News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 4/6/97
Looks like I got scooped by Microsoft:
Sent at 4/8/97; 10:28:10 AM;
Microsoft and TV
Personally, I'm excited by the WebTV acquistion. Like Samuel Kass, I'm not too panicked over them; it doesn't seem like they are dangerously all-encompassing.
Sent at 4/8/97; 10:24:47 AM;
Re:"WebTV acquisition by MS"
What I'm excited about is that I see the possibility-- in the short term-- for a kind of web/TV convergence. For the first time, a single, driven company has control of both ends of the broadcast.
Imagine that you're watching a news summary on MSNBC. As the announcer describes the latest happenings with the European Union's currency, a panel of buttons appear on the right hand side of the screen, below the "EU Currency in Peril" graphic in the upper right hand corner. Each button has a blurb about different aspects of the EU. Or maybe it just has a "Click here for more EU coverage." You click there on the with the remote. (Or maybe you just press the "More Info" button on it.)
Two things could happen. One, your choice is queued for later viewing (say, at the end of the broadcast) or two, the announcer vanishes and you go to the MSNBC or MSN web page which has the latest EU stuff on it.
This is possible now. Hell, it could be ready by next month. Microsoft has the proven ability to create content which crosses TV and internet. They have the ability to encode URLs, web pages, or whatever they want into the MSNBC broadcast. They now have a platform and channel to sell TV sets which can yank this signal out and use it. They have a TV which is also a browser.
It seems inevitable that this will happen, now. When will it be? September, in time for schools and parents to pick it up as an educational tool? Or will it be as late as Christmas?
Barry Frankel's mail to you regarding how much bandwidth "push" may be using up made me think for the 100th time: why, why, why are we using point-to-point communications for these things?
Sent at 4/8/97; 10:00:31 AM;
Re:"Watching the Web"
The whole push phenomenon (which, in my eyes, is really a pull phenomenon) is a flagrant misuse of bandwidth. For goodness sake, Pointcast sells a server which (among other things) is used to "reduce Pointcast data traffic through your corporate firewall by 80%."
I'm surprised that I haven't heard of a real Internet news _broadcast_ service. It seems to me that push is the ideal "killer app" to make a case for multicasting technology or something like it. All you do is tap into an periodic data stream which is broadcast, you throw away the stuff you don't care about. When you need to get the full story, then you go out with your browser or whatever and get it.
This morning, I ran a simple test using Dr. HTML. I had the good Doctor look at home.netscape.com.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Barry Frankel);
Sent at 4/8/97; 8:43:15 AM;
140 Million Wasted Seconds Per Day
This is probably the most frequently viewed page on the net. In addition to pointing out some html errors on this page, the good doctor told me that this page takes 27.8 seconds to load using a 14.4 modem.
Looking deeper into the analysis, I found that the top of the page jpeg,
takes 8 seconds to load and the "try it, buy it, info" gif
takes 2.25 seconds.
Now if there are 20 million users on the web and 70% access this page only once per day, 140 million seconds per day are spent watching these images form and 258,510,000,000 bytes are transmitted across the net.
I wonder how much faster the Net would run if Netscape replaced their JPEG and GIF with some text.
I don't understand what's got you all worked up about those four patents. The first one is just one example of a large handful of similar pantents that specify other ways of piggybacking a data line onto a video signal. I know of at least two others-- one used (not sure who it's owned by) by Television Computer, Inc., of Pittsburgh, PA, and the other owned by Robert Nagel of InfoSafe of New York, NY. Each specify different means of transmitting web pages or other data simultaneous with a video signal.
From: email@example.com (Samuel Kass);
Sent at 4/7/97; 7:20:26 PM;
The second covers only a *system* that includes all of: multiple related channels of the same topic, a remote control to change viewpoints, AND the remote control being arranged in a pattern correlating to the positions of the cameras. Simply carrying the different camera angles is nothing new, and doesn't seem to be covered by this patent without the display box and remote control with the special configuration. Such a remote control, though, will not be possible without the use of this patent, and that could be significant. However, it's not going to prevent a simple list, with "camera 1", "camera 2", "camera 3", etc. being present on the remote.
The last two cover only games. The first requires a certain server that collects certain statistics in order to violate the patent, while the second covers a system (ie. "one way of doing it") that records a game that has been played and allows it to be played back.
In other words, there is nothing in these patents that locks Digital TV, online games, or data-over-video into any Microsoft scheme. That's even assuming these patents survive a challenge, which is always a big "if". In addition, to circumvent these patents, you just need a different configuration of the systems and software involved. If anything, Microsoft has to be careful not to scare the industry away from ALL of its interactive TV stuff by threatening to lock them into patents, since I don't see anything that is going to give Microsoft anything more than perhaps an "added value" role through patent enforcement.
I was both pleased for my friends at WebTV, yet a bit depressed for the "Open Systems Industry" (being one of those original non-wizzy Unix guys) by the WebTV acquisition.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ron Lachman);
Sent at 4/7/97; 3:12:47 PM;
Re:"WebTV acquisition by MS"
The "big hope" for the the old guard is the "thin client", NC, or "Internet Way of Computing" (heavy internet server, light client) proposed by SCO and other Unix server leaders. This thin client is thought have a serious hope of displacing PCs in significant number of 1) homes who can't afford PCs, 2) medium and low level knowledge worker desktops (where the care and maintenance of desktop "state" [hard disk & software / data versions] is too costly), 3) public kiosk / library / school desktop applications where ruggedness, statelessness and price make NCs win over PCs.
The real issue here is the the WebTV buy is a powerful strike at the fledgling NC / thin client industry, and is going to promote Windows/CE as the brand solution for this category of problem. It is a brilliant strategy by Microsoft. Microsoft had no serious strategy for a real network computer under $500, and now they have what I believe is one of the best ones around.
Que-Sera-Sera... What will be ... will be.
Here's a thought for you. You're absolutely right about being on the air all the time, but I wonder (a) if that's a good thing, or (b) if it really makes any difference?
From: email@example.com (Adam C. Engst);
Sent at 4/7/97; 11:54:47 AM;
Re:What a Weekend!
As far as it being a good thing, think about how the speed of the world has increased over the last ten years. Along with more, buggier, software faster, there's a concomittant burnout for the individuals involved. How many times can someone burn out and return? Is it a problem if they don't? Is there always enough fresh meat for the software companies?
And as far as wondering if it makes a difference, it seems to me that the vast influx of information (we're not just talking speed of delivery, but delivery of more information faster) is overwhelming people to the point where they cease to care about much of it. It's forcing people into an ever more specific niche where they stand a chance of keeping up with what's really going on. In other words, the more information that's delivered faster, the more will be roundly ignored by an ever increasing number of people.
Naaah! There's room in the world for wire services, daily newspapers, weekly newsmags and even quarterlies. All these worked in print, and all can work equally well on the Web.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Peter Dyson);
Sent at 4/7/97; 3:45:43 PM;
Re:What a Weekend!
You want to be a wire service. That's excellent, and I'm happy to read your blow-by-blow stories. You've managed to hit some topics I care about a lot, enough of the time. So your Rants go direct to my inbasket without Eudora's filters shunting them aside .
There are lots more topics where I don't need blow-by-blow reportage and can't afford the time to stay current. When the dust settles, I'd like someone to tell me a coherent story about it -- how it started, how it ended and what it all means.
That works on the Web too.
Some more questions to ponder re: MSFT + WebTV:
From: email@example.com (Stephen Bove);
Sent at 4/7/97; 12:05:24 PM;
More on WebTV
If the WebTV box runs on it's own microkernel OS, did MSFT just buy it's NC operating system too? Could Windows CE run on WebTV?
How tough would it be to put an ethernet NIC in a web TV box. Easy! Then MSFT has a business ready version of this NC!
What does Compaq think about this? Will MSFT be licensing this technology to the major PC manufacturers for sell through...
When will WebTV have an Intel chip inside instead of a MIPS chip? What does Andy Grove think of this?
How does Netscape counter this bold move into the NC space?
Looks to me like, "game, set, match - MSFT."
I think that you and the other press I've read have missed one story in the MicroSoft buys WebTV story - either:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Paul Campbell);
Sent at 4/7/97; 11:48:11 AM;
- Apple Alums make good
- how much it must grate for a company founded by ex-Apple people to sell themselves to Microsoft :-)
(Of course I'm talking about Steve Perlman, Bruce Leak and Phil Goldman all of whom were heavy techy types at Apple before the great exodus began)
Looks like Bill Gates just gave Larry Ellison a black eye (again).
From: email@example.com (Stephen Bove);
Sent at 4/7/97; 11:40:14 AM;
Bill G. slam dunks Larry E.
The WEB TV box *is* a network computer (NC) for consumers with unbelievable multimedia capabilities, Java support, and a smart-card slot built in!
Per my previous comment re: OS-9, maybe Larry Ellison/Oracle should be thinking about buying Microware instead of Apple...
And on that note, does anyone know anything about what OS the web TV box runs on? - sb
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David Weingart);
Sent at 4/5/97; 12:57:04 PM;
"The press only knows three stories, Apple is dead, Microsoft is evil, and Java is the future.
And they only ask two questions -- Is Apple dead yet? Is Microsoft still evil? "
Hmmmmm. this is food for thought. The press is convinced that Apple is dead. The only question is when. (Hard to understand really, given Apple's strength in publishing). I'm not convinced that the press thinks Microsoft is evil. I think many members of the non-computer press get all their information about computers directly from Microsoft press releases. They think Microsoft invented the internet. Yeah, Bill Gates thought it up all by himself.
The computer press has a vague idea that a Microsoft monopoly might be a bad thing.
Of course, Microsoft isn't evil. Apple isn't good. This isn't a religion.
Microsoft doesn't even want a total monopoly. They would like 85% of every market that has anything to do with computer software. Operating systems, productivity software, internet, online services, entertainment software, databases, servers, etc.
Is that fair? You know, I'm not sure. If they accomplish this by building great products, and by using fair trade practices, then it is probably fair. (2 big ifs) Is it dangerous? In my opinion, it is dangerous to let any one company control what is bound to be the most important industry in the world for many years to come.
The only way to prevent this is not to rail against Microsoft, and call them evil. The religious analogy is bound to fail because people will wonder why you need such zealotry to defend your product. Maybe Microsoft's product is realy better. Why are you so defensive? Defensiveness breeds FUD. Microsoft will use the FUD to it's advantage.
"Another metaphor. Microsoft is a brick wall. Like so many in the past, Sun has decided to throw itself against the wall as hard as it can, hoping to break it."
This brings up a good point. How to compete in the face of a (near) monopoly. Sun feels threatened, as you said, by NT. They've chosen to close off, become defensive as a company. They've got Java, they think that's their sword. But now Microsoft has Java too. Whose java is better? Microsoft has a huge amount of resources to pour into Java to make it better than Sun's. Sun needs to open Java up as you said, to counter Microsoft's advantage. Work with anyone who wants to make java better. But that doesn't seem to be what they are doing. They're closing themselves off (much like Apple in the past). They think they're protecting themselves. But they're not.
Anyway, these are the thoughts that came into my head after reading your piece. Read 'em or trash 'em.
-David Weingart email@example.com
p.s. Who is evil in the computer industry? I think it's Intel. Check out http://www.x86.org. An interesting story.
The comments you forwarded, Dave, by Bill Gates on Java, really make good sense.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Amy Wohl);
Sent at 4/7/97; 12:30:05 PM;
Bill Gates on Java
No large company every moves entirely away from what it's done before in computing -- hw, operating systems, applications, data -- and, therefore, whatever comes next has to respect that. If Java only works with things that are rewritten for Java, it isn't going to be very interesting.
Further, if in "going Java" we simply trade the control of one corporation (Microsoft), who knows and understands user interfaces and user application development very well for that of another corporation (Sun) who doesn't understand these issues very well at all (my opinion, but it's shared by others, as well), I'm not sure we've gained anything except the satisfaction of Microsoft's competitors. THAT DOESN"T HELP USERS.
I doubt that it helps developers, either.
I love the idea of Java. I just hope I haven't fallen in love with something that only works as an idea and which, as a reality, doesn't work at all. I know I can count on you to continue provoking and creating dialogue on just this topic.
I had the German government visit me last year. They have funded a study of word processing (the development of the industry) and wanted to buy all my books and programs. I turned them down but spent two days being interviewed . I have the same problem. We've kept some software, particularlly interesting "orphan" programs, but we have no where we could run them; just our memories of them.
From: email@example.com (Amy Wohl);
Sent at 4/7/97; 11:38:33 AM;
When I testify as an expert witness (doing a job right now), you can talk about sw in, say, 1986, but try to run some -- even if you can find it.
We need to figure out what to do about this before it's too late. Maybe Bill G and the others would like to help us fund something?
The page at the following link contains an analysis of communications activity to various Web sites.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Barry Frankel);
Sent at 4/7/97; 10:18:18 AM;
Watching the Web
Point Cast had 12% of the hits and generated 17% of all bytes transfered.
Netscape 70% of the hits 12% of the bytes transfered.
San Jose Mercury only .52% of all bytes. CNN.85% Lycos .49%
Document shows that a small number of push watchers are eating most of the Net bandwidth.
And Netscapes default of having browsers start-up by linking to home.netsacpe.com is eating up 12% of all the bandwidth on the Net
Data gathered from 4,000 users and 95,000 URLs.
CONCLUSION SEEMS TO BE IF PUSH GROWS THE NET SLOWS
Where's the toolbox? If you add up all the announcements at JavaOne (I was there), Java is going to end up with a richer, as well as cross-platform, toolbox than either MacOS or Windows.
From: email@example.com (Chris Ryland);
Sent at 4/7/97; 7:32:44 AM;
In particular, the 2D capapabilities of Java are going to surpass even Display Postscript!
I think something is brewing that even surpasses the hype...
Makes sense. Most Americans spend something like 7 hours a day watching TV. Given better choices -- and a better way to choose them -- they could spend money as well as time, and start to create countless new markets for content pulled by demand. All we need is to find a way to equip and fulfill viewer demand and facilitate transactions. I'm sure Microsoft and Intel can find that way.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Doc Searls);
Sent at 4/6/97; 9:08:23 PM;
Re:Microsoft to Acquire WebTV
The underlying methods and technologies of TV watching and PC use will inevitably converge. When that happens, it seems fairly clear that the computer will eat the television, rather than vice versa. Bill and Andy seem to agree on that already. (Witness recent Intel moves in the same direction.)
The $100 billion question is: what will happen to advertising-driven media when the demand side of the information market is given real choices about what it consumes? Or, for that matter, provides?
Media that make most or all all their money from advertising are not in the business of satisfying demand by consumers for content, but rather of satisfying demand by advertisers for mediated access to consumer attention. In these media, most content is bait. The fish know it's bait; but hey, it's free.
Once the majority of consumers can communicate directly with producers and transact business with them, many of those producers will start to see advertising as an expensive and unnecessary waste. Soon they'll kill it outright or cut it way back. (Downsizing an advertising budget is a snap -- as those of us in the biz know all too well. There are no regulatory or tax issues, and no "essential" employees to lose.)
When the advertising cash cow dies, broadcasting as we know it will be exposed for what it really is: a industrial age relic so deadened by regulation and contempt for consumers that both its technologies and its base assumptions have hardly changed since they were invented, back between the two World Wars.
What will replace it? Whatever you want. As long as you're willing to pay for at least some of it.
By the way, have you seen WebTV? NTSC television is a sow's ear of a Web display, but WebTV makes something pretty close to a silk purse of it. The whole thing is easy to set up, intuitive, easy-to-use and damn cheap. I want to get one for my 84-year-old mother. I'm sure she'll have no problem with it.
News travels fast! I just pushed out the details of the WebTV acquisition on microsoft.com. You can access our WebTV announcement at
From: stevebu@MICROSOFT.com (Steve Bush);
Sent at 4/6/97; 2:07:55 PM;
Re:Microsoft to Acquire WebTV
Group Program Manager, Microsoft.com
Now that I think about it, I haven't seen a good website that has Java applets. I've seen some cool Java applets, but I never go back there. Perhaps people understand unconsciously that this Java stuff is a hoax. All the websites that make me come back day after day aren't flashy. I come back because they contain interesting information. Whether the site is Dilbert or DaveNet, it's the content that brings me back and not the wrappings.
From: email@example.com (keith);
Sent at 4/6/97; 3:50:49 PM;
Java and the Web
Perhaps the web community should acknowledge that we don't need Java. We don't need ActiveX. If we want software, then we download it and run it on our computer. What is the largest media industry in America? Newspapers. What is the least flashy media industry in America? Newspapers. Perhaps this says something. People don't want flash, it distracts the mind.