I Want a Demo
Wednesday, November 20, 1996 by Dave Winer.
A brief bit of DaveNet this morning...
Netscape announced a new technology for "netcasting" called Constellation. It's in the same space as Pointcast, Marimba, Backweb and several others, and embraces technology from Marimba and Pointcast.
Interesting stuff. A hybrid of email and the web. Pushed content that looks beautiful; prettier than email, and unlike the web, it comes to you. You don't have to go get it.
We're already working on tools for producing content that flows thru these kinds of channels. If Microsoft and others offer similar technology our tools will be adapted to generate content for them too.
It's great for tool vendors when new competing technologies come along, because we can offer choices to developers, hiding the differences where possible, and exploiting the advantages of each approach.
Ellen Hancock, Apple's chief technology officer, is starting to speak publicly about Apple and its relationship with Mac developers. In a news.com report she said "We must ruthlessly and relentlessly drive out the 'not invented here' syndrome. Apple is famed for living in its own reality distortion field."
It sounds like Hancock is singing the right tune. I'm willing to give her a chance. But...
We heard this sentiment from Apple CEO Gil Amelio in May, in even stronger terms, without historic context, only to have it retracted by Apple vice-presidents and managers and regular employees in the following months.
By the time the Apple organization was finished redefining the Amelio's words, the message had become "Apple will not gratuitously compete with developers," leaving us to wonder what gratuitous competition is. I asked for an example, none was provided.
Then an Apple vice-president said Apple won't compete with developers unless it's in its interests to do so, leaving us to wonder what had changed. In the past, did Apple compete with developers when it *wasn't* in their interest? Why would they do that?
Does Hancock have teeth?
From time to time, we've heard new Apple execs arrive with a fresh attitude, telling developers what they want to hear, but usually it doesn't last long. In the end, they tell Apple internal people what *they* want to hear, and end up chasing their tails around the infinite loop.
Does the Mac have a future?
But it's expensive and time-consuming and painful to switch platforms, especially for developers, so a lot of people don't switch and would prefer to believe the Mac has a future even when many people believe it doesn't.
Personally, I believe there is a sustainable position for the Mac platform, but the position must be relative to the dominant Windows platform. This is far from impossible, but it requires courage and the willingness to conceive of Apple as a much smaller company with developers playing a much larger role.
Can we have a demo?
So I, and perhaps others, would like to know what Ms. Hancock plans to do to be sure that Apple employees get the message this time. Is Apple willing to promote developer products? Will they lend their brand name and their web flow and FTP sites to let people know that some of the best products in the software world still run only on the Mac platform?
Can we have a demo of Hancock's new Apple? More than words. Give us something that shows that the company has learned, is willing to accept a smaller role for itself, and is willing to acknowledge the power of others.
I want Apple to market and promote our products instead of theirs. I feel they've done enough to promote their own stuff. Now it's our turn. It's pretty simple. We have so much more than they do. Apple must work for us, not the old way, where they assumed (and said so publicly!) that our work was inadequate and difficult, and theirs elegant. The opposite was true. I want to see Apple people have the courage to take a real look.
Hancock has committed to undoing the system. There's no time to waste and no shortcuts possible. Maybe Hancock is the right person to make Apple grow up and get real? I'm willing to give her a chance, but my eyes will stay open and so will my options.
PS: Check out http://www.texter.com/microreal.html. I had to look twice. It's funny! It's Web Energy! Cooool.
PPS: Netscape's announcement is at http://home.netscape.com/comprod/tech_preview/index.html.