High Roads & Big Pictures
Tuesday, August 12, 1997 by Dave Winer.
It's almost a week since the Microsoft-Apple deal was announced, it's on the cover of both Time and Newsweek, and the discussion on the web has settled down.
The most steadfast Mac zealots have made their peace with the deal, they now include Bill Gates and his company under the sanctified umbrella, wearing the same halo they give to Guy Kawasaki and Steve Jobs (and used to give to Gil Amelio, as if to prove how flexible they can be).
Others are putting up web pages comparing 1997 to 1984. The similarities are striking! A big guy on a big screen speaking above the crowd. Literature is great, but Orwell didn't know about the net or understand how technology could play a role in giving individuals a greater voice, not a diminished one.
The Mac press says this is an interesting deal, but what about the clones?
So everybody wonders why they did it. What does it mean? How should we parse the deal? And then how do we move on? For some of us there's nothing new to digest. Microsoft isn't the death star that so many think they are. It's a large company with lots of personalities. Some very exciting and excitable people. It's got a corporate culture, for sure; a winning one -- we could all learn something from Microsoft.
I've said over and over that the animosity with Microsoft didn't serve the Mac community. The time to challenge Windows is long past, the time to move was 1990, seven years ago. Now that Windows is established, it's best to acknowledge and respect it, and find a place for the Mac to make a unique contribution. I've never doubted that the Mac could play such a role.
So I support Jobs's statement -- Microsoft doesn't have to lose in order for the Mac to win. Right on! Gotta agree with that one. Totally. The Mac is a great education and content platform. Woz would probably support the first, and I'm tuned into the latter. All bases are covered with that positioning statement. Cooool.
So people ask why? I think the answer is obvious, but before looking at that, let's see why the software industry has so much trouble parsing deals like this one.
I see articles in PC WEEK, InfoWorld, the business sections of local papers, the usual industry circuit; they seem to paint every industry story with the same colors. Every headline could read Boy Kills Boy! Or at least tries to. Next week the same story, except the boys are switched or different.
The competition is always so immature and unforgiving. Does Apple have a right to exist? Does the Mac? Not if Our Boy Bill kills them. Could Apple kill Microsoft? No. Therefore Apple is dead. Such logic! So immature. Does the world really work that way? No.
As boys grow older and become men our view of the world changes. We learn that we are not the greatest primate in the jungle, that other people have greatness too. And if our youth was productive, we learn that we have a stake in the bigger picture. We learn to love the jungle, we want it to survive, we develop an appreciation for chaos.
Bill Gates is a leader, so is Steve Jobs. Bill runs Microsoft. Steve (apparently) runs Apple. But they play a larger role. Both are leaders of the software industry, and in that capacity they can act on a bigger level.
I can't speak for Gates, he hasn't said why he invested the money in Apple, but I'm going to assume that he took the high road, and explain what that means.
It's really simple. There are millions of people who use Macs. Most of them want to continue to use the Mac. It costs so much time and lost creativity to change platforms. The goodwill of Mac users, as I've said many times, is worth a lot, longterm. Healing this situation is worth it, if you have a longterm view of the software business, which of course Gates does.
So if Mac users want to keep using Macs, why not let them? In one act, Gates sent a signal to the PC press -- stop undermining the Mac. Give it a chance. He led the best way you can -- by example. I'm giving them a chance, how about you too?
Sun doesn't understand how the PC business works, or they would have jumped into this void. Same with Netscape. Luckily for both companies, Microsoft and Apple have left them an opening to do exactly that. I wonder if they're listening? If so, here's the formula.
Jobs said a lot of things that are worthy of praise in his speech last Wednesday. He described an appalling situation. Photoshop sells a lot of Macs. But Apple has never made a Mac that's tuned to run Photoshop. Can we conclude that Adobe and Apple will work together to fix this? If so, Apple is playing in its strength. As a maker of both software and hardware, they're in a unique position to build this machine. Microsoft can't do it because they don't make hardware. And Compaq, Dell, Gateway can't do it because they don't make an OS.
Jobs knows Warnock, but does he know Rich Siegel or Chuck Shotton? Has he ever put up a website with a Mac? Probably not. Has he ever written an AppleScript CGI? Does he have a clue where the Mac platform can go as a web content development system? I'd bet not.
So there's the opening for Netscape. I've encouraged them, in the past, to take a stake in the Mac developer community. All of our software can be ported to other platforms. We're a culture, a community, a group of friends that like to work with each other. They could take the high road, as Microsoft has, and work to empower us, instead of shaking their heads (oh the Mac, it was so great...)
I was quoted in the Time article on the Microsoft-Apple deal saying "Netscape could have shored up the Macintosh situation. Same with Sun. They could have given Apple $150 million. They weren't playing strategically. Microsoft was."
I regret saying that they could have given Apple $150 million. What I really want to say is that they could invest a few million in Mac net developers to help us be cross-platform or Java-compatible and relevant to the larger world.
Either Sun or Netscape could help to take the industry hex off the Mac platform. Goodwill would accrue. Developers are important in this world. But so far, neither company has had a large enough view to take off the blinders and see what's been accomplished in this world.
There's still time, the door is still open, I think.
Remember Don's Amazing Puzzle.
How many F's?
Bill Gates saw six.
PS: Other companies could fill this void too: Cisco, Kleiner-Perkins, Microsoft, Novell, IBM, Motorola or Softbank. Intel? That would reallllly be creative!