And so there has been an increasing buildup of demand from the front parts of corporations to create more and more and more of these operational applications. And I think it’s going to get to the point where this becomes fairly clear that this is the next big revolution in desktop computing, is to attack the operational productivity.
And as we start to re-engineer the way we do things, to automate a lot of this in custom applications. Sounds a little strange now, to most people. Sounds like desktop publishing in 1985. Nobody knew what it was, everybody thought it was kind of a strange vertical thing over there.
But my guess is it’s pretty horizontal. And we’re attacking vertical markets now that know they want this. And it’s going extremely well. Sun is the only company that’s really had any success at this, and we’re knocking them out of the box.
Because we came up with the software called NeXTSTEP which lets you build apps five to 10 times faster than anything anyone’s ever seen. And after you build them, they’re deployable and usable by mere mortals, because it’s really easy to use, this computer. And you can interoperate your custom apps seamlessly with a bunch of off-the-shelf productivity apps.
So we go to these companies that use Suns and take two years to write their apps — or are thinking about using Suns, and they can write their apps in about 90 days on a NeXT.
Now, if you’re on Wall Street and you can create a new product in 90 days versus your competitor in two years, that’s eight new products you can field for their every one. And you can start to see the competitive advantage that can be created this way.
Now, we had no idea that we were any good at this when we started NeXT. A lot of times you don’t know what your competitive advantage is when you launch a new product. Let me give you historical example.
When we created — how many of you guys use Macs? Anybody? Good.
How many of you have seen a NeXT? Oh, how many of you use a NeXT? Oh, that’s not so bad. We’d like to change that ratio a little bit. We’re on the right track.
When we did the Macintosh, we never anticipated desktop publishing when we created the Mac. Sounds funny, because that turned out to be the Mac’s compelling advantage, right? The thing that it did not one and a half or two times better than everything else, but four or five times better than anything else, where you had to have one.
We never anticipated it. We anticipated bitmap displays and laser printers, but we never thought about page maker, that whole industry really coming down to the desktop. Maybe we weren’t smart enough.
But we were smart enough to see it start to happen nine to 12 months later. And we changed our entire marketing and business strategy to focus on desktop publishing, and it became the Trojan horse that eventually got the Mac into corporate America, where it could show its owners all the other wonderful things it could do.
Likewise, when we created NeXTSTEP, this revolutionary object-oriented software that we have, our target customer coming from the PC world, where shrinkwrapped apps were king, was Lotus and Adobe and WordPerfect and all the shrinkwrapped apps developers. And the purpose was to let them create their apps five to 10 times faster for these shrinkwrapped apps. And it worked.
We have a ton of shrinkwrapped apps, now. Best of breed in almost every category.
But it wasn’t until early in ’91, early last year, a little over a year ago, that some really big companies came to us and said, “You don’t understand what you’ve got. The same software that allows Lotus to create their apps five to 10 times faster is letting us build our in-house mission-critical apps five to 10 times faster. And this is the biggest problem we’ve had. This is a huge problem for every big company, and almost all medium-sized companies, and you have a solution in your hands, and you dummies don’t even know it.”
And it took them about three months before we finally heard it. And then last summer, we changed our whole sales and marketing strategy around to focus on that. And it’s taken off like a rocket. And we grew about 4x last year, and probably grow about 2x this year.
And our customer list is now very, very strong and growing like crazy. We just got back from spending a few days in DC and in New York. And we’re talking to customers we only dreamed of talking to a year ago. So that’s what we do.
And our arch enemy Sun, they want to kill us. Which is good. They should try to do that as soon as possible, because the sooner they do it, the cheaper it will be for them. I think it’s gone past the point where it’s possible.
And the greatest thing is, hardware churns every 18 months. It’s pretty impossible to get a sustainable competitive advantage from hardware. If you’re lucky, you can make something one and a half or two times as good as your competitor, which probably isn’t enough to be quite a competitive advantage. And it only lasts for six months.
But software seems to take a lot longer for people to catch up with. I watched Microsoft take eight or nine years to catch up with the Mac, and it’s arguable whether they’ve even caught up. It takes a long time. And we think that the soonest we’re going to have a true competitor is probably four to five years.