What's the NeXT step in the continuing (after some pause) story of Eclipse Aviation?
While we ourselves pause to contemplate that intriguing question, I'll answer the one for those wondering what the heck this cube thing is about: NeXT computers was a Steve Jobs thing back in the mid-1980's through mid-1990's. And seemingly, on into today, as (to a windows user) it appears MacOS X is evolved from the software developed for the NeXT platform. Pretty cool- I remember ogling over them "back in the day".
There does seem to be a bit of a similarity in the plot lines:
a) Computer whiz (Steve Jobs) gets rich guy (Ross Perot) to fund cutting edge (NeXT) tool for high tech breakthrough (DNA simulations).
b) Computer whiz (Vern Raburn) gets rich guy (Al Mann) to fund cutting edge (Eclipse) tool for high tech breakthrough (VLJ transportation revolution).
Take your pick, which one this applies to (hint- both):
"To avoid inventory errors, (Eclipse/NeXT) used the just in time (JIT) inventory strategy. The company contracted out for all major components such as (Wings/Motherboards) shipped to the first floor for assembly. "
Both Eclipse and NeXT featured advanced displays (pixel resolution advantage Eclipse: 1440 x 900 MFD with Avio-NG, 1120x832 for NeXT) relatively advanced processing power, and considerable attention placed on the user interface. Both wound up costing a bit more than expected, and never quite achieved the market shares anticipated, before going out of production.
And both featured some arguably advanced features, that, well, never quite caught on in their respective industries- the 2.88 MB floppy disk, which was nice, but wasn't worth the extra cost, and Friction Stir Welding, which, ah, well, you know the rest...
Reading the Wikipedia article, it amazing to consider just what heady times there were back in the Silicon Valley venture capital boom years. A dynamic environment- explosively dynamic in fact, compared to the rather staid ways of general aviation ways from the mid 1980's through mid 1990's. In that light, it is easy to see how a person familiar with both worlds, might sense the GA one was ripe for innovation and shakeup- dare I say- disruption!
The comparison is relatively shocking. Essentially, nothing was happening in personal aviation transportation during that period, aside from some "quirky" (odd similarity to the relationship to the word(?) "qwerty", which is pretty quirky compared to the Dvorac keyboard layout...) designs from Burt Rutan, etc.; while the Personal Computer/Information Technology world was, well, changing the world. (...Somewhat. Call me a Luddite -as those who use Apple computers no doubt will :) - I'm still not convinced calculators are a boon to an eight year old. But to allow a person to essentially have the world's library's at their fingertips is a flabbergasting advance. As is- almost- enabling adults, and eight year olds alike, to access our fine blog. (Although sometimes it's hard to tell the difference! Okay- just kidding again!! :). An interesting anecdote from Smart Computing, March 1999: A Brief History of Cyberspace:
"By the end of that year (1990), he (Berners-Lee ) had named the project "World Wide Web," created the first Web browser, and launched the World Wide Web on a NeXT computer at the CERN headquarters."
How did the finances work out for NeXT Computer, Inc.? I couldn't find the stock symbol, but in 1989 Canon paid $100M for 16.67%, so it was valued at about $600M. With inflation adjustments, that's about $1042M today. More or less what Eclipse probably shoulda/coulda/mighta been worth- once upon at time. When Apple bought NeXT in 1996, they shelled out $429M (about $600M in 2009 dollars), so it seems the original investors did pretty well. Steve Jobs got only stock, but at 1.5M shares, that was 1.19% of Apple. I believe it's split twice since then, at 1.5M x 2 x 2 x $170 (today's closing price), Steve-o would be sitting on about $1.020B. (Heck- he coulda bought Eclipse at it's peak! (...If he hadn't sold them...?) On the other hand, at the time of the NeXT buy out, those shares were worth around $15 x 1.5M = $22.5M, which is about what Al Mann forked out this time. Oh, the similarities are mind boggling. (So was the amount of cash Apple was burning back then!).
The NeXT adventure for Eclipse? Well, so far, it seems to be lacking some of the, ah, pizzazz, of the original (By the way, we seem to be missing some of the Karen Di Piazza's pizzazz as well):
From the same article as above, Flight Global, 13 March 2007;
"Announcing the new avionics team on 5 March (2007), Eclipse chief executive Vern Raburn said the changes would have 'absolutely no effect' on the delivery of an expected 402 aircraft this year...The Albuquerque, New Mexico-based airframer has delivered one aircraft since receiving its US Federal Aviation Administration certification in September (2006)...Raburn says Eclipse 500s delivered through the first half of the year with the Avidyne systems would be retrofitted with the Avio NG by year's end, a process he said would take less than 10 days".
Now THOSE were some pretty "heady" times as well...
* Can't Remember or Learn ?
* Can't Concentrate or Think Clearly ?
* Is Paranoid or Anxious ?
* Has Difficulty Keeping Track of Time ?
(Although I pity the fool with such afflictions- I think we all know...somebody...like that :)
So the question is, will M&M assemble the A team and succeed? While most of the Eclipse work force has probably dispersed over the months since production- and paychecks- stopped, let's hope so- I love it when a plan comes together!
(Okay, if you -really- want to see it-...the original A Team...but you'll probably wished you hadn't! :)