Great Walls of FUD
Thursday, April 10, 1997 by Dave Winer.
A major transition is happening among Mac users.
The ones who have remained are the ones with the highest cost of switching platforms. That's why they waited so long. If you're switching now, you don't want to do it again anytime soon.
So the final mass exodus from the Mac is going to Windows, not Solaris and not Java OS. By the time they get their scrollbars working in Java, the transition will be complete. Their timing is off by at least a couple of years to catch this flow.
It would have made sense for the Sun people to have made friends with the Mac users and developers, not Apple! I've offered, publicly, so many times, to work with the Unix people and that includes the people at Sun.
I think it's ironic, being a Mac developer, that I'm going to meet up with my potential Unix brothers and sisters on Bill Gates's operating system.
Sun says get your mind out of the box. A cute, but arrogant phrase, implying that they understand what the box is, and that there's something interesting outside of it.
Sun's argument is remininscent of the early promoters of PDAs, General Magic, Go, and Apple, only more vague. Don't miss that the Pilot PDA, which is quickly becoming a platform, is winning because of its smooth connection to desktop systems.
The primary point of connection to the net is the PC. Microsoft will continue to own the box that Sun wants us to get out of. The truth, the box is very important, even if you don't have a cute marketing slogan to go with it.
Sun is trying to reduce the software world to a two-horse race but Microsoft is listening better than Sun. They ask the question I wonder about. Is it necessary for us to rewrite all our software? The customers don't ask us to do this, only the people who work at Java-invested companies do.
Another disconnect -- Sun focuses all the attention on Microsoft, and ignores the other languages and development environments that are already delivering what Java promises. They want to wipe the slate clean, not just of Microsoft, but all other software too.
That sounds fine to some, until you realize how far they have to go before they can build all that they need to build to get their platform competitive with Windows.
Conventional wisdom in the software industry says no, you can't work with Microsoft.
And advice comes from inside Microsoft -- unless they buy you, don't work with them. This isn't coming from outside, it's coming from inside.
I understand that like all big companies, Microsoft is a ouija board. There's a disconnect in there. I can't get inside Bill Gates and figure out what wants. Even if I could, it's too big a company to understand what's going on, too many people, too many different ideas.
So, is it safe to work with Microsoft? They do usurp ideas and markets from other developers. I'm not going to argue good or bad, right or wrong, but if I make an investment, I want to be around to collect the rewards if I'm proven right. If all the upside belongs to Microsoft, why bother investing?
The "Microsoft is evil" rap works well for Microsoft. It keeps the journalists singing the right tune. Keeps money and users flowing to Microsoft and away from smaller teams of developers at smaller companies.
Microsoft may tell you otherwise, and may honestly intend for it to be otherwise, but this is the reality. The wonderful thing about the Internet is that it was free of this kind of control until recently.
Sometimes I think Sun and Microsoft are in collusion, by distracting us to focus the attention on their faceoff, we lose sight of what we're really giving up -- true diversity and choice.
I imagine that Gates has never been fudded like he's being fudded now. Now maybe he can imagine what it's like being a creative developer with passion for an idea, being headed off by big-company FUD and journalists that go along with it. I've stayed away from Microsoft battles, but now I'm getting in there. And I now can see the wall of FUD, in the minds of journalists and other developers, if not in the minds of Microsoft people.
Gates says he's for choice, but I doubt if they've left space on their map of the PC industry for my software. I'll have to make my own space, and hope that they haven't scoped out my territory, or somehow it's too small a niche to interest them, or that my implementation is so good that enough people choose my stuff over theirs.
This is Sun's doing. Microsoft could never have regained so much power on their own. Only in contrast to Sun's incredible greed is the Microsoft pitch even worth listening to. Sun offers me no way to win with them. Microsoft at least offers choice, but we believe that they mean choice of languages, not choice of vendors. Sun doesn't even offer a choice of languages! They insist on wiping the slate clean, and that means wiping out my investment. It would be totally nuts for me to follow them.
Can Microsoft change? Yes, I'm optimistic. I think they're growing so fast that they can afford to build some truly competitive relationships with other developers.
I think the Sun people are mostly good-hearted and mean what they say, they just miss the implications and contradictions, or don't have enough experience working with developers.
I think that Apple shareholders really want there to be a Mac with more software written to the Mac APIs. I hope for all this, even though the facts don't lead to these conclusions.
If ever there was a time to shake your head and wonder why humans are so dysfunctional, why there is so little communication, or real friendship, if you're into software and networks, now is the right time to do it.
Hey thank god there's still the web! (Wow, I almost forgot...)