Before It Gets Too Hot
Tuesday, August 13, 1996 by Dave Winer.
This has to be a quick one. I've got a bunch of work to do today before it gets hot. Man. Yesterday was a scorcher. Today will be too. So I'll write quickly.
A few people, following up after meeting me in person at MacWorld Expo, remarked that I don't talk like I write. Wrong! I talk exactly like I write. Sometimes I even talk out loud while I write. Sometimes very loudly! I learned this when I tried to write a DaveNet piece on the plane to Boston last week. It doesn't work. People want to know what that man thinks is so funny! So if you can't hear me laughing while I write these pieces, then you're hearing someone else's voice, not mine.
Some people assume I'm writing about AppleScript when I write about Apple putting developers out of business. I am not. That's a long-gone struggle. I forgave them and moved on. I did it publicly, in Let's Have Fun!, 4/26/96, a week before my fortieth birthday. Before you question my intent re AppleScript, I ask that you read that piece. It was a milestone for me, and unless you understand what I'm saying in that piece, you can't understand my position on AppleScript. Then read "We Love AppleScript!" for proof that the words now have actions behind them.
Further, if Apple is kind to Frontier and its developers and users they need never be an obstacle to the growth of its market. Maybe someday we'll be able to get a business going around Frontier on the Mac. I'm hopeful. But my eyes are open too.
No, the latest victim of Apple's fear is the strongest standard we have in the Mac web market, Quarterdeck's WebStar web server product. There's a community here that's being undermined. It's happening right now. And it's not too late to stop it, so that's why it's a good idea to discuss this now.
The Mac web server community looks to Chuck Shotton, email@example.com, WebStar's chief developer, for leadership. His leadership is a demonstrable fact. Chuck's not perfect, but he is responsive. A competitive market is developing in web servers, with some excellent entries from ResNova and others. We're ready to go to the next stage of maturity in this market. But Apple is planning to bundle a server from Maxum, a fine company with an excellent reputation. But Maxum is not the leader in this market. Don't be misled, Apple cannot be just another vendor in this market. Their move divides the market, undermines Chuck's leadership, but more importantly, it undermines the standard, and our ability to move it forward quickly.
It would be hypocritical for me to stand by and say nothing. I hated being out there on my own when Apple chose to take over my market. Now, one more time round the loop, they've found a developer who will give them what they want at the expense of the community.
That's why I quoted Benjamin Franklin (not Winston Churchill or Patrick Henry) -- "We must all hang together or we will all hang separately." To other developers, make your deals with Apple, but be aware that you'll lose some of your trust with other developers.
I stand for independence and choice and diversity. Did you hear Colin Powell's speech at the Republican convention last night? He's in favor of affirmative action and is pro-choice. He got a standing ovation! Hey if the Republicans can handle diversity, why can't the Macintosh market?
And I don't hate OpenDoc! -- but I do dislike it when people say I do. I choose not to invest in OpenDoc at this time. It's my money, not yours. I could be wrong about OpenDoc. It's happened before.
The best solution, when in doubt, is to read the words. Listening is hard work. Inference and assumption are dangerous things to do. Please take people at face value, including me. Thanks!
I support Microsoft's presence in the Mac market, without any qualification. I do this with my eyes open. There's no point sending me email explaining Microsoft's track record in the Windows and DOS markets. This is the Mac market. They are not the platform vendor here. They don't control what's bundled with the operating system. Listening to Microsoft people, I can hear how much they want to work with Apple, and how much it hurts them, on a personal level, when Apple blows them off.
An Apple evangelist asks: "How would you characterize what Microsoft is doing to Netscape? Netscape makes money selling web browsers and web servers. So Microsoft gives browsers and servers away. How is this different?" I respond: "OK. Microsoft is mean to Netscape. So what? I'm not talking about who's nicer than who. It's about winning. Apple loses too when it wipes out growing markets. That's the real point."
Or if you don't like the pragmatic approach, try the moral one. Two wrongs don't make a right.
Anyway, I liked yesterday's Wall Street Journal article because for the first time, a major business publication considered the possibility that new software that makes the Mac a healthier platform can come from developers other than Apple. Finally!
Now it's time to roll up our sleeves and deliver the software that connects to what Microsoft is doing. Microsoft welcomes us, they don't tell us to go away. We respond by getting closer. This is business. It's the right way to do it.
I think the Journal got a lot of things right. Here's an example: "Microsoft is hoping that the innovative tradition of small Mac programmers will create exciting Internet programs that will keep people attracted to the Mac." Right on!
The Journal also reported that the new Microsoft group is building Mac-specific code. That's also true, and very important. Mac users deserve the best we can create, Microsoft is saying. This stands in sharp contrast to other developers (including, ironically, other parts of Microsoft) who view the Mac as a porting opportunity. The more developers that create software specifically for the Mac, the more reasons there will be to use a Mac. Microsoft has chosen to zig and zag at the same time, to cover both bets -- thru ported apps and thru native apps. They're big enough to do that.
But, a couple of things need to be cleared up. I can help with one, but the other one has to come from Microsoft. The Journal says "[Microsoft] has told Macintosh software companies that it stands ready to help them in numerous ways, possibly including no-strings-attached cash grants of as much as $100,000."
I think this is wrong. No strings? That's not the way business works. It would be great if it did; as long as I got the free money, and not my competitor. If it were happening I think I would know. I don't see it.
The Journal theorizes that Microsoft is investing in the Mac market to avoid the scrutiny of US government's anti-trust attorneys. Maybe so. We all have our theories why Microsoft is here. But Microsoft has no statement I can refer you to. So here's an invitation to Bill Gates, Brad Silverberg, John Ludwig or Don Bradford at Microsoft. Why are you investing in the Mac platform? What are your hopes? What role would you like to play? If Microsoft will issue a statement, I'd be happy to run it in DaveNet.
And to other technology leaders -- what are you willing to do to assure that there's a healthy climate for small Macintosh developers with big ideas?
Yesterday I asked where Power Computing's laptop is.
The answer came from Marc Gonzales, firstname.lastname@example.org: "I was at the Mac clone panel on Wednesday when this issue came up. As you know, Apple's clone strategy currently depends upon Apple licensing their hardware designs and chip sets out to the clone vendors - mainly because the MacOS cannot be separated, currently, from the underlying custom hardware.
"In the case of PowerBooks, the issue is even worse, with the hardware and software being extremely intertwined. The Apple fellow on the panel confirmed this and said it was a major problem they are trying to work on. Power Computing, for their part, made a public plea for Apple to hurry up already, and this was seconded by the other members of the panel.
"So, it's not really Power's fault - they're waiting for Apple. And they can't base a portable platform upon CHRP because they're waiting for Apple to ship a MacOS version for CHRP. So they're stuck right now. They really want to do it, but can't."
There's a new web-based bulletin-board system for DaveNet readers (and Frontier users) to comment on pieces, read other people's replies and to comment on them.
The URL is http://www.scripting.com/bbs.welcome.fcgi. Help me get the ball rolling. If you have a comment, please log onto the BBS, jump to the DaveNet section, and enter your comments. Other DaveNet readers will read them, and a discussion can happen. It'll be fun!
Have you heard about Marimba Inc? I've been following this company since its inception; I first wrote about them in Web Energy, 1/26/96, before they had a name or an office or a payroll. Marimba is the group that split off from Sun to do Java-based software for net applications. I want their Mac software to shine. To do this, they need to get the very best Mac people. They're hiring now. If you have deep MacOS experience, and want to win, it could be a win for you too.
That's it for now!