Wednesday, December 17, 1997 by Dave Winer.
I have something to say to Microsoft today.
So I went back and looked for precedent. What I came up with was Stalin Go Home! written on 2/2/96, almost two years ago.
Some things don't change, and other things have to.
Bill Clinton will be a former president soon.
And Bill Gates, one way or the other, will become the creative leader he must become, instead of the scrappy entrepreneur he used to be.
At a party in San Francisco Saturday night I chatted with a woman who's still at Apple. She's a nice person. Under different circumstances I'm sure we'd be friends.
I said I wished Apple the best. She smiles, and I get a raised eyebrow. Hmmm. I think I understand what this means. "I was trying help Apple!" I said in response, and I meant it.
I was covering the Internet boom, I explained, as a writer and a software developer. In all the DaveNets I wrote, I was trying to show Apple how to navigate so the Mac could fully participate in the growth of the net. I was exclusively a Mac developer then, so my interest was clear. I wanted the Mac to do well, so I could do well.
I don't think any reasonable person, in hindsight, would disagree that Apple missed a big opportunity. Was I rubbing their nose in their blindness? Depends on how you look at it. They certainly didn't want to see opportunities. They must have wanted to see challenges because that's what they saw.
It would have been easy to steer Apple to profitable growth in 1995 and 1996. It's not my fault they chose not to do it. I did the best I could.
OK, so now I've navigated so that I'm no longer just a Mac developer.
We have Windows users now. Even I am using Windows now.
So when am I going to try to help Microsoft in the same way I tried to help Apple?
How about now?
First, Microsoft and Apple are very different. Yes, there are good people at Apple, sometimes even great people, but the people who run the show, the execs, have always been disengaged from what's really happening at the company and especially outside the company.
They didn't seem to work very hard, or be that creative, or whatever. The net-effect is that it's been over ten years since I had a conversation with an Apple exec where we see the world compatibly and can plot a win-win. There was always a disconnect, a lack of trust, an unwillingness to win.
Microsoft is different. We're engaged in the same quest. We see things the same way. This XML stuff is making people incandescent, me too. I have something to contribute, and Microsoft doesn't respond with the jealousy that Apple did.
I have excited and respectful conversations with Microsoft people every day. I don't withhold what I think. I use foul language (that's a good sign that I'm relaxed). The more I learn the more I see a hole that's filled by what we do that isn't filled by what they do.
I see Ed Iaccobucci building a huge and profitable company right in the middle of the Windows operating system! I see him doing deals with everyone but Microsoft. I don't see Microsoft crushing Citrix as Apple used to routinely crush developers who got too close to doing what they do.
Clearly, to win you have to not try to erase Microsoft. I totally understand. I'm the same way. When people try to erase me, my natural reaction is to stop them from doing it. I think all healthy human beings do that.
There seems to be a formula for co-existing with Microsoft where there was none for co-existing with Apple. But it requires depth and seductive abilities, courage, strength and resilience, and most of all, creativity.
Novell and Borland fell to Microsoft. Intel, Cisco, IBM, Adobe and many others are thriving. If this were baseball or football we'd just say that Microsoft is a winner, we wouldn't worry about the losers. But this is business, not a sport, and we don't look at it the same way.
Now I'm investing in Microsoft's platform. I'm steering users of my software to their operating system. I have to do it because it's right. The machines are fast and inexpensive and do a great job of running our software. The price-performance beats anything offered in the Macintosh world. If that changes I'll let you know.
Microsoft has not threatened me as many people predict they will. Quite the opposite, Microsoft as a company, and the people at Microsoft have already helped my small company in very significant ways, and it looks like they're going to do more to help us.
To clear things up for people who see a contradiction, this is always what I asked Apple to do with us. To work for our success, so we could return the favor. I never wanted to be Apple, I am truly a software entrepreneur, not a large-company exec. I just wanted to be successful making software for the Mac. I think they completely missed my motive. I don't think Microsoft misses this.
I'm not a threat to Microsoft. That's essential for my success, and not my nature. I've been in the software business as long as Bill Gates has. If I wanted to replace him, it would have been a lot easier to do it in the late 70s, early 80s or even the early 90s. The Microsoft of the next millenium is uneraseable by anyone in the software industry. So don't try!
Sun dreamed of a world without Microsoft. We took a look. But...
Port all your code to Java, they said, if you want to be able to connect Frontier scripts to software that's written in Java. What a ridiculous proposition.
Java truly is a captive world unto itself. The only way to talk to it is to become part of it. Yuck!
Instead we went with TCP, an open standard of the Internet. We'll talk to Java code thru TCP and use XML to send parameters and receive returned results. I'm sure someone on the Java side of the fence will wire up to this pair of protocols.
Developers have to be smart. We have to look at what's being offered and have the guts to say no. Success requires enormous creativity! There's no forgiveness in business. If you make a stupid decision, you always pay for it.
Microsoft could learn to trust this.
I think we're entering the Windows software world at exactly the right moment.
Browsers are getting boring. The Java euphoria is almost over. Microsoft is struggling with the judicial system the same way they struggled with Sun over Java.
Instead of struggling, I hope they take the high road and back off. In retrospect, I believe Microsoft could have given Sun the right to include unmodified Java Runtimes with Windows for five years for free, and it would have made Microsoft bigger and stronger if they had done it.
In the same way, I think they could back off in their battle with the government, and make their browser a downloadable item from their website, do it elegantly, include software in the OS that loads any browser you want. And back off and enjoy the huge growth such a framework would create.
Why? If they opened up a new channel for net access software, entrepreneurial companies like mine would rush to fill the void. We're ready to do it, our base software is ported. We could have fun here!
Hey, HTML is not the last word in display formats.
Let's invent some new ones.
Does Microsoft have to do all the browsing software? No more than they have to do all the fonts. Think about it.
It's time for Microsoft to navigate. I just had to do it. Everyone does it. Life forces change.
Bill Gates is more than a competitor now. What's his vision for us? What's his vision for his company and for himself?