Chinese Household Revisited
Tuesday, August 22, 1995 by Dave Winer.
I'm still listening to Jimi Thing from Dave Matthews. It's great writing music. Puts a smile on my face! A big one... Picked up another line from the song -- "I feel good floating for a short while, till I get to the end of this tunnel called mommy." Dave Matthews says this song is about smoking, but I have my doubts. I think it's about life, love, and even his birth. Does he talk about smoke? Yes. "I smoke my mind to make me feel better for a small time." But it's a wide-ranging song, and it fits in very nicely with writing DaveNet pieces. Dave M floats and rolls, and so does Dave W. By the way, the band has a website, it's at http://www.dmband.com/.
I'm also listening to Alanis Morissette. Thanks to Marc Canter for this great gift. Jagged Little Pill is totally self-indulgent music! And angry. I used to think of Annie Lennox as the ultimate angry woman, but not anymore. Here's a preview: "...you told me, you'd hold me, until your dying day. Well, you're still alive! And I'm still here..." Ohhhh. This is not Sinead O'Connor or Bonnie Raitt, but the theme is the same -- a dumped woman, and one who's not dealing with it very well.
Very emotive stuff.
Lots of goosebumps in this music.
Lots of goosebumps in Newsweek too.
Steven Levy, firstname.lastname@example.org, has a great column in the 8/21/95 issue. Apple management is trying to spin Windows 95 as an opportunity for growth of the Macintosh platform. Levy takes his best shot. "Are they kidding? Windows 95 is not an Apple opportunity; it's a nuclear-tipped Scud lofted towards Cupertino."
The title of Levy's piece, How Apple Became Avis, is too generous. The text of the article supports a more grim title: How Apple Became Cuba.
"The company might one day be known as the most successful niche player of all. But it could have been much, much more."
Sounds like Cuba! The most successful niche player ever. But look where it got them...
Business as usual is a prescription for devastation for Apple.
Creative thinking and bold action are called for.
Trust the universe. Take a chance now.
Apple shareholders: there's no time to waste.
The missiles are in the air!
As the prospects for Apple have dimmed over the last few years, it's becoming harder and harder to be a Macintosh developer.
I started writing about this in Platform is Chinese household, 10/29/94. It's great when the platform you're developing for is taking good care of you, and it's equally lousy when the platform treats you like an antibody -- something to be defined, then isolated and defeated. Yuck. Been there, done that.
The Chinese Household piece still makes good reading. "Today, Macintosh is an empty loveless house. Not a home. All the developers walked but left the babies behind. Not because of market share, that can be fixed with economic tweaks. We walked because Apple is a lousy lover."
The piece got its title from the following metaphor: "A platform is a Chinese household. One rich husband. Lots of wives. If the husband abuses one wife, it hurts all the wives. All of sudden food starts getting cold. The bed is empty. All of a sudden husband isn't so rich."
Such clean anger! It's coooool.
So... one more time: market share is a head-trip, a distraction.
Growth comes from love.
Platforms are for fun, profits follow.
The Chinese Household piece painted a grim picture of the future prospects for Apple Computer. I get no happiness from being right. I'd have preferred to have been a catalyst for setting things right.
In the interim, since writing Chinese Household, I've held onto the hope that the Macintosh OS might have a better future than Apple. After all, it works, I don't particularly want any features from them, none of the Copland or OpenDoc stuff really gets my juices flowing. If Apple had to cut back development, so what, that would just create new space for me to play in.
In the interim, Apple licensed the Mac OS. That seemed like good news for developers. If we can't make a deal with Apple, maybe we can work with a licensee? Unfortunately, the licensees are mostly approaching the market like cloners, looking for ways to add value to their package by bundling applications that are already popular. I don't think the cloners are approaching this as an opportunity to be creative, or try out new ideas. It's a simple formula, create a clone market for Macintoshes.
It seems that Windows 95 is the final deliverance for the Macintosh operating system, unless it heads for the hills, to niches like multimedia, education and publishing. I think, eventually, Microsoft will grab those niches too. That's the way it works.
Apple's trail of tears seems to lead right off a cliff, and there's no evidence that Apple management is doing anything to head in a different direction. Is Apple on its way to becoming the next Wang, left with no options, nowhere to go, selling off assets to make payroll?
A few months ago Oracle put Apple into play, and a new idea took root. A smaller presence takes over Apple and provides it with a new direction. I started thinking about the situation differently. As the strategic PE ratio of Apple declines, it makes more and more sense for a technologist with a high PE, like Larry Ellison or now Jim Clark to play "what if" scenarios. What if the Mac OS was developed as a settop-box operating system? What if the Mac OS was packaged as the leading web browser platform? What if...?
You know what I'm interested in -- the ideal Internet client machine. Built out of software that only runs on a Macintosh. Steve Dorner, Aleksandar Totic, Chuck Shotton, Peter Lewis, Leonard Rosenthol and a few others get together, with no one from Apple present, and we decide how the product goes together. The phoenix bird rises from the ashes.
If you have to head for the hills, head for the hill with the maximum growth, and where Microsoft will have to zig when the market wants zag.
A newly directed Macintosh could be a friend of the Internet.
As I wrote in another seminal DaveNet piece, Bill Gates vs The Internet, 10/18/94, Microsoft must try to gain control of the standards of the Internet. I think that's inevitable. But another operating system vendor can let the net community drive the development of the platform. Apple already has lots of high ground in the Internet world.
Imagine a new Apple ad.
A big picture of JFK.
Underneath the picture, in the standard Apple typeface, "Ask not what the Internet can do for you, ask what you can do for the Internet." Below that, two paragraphs expanding on Apple's new philosophy. 6-color Apple logo in the lower right corner.
It would work!
As a developer, I like to work on the consensus platform, the one that everyone respects. The Apple II was no fun to develop for in 1983. Large installed base, but my ideas couldn't take root in that medium, the interesting people were using Lotus 1-2-3 machines, not AppleWorks machines. Same with the IBM PC in 1987 -- all the cool development was happening on the Macintosh. The tide started turning in 1990 when Windows 3.0 shipped. I stayed with the Macintosh.
The value of my Macintosh source code has decreased as the platform's strength has evaporated. But, with considerable pain, it *is* portable. That means that the value of the investment can be translated to value on the consensus platform.
I wonder how much my staying with the Mac platform is the result of fear, not love. I definitely have fear of trying to replace my Mac desktop with a Windows desktop. So much code to convert! But so many of my friends have already done it. And I get a sense that many more will switch in the next few months.
There's a lot of pressure on me to give up this fight. If it's fear that's driving me, I'll let it go. Take my own advice. Let's have fun, Dave. You don't have to go down with this ship.
I'm sorry I can't be more blunt. But there's value in Apple's presence in the world. I think even Bill Gates wants something called Apple to continue to exist. But it's clear that the way things are currently configured is totally unworkable and goes absolutely nowhere.
PS: JFK stands for John F Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States. It's also the name of an airport in NYC. JFK-the-president created the Cuban missile crisis. But he also got us out of it.
PPS: Check out Marketing Warfare by Al Ries and Jack Trout. It's a great book. You should find it in the business section of most bookstores. It seems that Ries and Trout would have something to say about the effects of Windows 95 on the future of Apple Computer. If so, and if anyone has their email address, I'll get in touch with either Ries or Trout or both.
PPPS: A company's "PE ratio" is computed by taking the price of a share of its stock and dividing it by earnings per share. It's a measure of the perceived longevity of the company. Roughly, if a company has a PE ratio of 20, it means that the stock market thinks it'll be around for 20 years. Apple has a low PE ratio, indicating low market confidence in the company. America OnLine's PE is very high, the market believes in the stock even though profits have been elusive. Microsoft's PE ratio is relatively high for such a large company. Netscape has an infinite PE ratio because it has no profits.
PPPPS: I still wish Newsweek had a website so I could point you at Levy's excellent column.
PPPPPS: Apple's ads about Windows 95 make me feel ill. How whiny! How defeatist. Sarcasm has no place in advertising. Much better approach: "The Mac is the machine you'll buy for your kids." Visual message -- if you love your kids, they should have a Mac to grow up with. A positive, loving message that fits well with the company's reputation out there in ConsumerLand. Holds the space for the Internet client machine that would ship in early 1996.