News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 8/11/97
Netscape wasn't thinking strategically? Apple settled patent litigation by dropping it's action in exchange for various agreements, $150 million and Microsoft's "public" support. Of the elements involved, Microsoft's support is by far the most important, providing Apple with some credibility in the market, which translates to time. It can still easily blow it, as it's been doing, off and on, for years now. But there's no way in the world Netscape providing Apple with $150 million would have anywhere near the impact, perceived or illusionary, that the Apple-Microsoft rapproachment has had. I wonder how much money Netscape would have had to put up for similar impact, or at least similar potential impact? $150 million, which probably does next to nothing for Apple financially, certainly wouldn't do it.
From: email@example.com (Bill Berry);
Sent at 8/11/97; 9:27:45 PM;
Netscape not "playing strategically"
It looks like Steve Jobs has been reading DaveNet and blithely ignoring the personal attacks. Apple's winning no longer depends on Microsoft's losing. Why haven't you taken credit?
Something bothers me, however, not that it should trouble you. When I read DaveNet, I never know whether I'm reading Dave the developer or Dave the journalist. Having two personas is OK, I suppose, but it often raises the conflict-of-interest question (which is one of the reasons you find yourself frequently under attack). But at least you're still giving Frontier away. Makes those kinds of questions float away.
I was just reading TechWeb and an article titled Support Wanes for Microsoft's Java. and I couldn't help but go through some old DaveNets on the subject...
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Lawrence Lee);
Sent at 8/11/97; 12:36:12 PM;
Earlier in the morning TechWeb reported on whether Java was ready for microwaves and for the chips in your Land Rover, so this platform might be a few years (?) away.
You asked in Hail Mary!, "They aren't telling all about Java. There are secrets. What are the terms of the license agreements that Sun has struck with Netscape, Apple, Oracle, IBM, etc? It's confidential. "
Then TechWeb reports (in the first article) that IBM is wondering the same thing... "Meanwhile, IBM, in Armonk, N.Y., has been in discussions with Sun's JavaSoft unit trying to get the company to publicly define Java and respond to Microsoft's claims that it does not have to ship the JFC, sources said." All rise, this court is in session...?
Linux is far and away the best OS for Intel. It's also the most advanced version of Unix.
From: email@example.com (webworks);
Sent at 8/11/97; 12:23:57 PM;
Re:Free the Mac OS
And you can run Windows programs in emulation, Atari programs in emulation, Nintendo games, Amiga programs -- you can even access Mac filesystems and files.
Give it a decent UI (a la NeXTStep or even Irix) and it would be arguably the best OS in the world.
But... I don't know if it's the ideal approach for Apple to be honest. Linux has succeeded because of the culture that is springs from. That's a culture that has few, if any, similarities with the Mac developer culture. The sort of collabrative, free-form, merit-based development that has resulted in Linux is quite different from what exists at Apple. While there are 3rd party Mac developers who honestly believe in the sort of Darwinian evolutionary approach that Linux has - I think that the egos of a lot of Apple engineers would not stand for that solution.
For example, in the Linux world QuickDrawGX would have died in early child-birth and TeachText would still be the defacto text editor (though it would have 30 or 40 different extensions and packages).
The two-faced Jobs article was certainly an interesting read. But did it bother you a little that so many of the sources were left unnamed? That none of the witnesses to the name calling and back stabbing were willing to go on record? Is it relevant that most of the really damaging stories were told by people who'd been either fired or otherwise left Apple. It's not that it'd be hard to believe any of them but just as a point of principle it bothers me that even "serious" journalists don't feel compelled to provide the names behind the stories. This is not, after all, a Watergate break-in we're talking about. No legal wrong doing is being alleged; it's just a story about the character of a individual. The title of the story could have just as easily been: "Is Steve Jobs a jerk?: Anonymous speaks out." Of course, that doesn't sound as journalistic.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mark W. Stewart);
Sent at 8/11/97; 12:44:09 PM;
Re:"the "juicy" SJ Mercury News article"
I do think that the character of a man who's decisions will affect so many is an important issue. Accordingly, I think the reports that are offered in such a story need to carry a little more weight that they do here. If the SJ Mercury News feels it important to do stories like this I think they ought to be a little more forthcoming about their sources.Or, on the flip side, that those who are making the reports be willing to put their name beside them.
The Mac OS, distinct from Rhapsody, has lots of apps. That's all it has going for it. Dave
From: email@example.com (Dave Winer);
Sent at ;
Re:Free the Mac OS
I've been mulling this over since Saturday.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dan Lyke);
Sent at 8/11/97; 10:17:29 AM;
Re:Free the Mac OS
When you say that one of the major players after the OS shakeout will be free, you're dead on. There's a very simple reason for this: they've got completely different markets.
When you're selling an operating system, your revenues come from new copies. You can't admit that you're fixing the existing problems, because nobody wants to be reminded that the primary reason they're buying the upgrade is that they aren't pleased with the original.
Free operating systems are different. They survive based on the wants of the current users, not on the features that will attract new users. The people messing with the source code are not trying to evangelize, they're trying to make their own lives better. Thus the constant complaints from new Linux users about how hard it is to install, or configure, and the counterpoint of existing Linux users singing its praises.
What I don't get is what the Mac OS brings to the table. When you put the last piece of mail I sent you up on www.scripting.com, I got many letters extolling the virtues of Rhapsody: "And it will let you run apps on one machine that display on another, it will have completely protected application space, yadda yadda yadda".
I can do all of those things today. Now. Not some mythical time down the road when a mythical operating system gets released. In models that have already worked through the security issues. And I can do it on Intel hardware, on DEC hardware, on PowerPC hardware, on Sparc hardware, and on and on.
To poke a little fun at the AT&T commercials: "I already have."
True, the Mac OS has a decent set of calls to build user interfaces, something that's a little fragmented in the Unix world. But unfortunately those calls are based on the old model, the single threaded non-preemptive everything happens on the same machine model, and I'm afraid that they'll have all of the same flaws as the Windows API when moved on top of a real operating system. (And see www.gnustep.org)
And the Mac interface is showing its age. Bruce Tognazzini gave very good reasons as to why the menu bar was originally on the top of the screen, it gives you infinitely tall buttons. But on all of the machines I currently work on the screen is more than one mouse swipe tall, in some cases there's more than one screen, and it just makes more sense to have the menus localized. There are plenty of other examples, all are debatable (how many buttons on your mice?), but the shakeout in this realm has already happened the other way.
With the licensing agreement, Microsoft vs Apple has turned into Pepsi vs Coke. Even Steve acknowledges this in that Time article. You don't have to drink the Kool-Aid. Come with the rest of us and drink the fruit juice, it's better for you, even if it doesn't come with the hype and ad campaigns.
On the other hand, just because I'm working mainly in Unix doesn't mean I've given up all my Microsoft documentation, free operating systems imply an intelligent and knowledgeable user base, we know from experience that this is a small market.
The thing that really caught my eye was this statement by Jobs, in reference to his selling all but one share of Apple stock:
From: email@example.com (David Weingart);
Sent at 8/11/97; 11:05:02 AM;
Jobs Time article
"'If that upsets employees,' he says, 'I'm perfectly happy to go home to Pixar.'"
1. If only that were true...
2. Apple doesn't need a dilettante as a leader. He doesn't sound very committed does he?
I'm not convinced this is the person we should have as the 'shadow CEO' of Apple. I'm not convinced he has the Mac platform's best interests at heart.
Great article, Dave. I was in the audience listening to the booing.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Amy Wohl);
Sent at 8/11/97; 10:54:05 AM;
Re:Behind the Hype
I did get to interview both APple and Microsoft at the show. I think the patent deal works like this:
Apple is actually getting more than $150 million but how much more is a secret. "A non-material sum paid over three years and recognized by Apple as income," was the bs offered in the press conference. I'd guess that means another $100 million or so.
Nobody gets any source code unless there are side deals. A patent portfolio cross-license means that nobody sues anybody. It means Microsoft can infringe anything Apple did in the past or does in the next five years (or vice versa, although I'd guess th at with Apple's future R&D budget the vice versa would be limited). You should have seen Sandy Bennet's face when he realized his Newton technology patents had all just be licensed to Microsoft (and could be used, for instance, iin WIndows CE).
I think the real news here is the hoped for "halo effect." Steve is hoping that having MS commit to five years of Office for the Mac will convince customers and other developers that Apple will be around for a long time and it's safe to invest in the pla tform. We'll see if they buy the glow.
Sorry to miss you at MacWorld. Did you make it to Boston? It was my first MacWorld, rather overwhelming on the floor (though I hear it was much smaller than previous years), not much going on in the sessions (but the Newton one was intereting and another about Zero-Administration Macs was worth attending for). Power Computing and Motorola dominated the show, Apple was a footnote. Rode the Power Computing zip-line despite (or because of) a fear of heights. Twice.
From: email@example.com (Dethe Elza);
Sent at 8/11/97; 10:54:18 AM;
Re:Free the Mac OS
I still think the MacOS will split in two directions: an emulator to run legacy software, and a shell to give "look and feel." People will be able to run either or both on the platform of their choice (Win 95/NT, Linux, BeOS, Rhapsody). Apple isn't neccesarily the place to look for this to come from, but it will come. If Apple dumped their hardware and concentrated on the MacOS I think they could still be profitable and innovative, but that's not going to happen.
Attending MacWorld was a lot like going to the races to see the crashes. Steve Jobs gave a good show, but was conspicuously silent about licensing the MacOS (and about Rhapsody, finally). Bill Gates smiled and gave his blessings, the Pope of Computing. Some cool software was demoed--almost all of it involving the web. I'm glad I went, but the only thing that kept it from being disappointing was that I had low expectations. %-)
On the other hand, the Be Developer's Conference was a surge of adrenaline. You want to talk about free operating systems being cool, take a look at Be. They were giving the OS away at MacWorld and it should be bundled with the next (and last) issue of MacUser. And they're porting it to the Intel platform. They already have live desktops and a better component system than OpenDoc through their "Replicant" lightweight component architecture. They've got scripting so integrated that it doesn't need to be explicitly coded in--you automatically inherit basic scriptability. You can even code over TCP/IP--you could build a script message (BMessage in Be parlance) in Frontier and send it to a BeBox to control an app or apps.
They've got some cool applications now too. The basics are covered with a word processor, spreadsheet and paint program. Third party developers are getting VC financing to do Be-only development. So, somebody (with $$) believes in them.
And best of all, they're porting to Intel! Based on what I saw they port should be ready before the end of the year (and Intel approached them to do it, loaning them two engineers to help with the port). Even though the PowerPC is faster, megahertz for megahertz, than the Pentium, the Mac subsystem is so much slower you lose the benefits--so the Intel port really screams. And you can get a dual-processor Pentium for $1900 or run the BeOS on a Pentium laptop--two things you can't do in Mac-land.
I love my Mac and using the MacOS, but programming it is a royal pain. The Be is fun to use, fun to program, and can already do some amazing thing you just can't do on other systems. Check it out!
After all, it's free.
You started out strong on this but stopped short of calling for what I think would eventually make the most sense.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Tim McEachern);
Sent at 8/11/97; 10:50:11 AM;
Re:Free the Mac OS
Linux isn't great because it's a free alternative to Windows. It's great because it's freely developed and distributed. No one controlling source, many providing fixes and improvements. Need a new display driver? Ask, and chances are someone either has done it or is willing to do it. Pride of authorship is great quality control. If you know that your code will be witnessed by millions you better darn well make it work.
Calling for the MacOS to be free means so much more that "I do not have to pay for it" it means "Hey folks, here's the source. You work on it. We'll work on it. If you like my stuff you can use it. If I like yours, I'll use it."
And don't forget, people do make some money off Linux (Caldera, Red Hat).