DaveNet: Monday, October 27, 1997; by Dave Winer.

blue ribbon More Email with Gates

The email conversation with Microsoft CEO Bill Gates continues...

I said...

Thanks for forwarding the email to Jim Carlton yesterday.

A few thoughts... I was less kind to his book. I thought it was really sloppy. Many things stated as fact when they are just opinion. No science experiment was conducted to determine that the "correct" strategy for Apple would have been to license the Mac OS. I fear that Carlton's book becomes the definitive Apple book, and that the users and developers are forgotten.

He also completely overlooks the 1990 opportunity, which I think was the official turning point for Apple. I wrote a memo, like your 1985 one, in the summer of 1990, outlining a marketing plan for the Mac OS, positioned relative to Windows 3.0. The headline for the ad would have said "As long as you're getting a graphic computer, why not get the best?"

This ad would have run opposite your "Kiss the C Prompt Goodbye, Forever."

See how well they fit together? In 1990, there was no question that the Mac offered the real thing and that Windows 3.0 was just good enough.

But Gassée said that Apple doesn't do comparative advertising. A shame, there was Apple's chance to compete, to be relevant to the bigger world, but they wanted to stay small. Gassée claims that he was covering for Sculley, but I would still give this one to him.

There were people at Apple who made so much noise that they got reorg'd out. I ran into [Microsoft product manager] Lewis Levin at MacWorld Expo in Boston in August 1990, and he wanted to know when Apple's attack was going to come. I shook my head and said that I didn't think it was going to come. I didn't think Lewis believed me. If I had been at Microsoft I would have expected it, and I would have expected to only get a piece of the market for graphic computers. You opened the door for them, and they refused to walk into the room.

Where was this in Carlton's book?

Gates replied...

Real life is so much more complex than the simple description that gets passed down. For example, explanations of Microsoft's success focus too much on my role at the expense of the other people. In the case of Apple there were a lot of people and a lot of pressures. In the final analysis the board and the CEO have to take responsibility.

I agree that Carlton's book is imperfect but I was worried that no one would even try and dig into this story so I was glad to see it. I think he made a sincere effort. He was greatly influenced by the people who choose to talk to him.

I agree that licensing alone would not have made the difference. However if there had been licensees they could have run the ads you wanted them to run. Overall I would say Apple's difficulties are not related to a failure to advertise or have good advertisements.

The simple fact is that the Mac OS has stayed largely the same for a long time. You have pointed out quite eloquently that Apple could have just integrated a number of great third party products and done a lot better than they did.

Back pointer

For the previous installment see Gates to Carlton on Apple, 10/25/97.

Mon, Oct 27, 1997 at 6:44:50 AM by DW

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