SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After five years of expectations that rose, then fell, then rose again, Steve Jobs says his Next Inc. is strong enough that he's considering taking it public.
Speaking to reporters at a trade show in New York, Mr. Jobs said for the first time that he wants to issue stock for Next. He said that it could happen within 18 months -- eons in the deal-a-month world of corporate finance.
Mr. Jobs also said that he expects workstation sales at Next to continue to pick up and that they will reach $60 million this quarter -- enough to be a small factor in the market but still only about 8 percent of what industry leader Sun Microsystems Inc. sells.
The usually taciturn Next also disclosed yearly sales figures for the first time, saying shipments will reach about $140 million this year, well above the meager $28 million it said it posted last year.
A Next spokeswoman said that the company was "approaching profitability" for the year but won't know until Dec. 31 whether it will end up in the black or the red.
Why the new glasnost about finances? "Because the company is doing well and wants the world to know that," a spokeswoman said.
While talking about a public stock offering, even one as far off as 18 months, is an easy way of boosting your corporate credibility, some people said that Next might actually have a good shot at going public.
"It's very realistic," said Paul Scherer, vice president for corporate finance for Robertson, Stephens & Co., an investment banking firm in San Francisco. "They have a unique capability and talented people."
Mr. Scherer said that although sustained profitability is usually a prerequisite to a successful public launch, investors will also buy into a company if they can be persuaded it has significant growth potential, as commonly happens in biotechnology.
While Next's hardware sales have been slower than the company had hoped, Mr. Jobs has told associates that he wants to begin beefing up the software side of his business.
That includes rewriting his well-regarded operating system to run on other computers, especially those powered by Intel Corp.'s microprocessors.
Mr. Jobs owns half of Next. The rest is owned by employees; by Canon Inc., the Japanese electronics firm; by Texas businessman H. Ross Perot; and by Carnegie-Mellon and Stanford universities.