Letter to Cannavino
Thursday, October 13, 1994 by Dave Winer.
Now I'd like to switch gears from Marc's vision of the future of multimedia, interactive TV, etc, to the quagmire that Apple and IBM are in, and how they might help each other, and at the same time help us -- software developers and investors. And give the editors and analysts even more controversial things to speculate about.
Background: At Agenda 95 a few weeks ago, Jim Cannavino, IBM's top strategy exec was doing yet another demo of OS/2, this time as a souped-up Internet client. This thought formed in my head -- WHY???? -- doesn't he get it? We don't care anymore, we've all decided OS/2 is a dead-end. Nothing he could say could get us to invest.
A question formed in my head. Why aren't they betting on the only platform around that has a chance against Windows -- the Macintosh OS? So I took a deep breath, said to myself "fear is frozen fun" -- let's have some fun!
So I got up and asked Jim a question: why don't you chuck OS/2 and get together with Apple and promote Macintosh as the other desktop standard?
It got quite a reaction, both at the conference and via email afterwards. Along the way, I wrote a letter to Jim, and cc'd it to a bunch of other people, including Apple execs. I wanted to share that memo with this group, so here it is...
I'm the guy who asked about OS/2 in the opening session at Agenda 95 a couple of weeks ago.
I've done some more thinking about where the Mac OS is at relative to OS/2.
A football analogy: the Mac is at fourth and very long yardage, but they're on the 30-yard line. OS/2 is at second and 10, but you're 90 yards from the goal.
There's a huge investment in Mac OS-compatible source code, and a lot of know-how out there. But that investment is a long-shot now because the world sees Windows as the only viable platform.
You're just getting started building a developer base around OS/2. You have a very long way to go before it equals the Mac base. Given the momentum behind Windows, I believe you will never get to the point that the Mac is at right now.
If one of your goals is to recapture momentum with developers, if you and Apple joined to back the Mac OS exactly as it is now at System 7.5 level, (forget Taligent and OpenDoc) you could get a lot of extra development resources behind IBM. From there, you'd have to manage the platform very carefully to build momentum.
The industry *really* doesn't want to back Microsoft exclusively. I was a lightning-rod for this idea at Agenda, since I asked you that pointed question.
A combination of Apple relinquishing control of the Mac OS and IBM capitulating on OS/2 would be very welcome, and if you were smart and patient, and listened to developers, you'd get back in front.
I'm not saying you can or should chuck OS/2. But if you took over the Mac OS, and got out of developers' way (Apple has always been in our face) and made a commitment to stay with it I believe it has a pretty good chance of working.
Please let me know if you'd like to discuss this further.
Do *you* have any comments. Agree or disagree? Is it hopeless? Would you invest in a carefully managed Mac platform with IBM's backing? Do you care?
If there are enough comments, I'll collate them and redistribute them to the list. And as always, if you aren't interested in this kind of stuff, send me email and I'll happily delete your name from the list.
PS: What about Motorola?