Behind the Hype
Wednesday, August 6, 1997 by Dave Winer.
At the end of the day -- so many reports on the web about the Apple-Microsoft announcements. Here's my perspective after a day of listening, reading, talking, and parsing. Without a doubt the situation will look different tomorrow and next week.
Mike Markkula is out, and that's historically significant, but doesn't say much about the future. There's an opening for a CEO at Apple, and an implicit offer from Jobs to step aside if the new CEO wants him to. Hats off to Jobs and the new board for having the wisdom to keep the door open for a truly powerful leader for Apple.
The Java deal is sweet for Microsoft and must be a bitter pill for Sun; but don't cry for them, Sun could have easily bought Apple and kept the good stuff, any time in the last two years.
The Netscape attack is overstated. What did Microsoft get here? What does it mean to be the default browser? Windows has this concept, the Mac OS does not. As long as Apple is bundling both browsers, I don't see what the noise is about. Sounds like a publicist's idea. Maybe I'm missing something.
Apple gave up something we can't evaluate because it's secret. They signed a "broad patent cross-licensing agreement," but no specifics were offered. According to sources, Microsoft gave the Office-for-five-years concession to avoid an Apple lawsuit. What was Apple going to sue over?
Were there side-deals? Will Office be bundled? Did Microsoft get source code rights for Apple stuff like QuickTime? Will Visual Basic replace AppleScript? What about Rhapsody? There are a bunch of ex-Next people at Microsoft. They'll know what to ask for.
In the meantime, as the dust settles, the clone issue hasn't been settled. It's pretty clear from announcements this week that Power Computing and Motorola are in position to kick Apple's butt in performance and value. They're starting to ship reasonable $1000 machines. Apple's protests that the cloners haven't pulled their weight is pure noise. They've been driving the platform forward at a higher rate than Apple has.
It seems desperate for Apple to covet the business of the cloners. Apple is dominant in this market. Even if their products were just close to the quality and value of their competitor's products, they should own the whole market because of their brand name and customer loyalty. Apple may need to do a deal with Power or Motorola to stay competitive.
The Microsoft deal is a noisy one, a headline-grabber for sure. It sets the stage for more announcements -- don't be surprised if Jobs is on stage with someone from Netscape next week, Sun the week after that, then Adobe and of course Oracle and IBM. But honestly I'd prefer to see them on stage with someone from Power Computing, Bare Bones, Quark, Adobe or Connectix. It would mean more to Mac users.
On the other hand, it's good to have Apple back in the middle of things again. Amelio could never sit down at a software industry bargaining table and do something meaningful. Neither could Sculley or Spindler. So this is something new.
And Bill Campbell, a member of the church of win-win, is now on Apple's board. I've had the pleasure of doing business with Bill many times in the past, and hope to work with him in his new capacity as an Apple director.
And there's nothing the press loves more than a story about Apple, and Steve Jobs plays the press so damned well. Even after all the doom and gloom pieces over all the years, Apple is still front page material.
But behind the hype is a failing commercial enterprise, one that's distant from the market it serves. This time around the loop, Apple's arrogance is lashing out at its users and that's a very dangerous place to be.
They're playing a desperate game of chicken, perhaps hoping to sweep the cloning issue aside with noisy announcements. But the issue is still there. The issue is trust. Is Apple telling the truth when they say they are acting in the best interests of the platform? I don't think they are.