The Next Frontier

In the blink of an IPO, Steven P. Jobs went from a Silicon Valley has-been to the toast of techdom. And he's not done yet.

For a decade, Jobs has tried to re-create the magic of the first company he co-founded, Apple Computer Inc. After being tossed out of Apple in 1985, he launched NeXT Computer Inc., which he set out to build into a "$1 billion computer company." But NeXT fell woefully short of that goal, and wags gleefully wrote him off. Big mistake. On Nov. 29, the initial public offering of Steve Jobs's other company, Pixar Animation Studios, maker of the hit movie Toy Story, became a smash on Wall Street.

The quintessential entrepreneur, Jobs didn't just kick back after losing a power struggle with then Apple CEO John Sculley. Instead, he used the fortune he had made to invest his way back into the fray. He first sank $7 million into NeXT--and later more than $20 million more--then began building a powerful desktop computer. In 1986, he bought Pixar for $10 million from LucasFilms, the studio that made the famous Star Wars series. It took almost 10 years and $50 million from Jobs for Pixar to come up with the first computer-generated feature film. The magicians at Pixar are already at work on their second computer-animated movie for Walt Disney Co.

Jobs still has big plans for NeXT. Two years ago, after NeXT computers failed to catch on with customers, Jobs dumped the hardware side of the business and refocused NeXT on the company's object-oriented software--chunks of code that allow developers to create software in a fraction of the usual time. The result: In 1994, NeXT reported its first yearly profit of $1 million on revenues of $49.6 million.

Now, the Internet explosion opens up another market for NeXT. The company's WebObjects software, which will be available in the first quarter of 1996, is for quick development of applications for the World Wide Web. If WebObjects takes off, analysts say, NeXT could be another IPO winner--as early as next year. What does Jobs think? "Who knows. I just want a rest," he says. But don't count on that lasting.

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