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Microsoft in the Mac Market

Tuesday, July 2, 1996 by Dave Winer.

Has anyone been paying attention?

Sometimes when you say something that doesn't match another person's view of the world, they can't hear you.

Wife says to husband: "The roofer was here today. It's going to cost $900 to fix it." Husband says: "That's a lot of money." Wife says: "So I agreed to sleep with him and the price went down to $500." Husband says: "That's nice honey."

I say to an Apple person: "Microsoft is doing a great web browser." Apple person says: "Office is really great. We want Visual Basic."


Microsoft is making excellent Mac software.

Did you hear that? I'll say it again.

Microsoft is making excellent Mac software. I'm not talking about Office. Honestly, I find Office boring. I find Internet apps exciting.

One more time.

Microsoft Internet Explorer is a very nice piece of software.

Let's really nail it.

Explorer is the answer to the warmed up leftovers that Netscape has been offering to Mac users.

Oh Netscape! Permalink to Oh Netscape!

Oh Netscape! They say they saved the Mac. That's true. They say they do everything on the Mac they do on Windows. Yes, but later. Will they work with us to make Navigator fit into the new stuff that's originating on the Mac? No. Not really.

So, in my view, Netscape is no longer a friend of the Mac platform, because if net standards can't originate from this community, we don't have a prayer for relevence. We'll be running ported Windows apps and parts forever, and that doesn't leave much opportunity for growth in the Mac developer world. It's actually a formula for our starvation.

Andreessen says nice things about the Mac, but they half-implement stuff, leave the bugs in, so we can't build on the features.

They proclaim their love for Apple and ignore the disconnection between Apple and the Mac community.

How quickly Netscape transformed from an outsider to a part of the power structure that tries to keep things from happening. Do they really intend to use OpenDoc as their integration strategy? No of course not. But on stage they leave that impression. That's bad. It's dishonest! My values, of course.

Enter Microsoft Permalink to Enter Microsoft

Enter Microsoft with a different approach. First, they gain credibility in the user base and among developers by quietly shipping an excellent Mac-only web browser. They use native Mac development tools. Build on our scripting languages. Support our APIs. We didn't have to sell them on it, we didn't even know they were doing it! Instead of creating a buzz, they implement it. It's respectable behavior. It shows depth and patience, and an understanding of how power flows in this community.

They start showing up in public. They know our names. They know what we do. They implement our suggestions. They offer to share what they have. They want to work with us, just like the people who make WebStar, Eudora, Stuffit, Filemaker, Anarchie, BBEdit, and Internet Config work with us.

Hmmmm. The answer was yes, of course.

But I want an insurance policy.

Two legs are better than one Permalink to Two legs are better than one

I always prefer to walk on two legs. In every important market I want a choice.

So, if Microsoft is making the right sounds, I want Netscape to listen and learn and grow to appreciate the relationships they can build with other Mac developers. To follow Microsoft's lead, but to develop a unique Mac presence, to add their own Netscape twists to the formula. It may be against their religion to do so, but their religion will change when Microsoft's power in this market becomes visible.

Both Apple and Netscape are blind to this right now. They don't have a clue what's going on in the Mac net space. Sooner or later it's going to occur to them. Until that time, Microsoft will take advantage of the vaccuum as only Microsoft can.

When Netscape and Apple wake up it'll be because they'll see a small mountain of interconnected software developed by a dozen or so Mac developers, with Microsoft at the center. And new cross-platform standards, supported by Microsoft, that were quietly brewing in the Mac community.

The bottom line: Microsoft sent a listener and contributor into the Mac community. The others didn't.

Apple's fear Permalink to Apple's fear

I want to walk on two legs because Microsoft is like all huge corporations, they prefer to dominate, but first they must compete. We're all served better if they're forever in the compete stage and never achieve dominance. I think this is actually better for Microsoft too, but it isn't my job to worry about what's good for Microsoft; I come first, of course.

As I've been talking with my new friends at Microsoft and my old friends in the Mac net community I've been trying to get a feel for how it will play out. Suppose we give Microsoft what they want? How can we be sure that they will continue to respect us once our software is delivered? Will they be open to new generations of standards coming out of the Mac net community, or is this a one-time deal?

I think I have the solution, but it requires both Apple and Microsoft to accept each other, and to allow the Mac developer community to play its natural role in driving new markets, and to assure that Microsoft's role in this market is no greater than the software and the upgrades they deliver. And the same with Apple.

Publicly and privately, the Microsoft spin is that they try to work with Apple, but Apple always blows them off. Apple says you can't trust Microsoft. This animosity serves neither company. The rules of the software industry have changed. Both Microsoft and Apple are struggling to retain relevence. They have the same problem.

Microsoft has realized that it makes sense to be serious about the Mac. I want Apple to stand up and acknowledge Microsoft's investment, and define the (crucial) role of Internet Explorer in the Mac net world. It's an interesting story. It supports Apple. It's time for Apple to tell the story instead of ignoring it.

Why? Because ignoring Microsoft is a disastrous strategy for Apple. It's the equivalent of Apple's ignorance of Windows 3.0 in 1990. It's probably going to do more damage to Apple than the earlier ignorance did.

On the other hand, Microsoft must be willing to let independent software remain independent. Owning the standards isn't cool. Working cooperatively to create new standards is the best way to go, for all of us. I understand that this is now part of Microsoft's religion. The actions must agree with the positioning.

To Microsoft: we're going to play with all our toys, and we're going to make new ones. If it shows the Mac to be more competitive than Windows in some areas, so be it. If we let each platform find its own role to play, we won't need to struggle. The truth is that Windows does not equal Mac, and vice versa. Different people, different uses, different strengths. We'll port our standards to Windows. Welcome those standards as you want Apple to welcome you to the Mac world.

It's good that Microsoft has stopped looking to Apple to run the Mac market. There was a time when this was so. But now, if we invite Apple to play a responsible role in the Internet apps market, a role which I think they are capable of, I am looking to Microsoft to let it happen, and more important, to be part of it.

And, to Apple, I would like to help Microsoft deliver great new technology to the Mac platform that works incredibly well with software created by other Mac developers and delivers new exciting reasons for people to use a Macintosh. How do you feel about this?

Apple's power Permalink to Apple's power

Apple doesn't trust Microsoft. I think it's correct for Apple to not trust a dominant Microsoft, but they can carefully use their power in the Mac market to assure that Microsoft doesn't dominate. Skillfully expressed, Apple's power is as great as Netscape's.

Do they have to worry about Microsoft's dominance? I don't think so. There are two powerful counterbalances: Netscape Navigator and the Mac development community. Apple doesn't need to do anything to stimulate Netscape, Microsoft will take care of that.

What Apple can do is help to reduce the vulnerability of the Mac developer community. We're thick on technology and thin on cash. The standards of this community can be purchased for pennies.

There's a ton of value in the Mac net apps market, expressed in source code that works and brilliant people who choose to make Mac net apps. Here's the perfect opportunity for Apple to kick back for the next couple of years, heal its wounds and let developers drive the market. Microsoft appears to be ready to be part of the community.

Microsoft and Netscape facing off in the Mac market can stimulate growth and investment in our world. This is a very good thing for Mac developers and for Apple shareholders. The faceoff should be encouraged by Apple. It's total win for the Mac platform. A paradigm shift may be necessary at Apple, but I believe they're capable of it.

There are new pieces to be created that this market needs. We're creating them, building on stuff we already have working, and making new connections. Java plays a key role in all that we do. New content tools and new server architectures. A relevence for the platform that keys off its strengths. No parity, where parity makes no sense. We'll work with other Mac developers to strengthen the platform and to promote new net standards. We'll port the key components to Windows and Unix.

Microsoft has stepped up and offered to be part of the process. We say yes. Apple can say yes too.

Dave Winer

PS: !

© Copyright 1994-2004 Dave Winer. Last update: 2/5/07; 10:50:05 AM Pacific. "There's no time like now."