Apple & Netscape Should Merge
Thursday, August 17, 1995 by Dave Winer.
Lots of cleaning up to do after a very busy week for DaveNet.
It must appear like feast or famine at your end of this pipe. A few weeks go by, nary a word from Dave. Then all that talk about bodies and birds with huge wingspans! Some people like that stuff, and others prefer talk about operating systems and IPOs. I like both sides of the coin, because technology is about people, and what's the point of making lots of money in the stock market if your life isn't empowered by love?
This DaveNet is brought to you by The Dave Matthews Band. The song is "Jimi Thing" off their Under the Table and Dreaming CD.
It's a smooooth roller, with a sometimes-eclectic beat. "What I want is what I've not-got. And what I neeeeeed is all around me." A big thump of the drums on the not-got part. This is very sexy music! A great song to dance to. Floating arms. Big smile! Oooooooh. "I take a taste of what's bitter on my way to something better." You can float and flow right thru this song. Hmmmmmmm. Uhhhhh. OK!
Today's Wall Street Journal tells the story of Xerox and the dreams of the stock market. Xerox punted on a supposed monopoly in plain paper copying. Great R&D. The ideas that founded Apple, Microsoft, 3COM and Adobe come from Xerox. Japanese competition in copiers. They try to diversify into finance and and personal computers. Couldn't do it. Retreat.
Xerox is a trail of tears.
There was a boom in Xerox stock in the early 70s, a correct euphoria, it turns out. Plain paper copiers *did* revolutionize our lives and Xerox did get a big chunk of the business.
In the background, while the Journal is telling the Xerox story, they relate it to Netscape and its founders. The valuation of the company, it seems, must be an incredible burden to the management of the company. Very little upside for them, from this point in time. The valuation has them pegged as gods. Nowhere to go but down from there. They aren't gods, nothing wrong with that, of course. If I were in their shoes, I'd feel trapped. I'd want a *much* lower stock price.
All the sobriety in Roger Lowenstein's Journal article is a great service to current Netscape shareholders who own a vastly overpriced stock. Someday Netscape may be to the Internet what Xerox is to plain paper copiers. But there are hurdles in the way.
On my trip to Seattle in late June I met with Ben Slivka, firstname.lastname@example.org, the lead developer for their web browser. We had an interesting discussion, me talking from the point of view of a Macintosh web developer, and him coming from the Windows world. We spoke the same language and different ones too.
Microsoft has a new architecture that's deploying in the form of Windows 95, and they're using it.
Ben demos. Microsoft's web browser, called Internet Explorer, is nicely integrated with the operating system and apps. Shortcuts, the Windows implementation of aliases, can be Internet addresses. Shortcuts can appear on your desktop, in folders and in any utility that builds spreadsheets or outlines of shortcuts. They can be email addresses, web site locations, downlodable apps or scripts, whatever the Internet can get you too. At the same time, they can point to files on your hard disk or on your LAN.
Microsoft's web browser ships on August 24, one week from today. MSN Internet access goes on the air on August 24 too. They're matching Netscape's free distribution strategy. You can download the browser from Microsoft's website or from their CompuServe bulletin board.
And they can put their browser in a place Netscape can't, on all PC clones that ship with Windows 95 pre-installed. Since the vast majority of personal computers will ship with Microsoft's browser pre-installed, and since they have a competent, perhaps elegant product, it seems like Microsoft will grab the cursor from Netscape.
Lots of new computers will be sold to new computer users in the coming years. This means a lot of flow of new net browsers to people who may be using the Internet for the first time. Microsoft, currently unchallenged by Apple, is poised to get the vast majority of these users.
And someone somewhere in the clone business is going to see the opportunity to build a fully easy fully configured Internet client machine. Intel understands this. I bet Compaq gets it too. And there's Acer, Packard-Bell, Toshiba, and a million other cloners to get the idea. It'll happen.
Microsoft wants to own the default web browser for Windows users.
That'll happen too.
Microsoft's gun is loaded. On August 24 they pull the trigger.
Apple and Netscape should merge.
Chart a new direction for both companies. The software direction is set by Netscape architects working with the Macintosh web community. A Windows presence is maintained using the code base that Netscape is developing. Take the best of OpenDoc and integrate it with the browser. And make a computer perfectly tuned for net browsing. Read back issues of DaveNet for details. I've been ranting about this for months and months.
Microsoft is forcing them to take a look at this option. If they don't make the move, we'll look back a few years from now the same way we view the lost opportunity in 1990 when Apple chose to ignore the shipment of Windows 3.0, and gave away the graphic operating system business to Microsoft.
Neither company can afford to work with a smaller entity.
It's time for Netscape and Apple Sittin In A Tree.
And not just K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
I'm reallly glad I get to put my stake in the ground now in a public way. Back in 1990, I yelled and screamed as loud as I could. Sculley wouldn't do anything. It's beneath us to acknowledge the competition. So Apple missed the opportunity to install itself as the leading GUI, even tho that's *exactly* what they were.
Being bashful doesn't score many points in the software biz.
Fear is frozen fun.
One final time...