Welcome Back Jean-Louis
Saturday, October 7, 1995 by Dave Winer.
And welcome to the second year of DaveNet. Thank you all for making DaveNet so much fun for me. It has my name on it, but the birthday celebration is for all of us. Thank you so much for your support and indulgence. As long as there are stories to tell, I'll keep telling them. Keep me in your loop. We'll have fun. Year Two will be soooo great!
Let's have fun!
It's fitting that Year One began with a story of a friend, Marc Canter, who was doing something heroic. And it's equally fitting that Year Two begins with another friend having fun and winning.
So, my first Jean-Louis Gassee story...
At a Living Videotext party in 1985 at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, Guy Kawasaki, Apple's chief evangelist, handed me a piece of paper, a handwritten list of feature requests and bugfixes for our then-current Macintosh outliner, ThinkTank 512.
I recognized the requests. Every software product has a list of common features and fixes that every user wants. As the product gets old the mantras get old. Yes I know what you want! Coming soooon now. So I can tell when someone is really using the product. There's no way to snow the lead developer of a product you claim to be using.
The note was from Jean-Louis Gassee, the new Apple executive that John Sculley had imported from Apple France. I handed the note back to Kawasaki. I told him that I wanted to meet Mr. Gassee. An executive that actually uses software. What a concept! I had to find out what one looks like.
That's what makes Jean-Louis unique. He ain't no Dog Watching TV. When he barks, it's because there's something to bark about. He gets it. He knows his ass depends on engineers to make it all work. So he develops a trusting relationship with developers. He meets us more than half-way. He actually uses our stuff.
Go back to the Chinese household model of platform management. We like to cook great meals for husbands that enjoy great cooking. Look at the software companies that work. Look at the top. Every one of them has a Chinese husband who loves to eat. Some like spicy food. Others like American cuisine.
JLG is a master of presence. It comes naturally to him. He's a short man, but you'd never know that when you see his face on those huge screens at MacWorld Expo keynotes. Big man. He walks comfortably around the stage. Tells a joke. Raises an eyebrow. Shrugs his shoulders. There's more meaning in what he doesn't say. Smiles. He's humming. He plays with our heads. We admire his confidence. It accrues to the platform. We're having fun here. We'll have even more fun when we make software that Jean-Louis can gloat over.
If you get a chance to go to Gassee's first developers conference, go for it. It'll be great theater and great software. Without a doubt.
He attracts great developers and he makes them greater by inviting them to compete for his approval. It's a good system, it produces fun software. It can make a platform grow. We all appreciate that.
He got a standing ovation from the Agenda crowd. I wasn't there, but I know what they were standing up about. Yes, the Be Machine is wonderful, but they were cheering the man, and his joy! Welcome Back Jean-Louis. We were missing you.
His space was never filled.
Fully threaded multi-tasking object-oriented operating system designed by a team led by Erich Ringewald, the original MultiFinder guy. Clean API, lots of room for connections between apps. Database integrated into the system. Development software by MetroWerks. Net-based software distribution.
They are licensing the operating system for $50 per cpu. IBM, Apple, Gateway, Radius, PowerComputing, and Daystar should check this out.
Supports up to eight CPUs (a revolutionary idea!), comes with two PowerPC 603s. Lots of ports. Industry standard connections for disk, keyboard, mouse, etc.
Details at http://www.be.com/TechInfo/BeBoxTechSummary.html.
In the age of multimedia, when people are media objects, Gassee will be a great persona. I'd like to get the Canter animators working on the essential Gassee movie clip. I even know what his basic gesture would be.
Extend your right arm. Pull your pinky to your palm. Same with the fourth finger and your thumb. Extend your index and middle fingers and pull them together. Move your arm so that these two fingers are directly under your nose. Sniff shortly three times.
OK -- I didn't think this was going to work. I copped to that in the last DaveNet piece. I was sure that the underlying technology would be excellent. But I thought that Windows and Mac had so much momentum, that there wouldn't be any interest in the developer world for a new API, no matter how good it was.
It's fantastic to be so wrong.
All that space! No word processor or spreadsheet. Of course it doesn't run the Mac OS! Thank god. Let's do a new word processor. It wouldn't have to inherit the limits of old word processors. Let's do a different application integration strategy. No OpenDoc, no OLE to mess with. Clean connections between apps. The same approach taken by the operating system, let's start over, do something new, could be applied to every kind of software we've ever done.
New platforms create opportunities for new kinds of software. Ask Mitch Kapor, John Warnock or Paul Brainerd.
I learned that with outlining software on the Macintosh. I also learned that old platforms don't accept new software ideas easily. I've had *lots* of experience with that one.
Gassee's pitch is working, I think, because, thanks to the Internet, the software world is reinventing itself now. Sun's Scott McNealy calls current operating systems "hairballs." An interesting metaphor. Jean-Louis and company are making a new thing, a beautiful little baby of a platform. No hairballs!
When you're starting over, everything is possible. That's why babies are so beautiful. Their perfection is totally visible. And their potential is unlimited.
On my visit to Be yesterday, I sensed a calm realistic excitement. In the past they were arrogant and that limited their power. All the arrogance is gone. They're happy but not ecstatic. They're emerging from a very rough trip. There are wounds, but they're healing.
Benoit Schilling, one of the development leads at Be, told me that it was great for him to hear that people are excited about his platform. From his perspective, he can only focus on the flaws. That's his job. But it all hangs together. It's a platform. They'll fix the bugs. And we'll fill the holes.
My message to other software developers -- a new platform would be fun. Jean-Louis would be a good man to run it for us. Lay your doubts to the side, go into a small trance, and just BELIEVE that it's going to work. The negative, limiting, distortion field was wrong. New platforms *are* possible. Thank you Jean-Louis and the BeTeam for showing us this.
Jean-Louis is starting over. We can too. The Be platform will work for new entrepreneurial development because it's solid technology that's being sold by a man who knows how to sell the stuff. People are buying new hardware now. A new kind of software economy will develop here. The world is ready for a platform with a net-based distribution system and clean new APIs.
It will work.
PS: If you use a Macintosh, you can download a StuffIt archive containing the first year's essays in Netscape format. It's at http://www.hotwired.com/userland/davenethome.html.
PPS: Jean-Louis's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
PPPS: Only 6,792,023 shopping seconds before Christmas.