NeXT did set the world on fire. Where shall we start?
e.g. with the fact that all Mac and iOS devices are running NeXTstep and NeXT APIs and are programmed with NeXT tools (sure iterative improvements, sometimes good things nuked, etc.)
e.g. java being a direct result of the OO frenzy and panic all the other companies had after they saw what NeXT can do (while bad mouthing NeXT at the same time and still getting it wrong be betting on junk like C++)?
e.g. the Win95/windows classic UI visuals (but not the intuitive feel) directly lifted from NeXTstep?
e.g. the WWW being invented on a NeXT with TBL explicitly stating that w/o NeXTstep he would never have attempted that project because with regular tools it would have been too complex for his taste?
e.g. DSP capabilities standard on board? Today all mainstream CPUs have DSP/vector processing instruction set extensions.
A device or software platform doesn't have to be a money maker to be disruptive.
NeXT failed due to the user-software chicken-egg problem, thus didn't have enough critical mass.
The same stuff, half castrated and less consistent with the same guy at the helm is a runaway success today simply because people were naive enough to fall for the Mac OS moniker when in fact what they are getting is NeXTstep with various levels of legacy Mac compatibility.
What people think of as Apple's modern software for the most part is 25 yo software somewhat updated and optimized for better hardware, and that NeXT stuff was based on concepts more than 10 years old before NeXT picked them up.
So really, what Apple does is deliver the ideas and concepts from about 35-40 years ago, made consumer friendly by modern hardware.
Difficult to make statements about a history one doesn't know...
We at NeXT were very pissed off at Isaacson's Biography of Steve. He dicked over NeXT and PIXAR as if they were brief interludes. Without NeXT Apple is history.