A Message to Microsoft
Monday, December 22, 1997 by Dave Winer.
Good morning and happy holidays!
I spent a good deal of time yesterday writing about the situation between the Department of Justice, the courts and Microsoft. Every day last week, a new report, a response from Microsoft, and the courts responding with more humiliating constraints on the company.
I tried to write an advisory for Microsoft, but decided it's not my place to do that. It's their job to decide what to do. All I can do is stay centered on my view of the situation and explain it, the best I can.
But first, a story. A true one...
A couple of Saturdays ago I was filling up my truck at a local gas station. A parade of people holding candles, some dressed in costumes, is marching down the main street, singing Christmas songs. As they approach I can hear the words are different even though the melodies are familliar.
About thirty people stood in front of me while I filled the tank, singing to me and only me. A scene from a Dickens novel! I couldn't believe all this was just for me. I am touched, I'm laughing and smiling, taking it in.
A woman and a young child approach. The child hands me a red piece of paper with a candy cane attached. She smiles. I thank her.
The words really are different! The songs are about a man who runs a far-away hotel that they work in. They're very upset with him. They came to his hometown, my town, to let his neighbors know they don't like him.
In the United States this is legal! You're allowed to visit your boss's hometown and march down main street in the hope of getting his attention.
I've been talking with Microsoft people about this stuff for the last week or so. I see their side of the story and have encouraged them to tell it.
But I also see the other side, and in fact, I am on the other side. I am looking for a change in Microsoft's relationship with the rest of the world. Why? Because the software world is too big to be dominated by one company.
Microsoft can influence the change, they can move proactively. Or they can wait and eventually the change will happen around them.
I won't join the camp that says Microsoft is evil, because I don't believe it. I believe they are struggling to understand, and that's good. I hope for an awakening, a new view, a new way forward for Microsoft that allows others to safely lead them. A view that says they don't do it all, a view that allows them to build on the work of others without swamping or crushing them or steering them into irrelevance.
They don't invent everything at Microsoft, and they don't understand everything. If more attention were focused on great things happening outside, it wouldn't appear as if everything were happening there, and the world could be happier without limiting Microsoft's power.
I think the message from the courts and the public support for it are much like the message from the people who visited my hometown to sing about their employer. I imagine the man as insulated and impenetrable. I imagine that he has a way of brushing aside their passion and self-love, explaining it as self-interested or inelegant in some way.
No doubt the message from the courts is a clumsy one that's hard for Microsoft to hear.
But it's unmistakable. Some people would like a kinder, more generous Microsoft; one that embraces the big picture without trying to own it, without trying to be it.
It's time for Microsoft to make a choice -- to lead, to become a great company; or continue to struggle and put off the growth.