According to Ken Segall’s new book about Apple, Insanely Simple, the story of how Jobs’s company “NeXT” got its name has never been told. It was inspired by Bill Gates — but Jobs never knew it.
Jobs originally wanted to call his new company “Two” because it was his second company. He called an old friend, designer Tom Suiter, who told him it was no good — everyone would ask what happened with his first company!
Shortly afterward, Tom attended a speech by Bill Gates in Seattle. He was struck by the number of times Gates used the word “next” as he described new technologies being developed by Microsoft. That word kept echoing in his head. The more he thought about it, the more right it seemed. He excitedly called Steve and said “I think I have the name for your new company. It’s ‘Next.’” There was a long pause while Steve soaked it in. And then came the enthusiastic “I love it!” It’s ironic that a speech by Bill Gates was actually the spark for the naming of NeXT. Even more amazing, neither Steve nor Bill were ever aware of it.
Segall points out that it was autobiographically perfect — it was Jobs’s next adventure after Apple — and visionary: the company was devoted to the next great computer.