsoft, and readers who encounter this assertion in the introduction to "Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing" might well believe it. They won't, however, by the time they finish the book, for Randall Stross' detailed portrait of Jobs and NeXT is unrelievedly negative. Stross, a historian by training, is a meticulous reporter and researcher, and there's no denying his depiction of Jobs as an arrogant, seductive, bullying, perfectionistic and single-minded salesman who seems almost incapable of learning from his mistakes. Stross makes his points well, but this book has one major drawback--the author's inability to give Jobs credit for anything. There's no question that the NeXT computer was a flop, yet Jobs was probably right to call the machine ahead of its time--in its magneto-optical drive, emphasis on audio, reliance on object-oriented programming--and for such vision he deserves at least some praise.

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