Let me go through those. Graphical interface: The Alto had the world's first graphical user interface. It had windows. It had a crude menu system. It had crude panels and stuff. It didn't work right but it basically was all there.
Objects: They had Smalltalk running, which was really the first object-oriented language. Simula was really the first, but Smalltalk was the first official object-oriented language.
Third, networking: They invented Ethernet there, as you know. And they had about two hundred Altos with servers hooked up in a local area network there doing email and everything else over the network, all in 1979. I was so blown away with the potential of the germ of that graphical user interface that I saw that I didn't even assimilate or even stick around to investigate fully the other two.
NeXTStep turned some of that vision into reality. It incorporated the world's first truly commercial object-oriented system, and really was the most networked system in the world when it came out. I think the world has made a lot of progress in networking but hasn't yet crossed the hurdle into objects and what's happened with NeXTStep. It's starting to get adopted by some very large corporate customers. It is now the most popular object-oriented system in the world, as objects are on the threshold of starting to move into the mainstream.
The company last year recorded its first profit in its nine-year history, and sold $50 million worth of software. I think we're going to have some significant growth this year and it's fairly clear that NeXT can get up to being a few-hundred-million-dollar software company in the next three or four years and be the largest company offering objects -- until Microsoft comes into the market at some point, probably with a pretty half-baked product.
Some people say that in the future object-oriented software is going to be the only kind of software. Of course it's true. I remember being at Xerox at 1979. It was one of those sort of apocalyptic moments. I remember within ten minutes of seeing the graphical user interface stuff, just knowing that every computer would work this way some day; it was so obvious once you saw it. It didn't require tremendous intellect. It was so clear. The minute you understand objects, it's all exactly the same. All software will be written using object-oriented technology some day. You can argue about how long its going to take, who the winners and losers are going to be, but I don't think a rational person will debate its significance.
Give me your thoughts on the current status and the future of the Internet and the commercial online services and how they're affecting computer development. The Internet and the World Wide Web are clearly the most exciting thing going on in computing today. They're exciting for three or four reasons.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.