Apple Could Zig
Tuesday, May 14, 1996 by Dave Winer.
A quick DaveNet. Lots of processing going on here. Yaya! It's really something when your cherished beliefs get exploded. I need a nap! Ohright. Cooool. It's 4AM. Time to write!
Gil Amelio is OK. He's the first Apple CEO that you can look in the eye. Steve Jobs didn't have a clue that there was anyone else in the world. Sculley was always out of the room before he came into the room. Spindler stayed in his room. With the door shut.
Amelio seems to be right here. Where he is. He's not the center -- he leaves room for other people. He's not in another room -- he listens and speaks, and feeds back. He's an interactive CEO. I can't tell much more from a 45-minute meeting, but what I saw so far looks good.
People used to joke that there was no adult supervision at Apple. It got to be an ugly joke because it was so true. (Jokes are *always* true, especially funny ones.) There didn't seem to be a limit to how selfish Apple could be. A developer ships a product, within weeks Apple has a new strategy which circles the area the developer is working in, without including the developer.
They shoot before they think. They only partially understand the problem. Their attention span is short. They replace the developer with expensive employees who are late and miss the mark. If they only realized how this stifled the market! the developer would think.
But there was always another developer coming along to play the fool for Apple. Product depth and quality and track records count for nothing. No momentum builds, no markets get developed. Apple's snub sticks. Users buy into Apple's vision, get confused, wait, and eventually forget why they were waiting. They stop buying new ideas. Markets die. Black holes loom where there could have been growth.
It happened in the groupware market. It happened in development tools and multimedia tools. The Finder has been frozen in time for a decade, with minor hacks added at each end of the menu bar.
The boat rocks when Apple moves. Things break! So the market has been fear-driven, so little movement at the core. I've been over and over this, countless times, no need to repeat it, at least not at this time.
Now there appears to be an adult at Apple. I told Amelio the story of the Mac, in fifteen sentences. Expressed my wish for the future. No more lies. Let's clean it up. Get in agreement. I hope he heard me.
I forgot to ask Amelio if Apple is for sale. We learned, when Brent Schlender did his Fortune cover story on Apple in February, that Apple had been positioning itself continuously to be acquired since 1986.
There was always a boyfriend -- DEC, IBM, Sun and Sony and probably others. That explained the grand initiatives, the emphasis on Apple's internal R&D. They were trying to pump up the company's image and value. Potential acquirers didn't see any value in R&D in developer's companies. So Apple didn't respect or protect their developers. Short-term thinking, which in the end didn't get them anywhere because they didn't get acquired.
Listening to Amelio speak, it seems they may now be taking a long-term view of things. I was surprised that some people were still at Apple. Amelio said that it would all shake out. People would either meet his objectives or not. So everyone gets another chance to do it right. I think that's OK.
It seems that now, as Apple approaches 20 years in business, it may finally be growing up.
I've always hated the term Third Party. It's very arrogant! Who's the First Party? How come you never hear about Second Parties? I much prefer the term Developer. So much more neutral and respectful.
Regardless, I heard something on the stage at WWDC yesterday that amazed me. Larry Tesler, speaking on behalf of Apple's Internet strategy, referred to Apple as a Third Party! Yah. Wow. Pinch me. Such humility! (I'm not being sarcastic.)
Who is Apple the third party of?
In the meeting with Amelio I asked why they are still pushing OpenDoc and CyberDog. I wished they would give it up, really turn the corner and focus all their attention on the growth that's possible thru the net.
Focus on Eudora, Claris Emailer, Netscape, MSIE, BBEdit, PageMill, PhotoShop, Director, Fetch, Anarchie, StuffIt, WebStar, FileMaker. The Finder and Frontier. What a lineup!
Cut your losses Gil, I said, OpenDoc was a head-trippy self-centered strategy to make something new happen, back before Apple knew that the net was the next growth area.
My advice to Amelio: get behind Netscape. Work with Microsoft if you can. Define the perfect client machine. Work with other developers to define the perfect content development and server platform.
Look to developers for trail-blazing. Improve your odds. No one will follow Apple now. It's time for Apple to learn to work with other developers.
Microsoft has this down. But Microsoft is pushing it's own net integration APIs. Apple, uniquely, can afford to support Netscape and other developers. That's what I thought I heard Tesler say earlier.
Apple could zig while Microsoft zags.
So why did Amelio look so puzzled?
He said it was the other way around. Netscape was implementing the OpenDoc APIs.
I had missed something earlier in the day during Tesler's 90-minute presentation on Apple's Internet strategy. I had taken a break. I missed Marc Andreessen on stage. I didn't even know he had been there.
Amelio said that Netscape was supporting OpenDoc. I looked at him in disbelief. No way! That would be the dog wagging the tail. Ooops. The other way around.
Booom! The sound of a bombshell.
Later, I sent an email to Andreessen: "I missed your speech at WWDC today. What did you say about OpenDoc and Netscape? What I heard: Netscape will be an OD server. You'll be able to launch Netscape and have it display inside an OD window. Why is this a big deal? Aren't you selling out to Apple? Does OD make a difference? Clearly you must think it does. Educate me!"
He replied: "We're going to take Navigator and expose chunks of it as OpenDoc parts. Certainly the browser window, perhaps other parts. It's a 6-12 month thing; we're working with their folks to figure out what exactly to do.
"The primary motivation is that we need to componentize the Navigator anyway, for developers and for some OEMs. One way we'll probably do that is by making Navigator a plug-in itself. But this is another way.
"Selling out to Apple? I don't think so... mostly we're trying to support Apple. I know how swell you think Microsoft is these days :-), but if there's only one OS vendor out there, that's not very good for us.
"The other thing that happened today is that Apple said that the Navigator plug-in API would be a way to create OpenDoc parts. That is, any Navigator plug-in automatically works as an OpenDoc part. I think that's kinda cool.
"Please let me know what you think of this -- I guess we think we were doing the right thing :-)"
Oy! Can you handle it? Netscape is a Netscape plug-in. I think that only a true geek can appreciate how recursive this is. Recursive humor! There's an idea.
It gets better. Apple has a OpenDoc container that's a Netscape plugin. And Apple has an OpenDoc part that runs Netscape plugins.
Marc wants to know what I think. Right now I'm confused! I wish Marc and Larry would unwind some of this recursion. The market needs exactly one API here. If Netscape is wholehearted in their support of developers and the market, they're going to have to resolve this confusion somehow.
Strategically, Apple is the smaller player here. People will follow Netscape. So Marc, I'm confused. I'll keep doing content tools. I'll stay away from plugins and parts for now at least.
About Microsoft, I'm praising them these days because they're taking Mac development seriously. That's not meant to detract from Netscape. I believe if Netscape hadn't done a Mac browser there would be no more energy in the Mac platform now. I also think Microsoft would have been able to head you off if you hadn't done a Mac version.
Hey -- I'd be interested in hearing what Microsoft thinks of your deal with Apple. I bet I get an email from Bill Gates. I'll let you know.
Mason Hale, firstname.lastname@example.org, is one of the heroes of the Frontier scripting community. Mason made Frontier work with WebStar and other servers like NetPresenz.
Mason is my buddy, I like working with him, we support each other and we use each other's tools. He's a young man, like so many of the of the people that the web has attracted to the Mac platform. He's part of a new generation that's just as energized as my generation was when the Mac first came out in the mid eighties.
Mason sent me an email yesterday: "I wanted to make sure you saw Apple's press release titled 'Apple Bolsters Macintosh as Premier Web Site Creation Platform with Broad Third-Party Tools Support'.
"It doesn't mention Frontier at all. Worse, it promotes this lame hack from Main Event called Dog Patch that adds 'psuedo-threading' to AppleScript. What it really does is hold Apple Events in a queue, then sends them one at a time to AppleScript CGIs so they don't choke in multi-threaded environments.
"The real story here is that Frontier adds true multi-threading to AppleScript CGIs. AppleScript people need to hear that message. My new CGI Framework makes it absolutely painless to move AppleScript CGIs into Frontier."
Mason wants me to tell Apple to get with the program and start selling the best tools. Done. I believe that the new Amelio-run Apple isn't scared of me or Mason or Frontier. I see this press release as a vestige of the old Apple. The new Apple, I think, wants the best technology.
PS: Check out http://www.scripting.com/apps/webstar.html for a taste of Mason's style and enthusiasm.
PPS: From the dictionary, a semaphore is "an apparatus for signaling, as by an arrangement of lights, flags and meachanical arms on railroads." I like Mason's airplane bathroom definition better.
PPPS: Yes, Tesler was wearing a WebEdge t-shirt. Smart!
PPPPS: Amelio, in his WWDC opening speech, said that he was giving $20 million to Heidi Roizen, email@example.com, to spend promoting developer's products. That's a lot of money!
PPPPPS: WWDC stands for World Wide Developer's Conference. I always mistakenly type three W's, thanks to the World Wide Web.
PPPPPPS: Little-known Netscape feature: you can leave out the www and the com. If you want to go to Apple's website, you can just type apple. If you want to find out about Frontier, you can type scripting/frontier. A real time-saver!
PPPPPPPS: Another vestige of the old Apple. Press badges said "Press." Apple badges said "Apple." Developer's badges said "Attendee." Yuck! Instead they should have said "Developer." Even better: "Honored and Respected Developer."