NeXT Timeline

NeXT Inc was formed.

October NeXT unveiled its first product, the NeXT Cube, at a gala event. The Cube combined powerful hardware and software in ways that had never been done before. First, NeXT based its machine on the Motorola 68030 processor running at a screaming 25 Mhz and coupled it with the first built-in Digital Signal Processor. "Cube" was initially targetted at the higher-education market at around $6,500.

The "Cube" shipped with Beta 0.9 of the operating system.
September Nextstep 1.0 was released after several previews starting in 1986.

September NeXT unveiled faster workstations running at 25MHz on the Motorola 68040. Affectionately called "the slab", the NeXTstation had a black and white display while the NeXTstation Color displayed 4,096 colors from a palette of 16 million colors. A new version of the Cube offered a 32-bit true-color display.The Mono NeXTstation 25 Mhz "Slab" shipped with over 15,000 preorders. Priced at $4,995.

January NeXTstation Turbo and Turbo Color 33 MHz Slabs introduced at NeXTWORLD EXPO, it's first year.
Spring NeXT added a 11" x 17" color inkjet printer and a standard CD-ROM drive and brought about the end of NeXT's optical disk. Foreshadowing its exit from the hardware business, the company announced it had begun working on NeXTstep for Intel.

May NeXTSTEP for Intel shipped at NeXTWORLD EXPO.
NeXT stopped manufacturing hardware and became a software only company, selling NeXTSTEP as a combination operating system and object-oriented development environment. NeXTstep for Intel became a popular product among large companies and especially financial institutions for rapidly developing and deploying custom software.

Summer First draft of OpenStep API

(Early) The last version of NeXTSTEP, Version 3.3, was released. By this time it ran not only on Motorola 68000 family processors, but also IBM PC compatible x86, Sun SPARC, and HP PA-RISC.

OPENSTEP 4.0 was released, followed later in the year by 4.1
August Apple kills Copland project, which was announced in February 1994 was supposed to be an entirely new Apple OS with preemptive multitasking and was supposed to be released as System 8 in mid to late 1996. Copland was a joint development project with IBM.
December Development of Windows NT for PowerPC stops when Microsoft tries to extort Motorola for hundreds of Millions of dollars, on top of royalties already agreed to (for the right to port NT for MS).
December Apple Computers Inc. and NeXT Software Inc. announced the acquisition of NeXT by Apple for $427 million and that they will merge their technologies and that Steve Jobs will return, as a consultant, to the company he founded 20 years ago.

January Apple-NeXT Merger and the RoadMap for Rhapsody was announced at MacWorld'97
Rhapsody, which was the codename of this inital "NeXT OS on Apple hardware" project. It was essentially a quick port of OPENSTEP for PowerPC hardware. Recall NeXT's OS was already running on four other CPUs so adding yet another one was not beyond belief. Rhapsody included the original Mac OS compatibility via a closed extension (referred to as the "Blue Box"). Rhapsody was also updated to look more "Mac-ish". The agressive roadmap called for a developer release followed by a premier and then unified release ... all within 18 month after the MacWorld '97 announcement.

January Mac OS 7.6 was shipped
Mid year Mac OS 8.0 was shipped
Mid year OPENSTEP 4.2 was shipped
Late Rhapsody Developer Release DR 1 shipped

Mid Year Mac OS X Strategy was announced
Mac OS 8.5 was shipped

Mac OS 8.6 and 9.0 were shipped

January Public Demonstration of NextStep derived Mac OS X.

Mid Year Apple shipped it's fifth major release of Mac OS X (10.5) and was selling over 2.5 million OS X computers each quarter. The OS X based iPhone is the darling of the industry, expected to sell 10 million units this year plus another 10 million Mac OS X based iPhone Touches. That's 30 million new Mac OS X based units in 2008 alone. The ripple effects of OPENSTEP continue...

Other relevant timeline sources:
Apple History Timeline 1967-1998 by Andy Mesa