|WriteNow spun out to software start-up|
New company plans full line of NeXTstep apps
by Dan Ruby and Dan Lavin
Redwood City, CA: In a move bearing some similarity to Apple's creation of Claris in 1987, NeXT this month granted an exclusive license to the NeXTstep version of Write Now and unspecified rights to other NeXT software to a start-up software publisher.
The new company, which was not yet named at press time, will begin selling WriteNow on October 1, the same date the word processor will be unbundled from the NeXT system. According to Randy Adams, president of the new firm, the company plans to be a major publisher of NeXTstep applications, with offerings in all major software categories.
"NeXTstep is our only business. We exist to help build the NeXT platform," Adams said. Adams is the former president of Emerald City Software, which was sold last year to Adobe Systems. He was also formerly a NeXT employee. He said that "substantial" funding for the new venture came from venture capitalists, although he declined to identify the source or amount of funding. NeXT has no equity involvement in the company, Adams said.
The other principals in the company, said to include several industry veterans, were not yet named at press time. The company will sublet office space from NeXT near its headquarters here.
Adams said that the other NeXT software involved in the deal will be announced and shipped in the first quarter of 1992. In addition, the company is looking to acquire or publish software produced by other NeXTstep developers, and it may develop its own software.
"NeXT didn't want to be in the software business, so we had been seeking a third party to pick up WriteNow," said Donna Simonides, NeXT's director of third-party relationships. "We could have gone to an existing company or encouraged a new one. We wanted someone who would be aggressive," she said.
"By getting out of the software business, NeXT will level the playing field for third parties. It is in the interests of customers to have competition," Adams said.
The chief beneficiary of the move will be WordPerfect Corporation, which faced a barrier in selling its NeXTstep word processor against a program that was free to all NeXT users (see related story, page 1).
"This puts us in a much stronger position," said Royce Bybee, product marketing manager at WordPerfect.
"The first thing [the new company] will have to do is to make WriteNow more of a full-featured word processor," Bybee predicted. "Comparing WordPerfect to WriteNow is like comparing a banana split to vanilla ice cream."
Adams said a price for the shrink-wrapped WriteNow had not yet been established, but that it would be set considerably lower than WordPerfect's $495. "There is a segment of the market that WordPerfect appeals to and a segment of the market that WriteNow appeals to," Adams said.
Other third-party developers reacted cautiously, unsure of how closely NeXT would be involved with the new company.
"If NeXT were spinning off a subsidiary that competed in major categories, it would create even less of an incentive for key third parties to support NeXT," said Jeff Anderholm, marketing manager at Lotus Development of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
NeXT's Simonides denied that this was the case. "We have taken deliberate steps not to have a Claris situation. There is a complete separation of church and state. We are treating [the new company] like any other third party," she said.
Adams said that NeXT assisted the company in raising funds only by providing a reference. Raising venture capital "was a tough sell," he acknowledged, "but we have a good track record, and the venture capitalists recognized that NeXT is the most fertile ground for software now in the industry because it enables true creativity."
Royal Ferris, vice president of T/Maker of Mountain View, California, which markets WriteNow for the Mac, agreed: "When a hardware vendor aggressively supports [certain] application software, [other] third-party software publishers just shake their heads and think, 'Where's the opportunity for us?' "
"I think this is something that should have happened a long time ago. It surprised us that Steve [Jobs] didn't understand the mistake that Apple had made," by bundling MacWrite with the early Macintosh.
||WriteNow's checkered past|
1983 MacWrite for as-yet unannounced Macintosh is late. Steve Jobs contracts with Solaster of Seattle to write another word processor as backup.
1984 Apple finishes MacWrite and announces Macintosh. Apple has right to bundle WriteNow as possible advanced MacWrite.
1985 Apple decides it doesn't want WriteNow. Solaster continues to develop it as independent product.
Steve Jobs leaves Apple and founds NeXT.
Jobs buys Solaster and hires programmers to finish WriteNow for Macintosh and NeXT.
1986 NeXT sells marketing rights for Mac and PC versions to T/Maker.
T/Maker releases WriteNow 1.0 for Mac.
1988 NeXTcube announced with WriteNow 1.0 bundled.
T/Maker releases WriteNow 2.0.
1989 T/Maker acquires development rights to Mac version.
NeXT ships NeXTstep 2.0 with WriteNow 2.0 bundled.
1990 T/Maker releases WriteNow 2.2.
1991 (October) WriteNow unbundled from NeXT system, shipped as shrink-wrapped product.