Steve Wozniak and the Garage
Friday, July 25, 1997 by Dave Winer.
Closing a loop today and opening another.
In Carl and the Two Guys, 7/21/97, I said that Apple and the Mac need a new vision, a new purpose, one that reflects the reality of the late 90s, not the late 70s.
I asked the two founders of Apple, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to take a look at the Apple situation and to talk about it publicly. With no CEO at Apple to protect, I believe now would be a good time to talk about what Apple was, what Apple is, and what it could be in the future.
I got a thoughful response from Steve Wozniak. I would be happy to run or point to a response from Steve Jobs. A dialog here could be truly historic and healing.
From Steve Wozniak, email@example.com:
I'm very shy personally and don't like being the subject of myths. I try to hide out from the spotlight and find constructive things that I can do in my small personal world, such as helping local schools. I can only do little things there but in each class I help a few young people go further. It may be just a little bit but it's something positive that I can do, so I'm glad to do it.
Apple needs to make prudent business decisions along the lines of maximizing profitability more than anything else right now. Myths of where the company came from probably do get in the way.
I would suggest that the company needs a concise purpose, a set of values, a direction. Some things that the employees can feel as a family about. Some things that to make them proud of where they are. Some values or purposes so good that the brightest graduates *want* to come here. Something to replace or augment the myth of which you speak.
But the company is having extreme difficulties. It's hard to get any two people to agree on what the company should be. In times like this, it's easier for outsiders who care, like yourself, to see things that the company needs.
My feeling is that the best approaches involve an understanding of how the business operates outside of the company. We should have values that respect developers and customers as though they are part of an extended family. In actions, not just in words. I have never been able to see such a person as less valuable than my own self. But it's hard to run a large corporation when you include so many as party.
Switching gears... With Microsoft camped out in great numbers on every standards body, can you blame a small startup company for not wanting to open up their protocols, allowing others to implement compatible clients and servers?
This issue comes up all the time. Can open standards only come from Microsoft? You see this struggle in the strategy of JavaSoft, and now it shows up in Netscape's strategy, in their distribution deal with Marimba, announced yesterday.
At one time Netscape had the open standards religion. See Elegant Statements, 2/10/96. In the heady free-speech days of early 1996, they said on their home page "Netscape supports open standards, including First Amendment rights to free speech." Oh how beautiful the idealism was. This was Netscape's garage. Now the reality is different.
Now, for the first time that I'm aware of, Netscape is selling a client-server combo built on a proprietary closed protocol. It's actually a reasonable response to a world where Microsoft controls the avenues of progress. But it is a shame, a baby-bathwater situation because when they shut out Microsoft they also shut out smaller developers who could help new standards get accepted more quickly.
As a user, why should you care? An example -- if you wanted to serve a channel from a database that Marimba doesn't support, you might be able to if the protocol were open. Another example, if you run a Macintosh net server, you might be able to run a Marimba-compatible transmitter since they don't currently offer a transmitter for the Mac OS.
These are just examples. I'm aware of unannounced innovations in mail servers that are going to be quite revolutionary. They couldn't work if Internet email weren't built on open standards, SMTP and POP. They could be Marimba-compatible if we knew what that meant.
It's a tricky situation for Netscape and Marimba. The quiet period for Internet standards is long over. Now proposed standards must have a proprietary incubation period. That's why "proprietary" is no longer a dirty word. In a world without Microsoft, it would be.
Before the Internet happened, Microsoft held "design reviews" where groups of outside developers would meet to help direct Microsoft. I participated in several of these in the early 90s and now I see some of my ideas implemented in Microsoft system software.
In that world, Microsoft sets the standard, but we have some influence over what they do. A reasonable situation unless there's an alternative.
Personally, I'd prefer the chaos of an open market. But with a large player such as Microsoft in the market, we quickly fall back to the old equilibrium soon after they made it a priority to be influential in the standards of the Internet.
So Netscape and Marimba are exceptions, they want to promote a standard independently of Microsoft. I wish there were others. I admire their courage.