Even seemingly simple computer programs can require months or years of writing thousands of lines of arcane code. A faster method: object-oriented software. Using prefab chunks of program and data called "objects," which mimic real-world items such as a file folder or a claims form, programmers can cut months off development time. So far, few such objects have been widely available. But on July 21, Steve Jobs's NeXT Computer Inc. introduced a catalog of more than 100 software objects from some 50 companies.

NeXT's "ObjectWare" catalog includes programs that convert typed text into words that can be "spoken" by a NeXT workstation and programs that automatically feed market data into spreadsheets. Some objects were developed by academics for free distribution, but others are commercial programs that cost as much as $1,500. Analysts say the NeXT catalog may start an entirely new way of selling software--an object at a time, rather than in complete packages. Maybe, but NeXT just hopes it will prompt more people to buy its workstations and software.

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