||It's been a long
wait, but it has finally arrived. In early October, Steve Jobs's NeXT,
Inc., unveiled the fruit of its creative efforts: a workstation referred
to as "the cube."
NeXT asserts that the cube, having been designed to meet
the computing needs of the next decade, is "the machine for the
nineties." A bold statement, to be sure, but the cube goes a long way
to bolster that claim: It sports the first commercially available erasable
optical drive and advanced VLSI (very-large-scale integration) technology,
and it comes with a built-in digital signal processor. On the software
side, the Unix-based cube features an object-oriented version of C as its
standard programming environment. It uses Display PostScript to present a
graphical user interface that shields users from the traditionally
user-hostile Unix command syntax, and it offers easy access to the cube's
Targeted initially for the higher-education market, NeXT
built the cube with the feedback of an academic advisory council that
consisted of researchers and professors from schools such as
Carnegie-Mellon, Stanford, and the University of Michigan.
The academic bent shows throughout. For example, the
digital signal processor can be programmed for real-time laboratory work
and demonstrations. The cube's large mass storage and memory capacity make
it ideal for accessing substantial libraries of information. And Unix is
the multitasking operating system of choice in academia.
Although the cube delivers a lot of bang for the buck,
it's priced in the neighborhood of $6500 (all prices quoted are aimed at
the higher-education market), which may, at least initially, limit its
availability to its intended user base: students. The cube's rich features
list would surely be appealing to those in nonacademic settings
(engineering and science applications come to mind), but we were surprised
to learn that for now, NeXT has no firm plans to pursue these markets.