News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 8/12/97
I found this from an ad banner on NY Times site.
From: email@example.com (Cameron Barrett);
Sent at 8/14/6; 1:05:26 PM;
Windows Wows the Graphics Market?
Apple, take note! Maybe this is a good example of how to do marketing right.
A lot of graphics professionals will argue that Windows has a long ways to go yet until it can do high-end graphics with the same ease as the Mac platform.
What do you think?
The Exponential story on Webintosh sounds believable; who knows whether or not it is true. But either way, I had this thought several weeks ago when the first news of Exponential folding came out (from email to a friend):
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David S. Bakin);
Sent at 8/13/97; 11:32:28 PM;
"And speaking of that, what do you think of the geniuses who put venture capital into Exponential Technology, who just finished a super-fast PowerPC processor then then immediately went out of business when Apple decided not to use it? Exactly what did their business plan look like? I wish they had just taken all their money out of the bank in suitcase after suitcase of $20 bills and just let the cash fly from freeway overpasses. More people would have benefited, maybe even me!"
So even if the Webintosh story is true all it means is that they had multiple potential customers but all their plans hinged on the fact that the only OS which ran on the chip was MacOS but they themselves didn't have a contractual arrangement with Apple about OS availability.
After twelve years of using Macs, I now have a Windows NT machine on the desk as well as a new Mac clone. Both nominally 200mHz processors.
From: email@example.com (Paul Howson);
Sent at 8/13/97; 11:14:22 PM;
The NT system is subjectively MUCH faster. Zippy. And it seldom ever crashes.
The Mac is sluggish and crashes regularly.
But both are far far too complicated and consume far too much time in their feeding and care.
I've come to the conclusion that the commercial software industry is incapable of delivering tools that are simple and effective. The commercial market ethic requires a constant spiral of increasing product complexity to fuel battle for market share. The big companies are trapped in this cycle and can't get out, even if they wanted to (and surely some of them can see what is happening and would like to).
The free software movement (e.g. Linux, Frontier) appeals because the motivation is quite different --- a genuine concern to create useful tools which can meet real everyday needs. The associated ethic of cooperation (win-win) instead of competition (win-lose) leads to openness, sharing of ideas, and honest communication unfettered by commercial manoeuvring.
We need a new approach to technology where refinement and evolution do not always mean bigger and more complicated, but rather simpler, easier to understand, more consistent, etc. The classic principles of good design.
But who can afford to think like this?
David left out reason number 8 - he looks like Steve Wozniak!
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gary Young);
Sent at 8/13/97; 10:21:57 PM;
Why David Gulbransen should be CEO of Apple
Check out the front page of ZDNet this afternoon. There are three different stories about a doomed Netscape, complete with big scare headlines like; "Netscape threatened by itself" and "Netscape in online phone book war". The stories inside follow the hyped headlines. This is the upshot of last weeks announcements at MacWorld. Without Apple's newly dug grave to dance about now, the PC press is looking for a new crisis to blow out of all proportion. Is it that normal technology news is just too boring? Objective and useful reviews of products too dull? What we really need right now, at least in the field of technology journalism, is a magazine staffed by actual Engineers and Programmers. It could be online, or offline. Something of a combination of Dr. Dobbs Journal and Macintouch.
From: email@example.com (Greg Kucharo);
Sent at 8/13/97; 1:06:00 PM;
The PC press
Wired claims to be the magazine for the geeks and whatnot. Why is it that no geeks I know read it? Why isn't there a source that doesn't use the hard core technology crowd as somekind of marketing focus group? Grrrrrrrrr!
I think the main problem in competing with the likes of PCWeek and MacWeek would be staffing a test lab. The test reports are the main reason most people read those publications anyway. However, even the test reports seem laden with this pervasive hype that is so popular at the moment. The standard PC review centers around two things; how cheap is it and how fast. Not that these are bad aspects to center around, but it leaves you wanting. I find myself asking questions like "why is it that fast?" or "what can I do to make my machine faster now?".
There is a fine example of what I would call the perfect technology magazine, Linux Journal. It has all the factors outlined above. Boardwatch is the same, or so I've heard. Unfortunately these are still obscure journals that cover a very specific group of people.
I think Bill Gates is worried about how to keep his 16.000 or so employees on their toes. The slip of W97 into W98 certainly must not have pleased him.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Michel Benevento);
Sent at 8/12/97; 8:02:14 PM;
Why MS did it
The best way to keep your company sharp and focused? Finance the competition!
Don't know if Jobs knows those fine folks, but in his keynote before the big news he did talk about the 64% of web content created on Macs, and referenced the smaller %age of Macs as Web servers, so he is at least paying attention. The rumormill says that 2 weeks before the show he recalled some Apple managers from Internet World/Chicago to plan the strategy to build up the Mac server market. I don't know how and when that effort will bear fruit, but we're expecting an eval unit of Apple's 350-MHz Workgroup Server 9650 to show up in our offices this week for NeTLabs testing! We'll certainly be putting it through its paces with WebStar and AppleShare/IP.
From: editor@NeTProLive.com (NetPro Editor);
Sent at 8/12/97; 9:50:14 AM;
Re:High Roads & Big Pictures
Hi Dave, Apple should keep saying everyday: "we're not gonna rest until people can go down the local Fry's Electronics and configure their own Apple clone from scratch... straight up from the motherboard level"
From: email@example.com (S. Varshney);
Sent at 8/12/97; 9:27:40 AM;
Apple should sell "Apple certified" motherboards for the mom n' pop businesses that create so much competition in the PC market!
I don't know Dave, I'd agree that Microsoft has been much better about supporting developers than has Apple, but the model for Redmond in the PC market has been to eat up small developers' niches as soon as they become big enough to be interesting.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jonathan Peterson);
Sent at 8/12/97; 12:13:45 PM;
Re:High Roads & Big Pictures
Sometimes that's done through an acquisition (VRML and media production companies), sometimes with whitepapers about upcoming competing m'soft technology soon to be released (Borland OWL vs. Microsoft MFC), sometimes with agressive production of competing technology which is given away in the next OS release (doublespace technology built into win95, IE, etc).
If one strategy fails to work a different one will be swung into use. After the Intuit purchase was killed m'soft greatly increased investment in m'soft money and has pushed the banking industry hard to make money the standard client for on-line banking.
The only place developers can avoid Microsoft's is in small vertical market apps and custom products. Hell, now M'soft is getting substantial revenues from 3rd parties through pricey Microsoft certification programs.
I worked closely with Cris Hasset and the Pointcast crowd in creating the CNN/Pointcast channel. Chris saw Microsoft as the enemy and Netscape as a strategic ally. When Microsoft started to wheel around the big gun of push channels incorporated into the win95 desktop, Chris had no choice but to change sides.
Microsoft will continue eating up every market where it sees strong growth. When the big guns in Redmond get trained on you, you can attack (like the poor doublespace guys) and lose, or capitulate. As computing spreads in the consumer marketplace, the number of niches increases, but the size of those niches gets smaller. Any smart CEO creating products for Microsoft platforms should have an exit strategy.
A few years back, before the PowerPC came along, Apple made 2 Macs with DSP chips in them - the Centris 660AV and the Quadra 840AV. In response to this, Adobe wrote (or already had) a plugin for Photoshop which harnessed some of the power of the DSP chip, for particular tasks such as Gausian blur, rotating, scaling etc.
From: DJF@imagine.de (Denis-Jose Francois);
Sent at 8/12/97; 5:34:19 PM;
Re:High Roads & Big Pictures
Well, myself and many other pre-press people at the time bought those machines becuase of the Lure: In the next release of Photoshop, there would be full support for the DSP chip (instead of just a plug-in). Many other software manufacturers would jump on the wagon too. We'd be in DSP processing heaven!
So what happened? The machines vanished when the PowerPC chip was introduced a few months later. Adobe (or anyone else) never got a chance to write full software support for the DSP... and Apple have since failed to include those chips in other machines. Why? They said at the time that the PowerPC chip was so much faster than the 68K series, that the DSP chip would make an insignificant difference. Personally, I don't think so. It never hurts to Offload tasks from the main processor or share them. Of course, that would have required a significantly different OS at the time. One that could multi-task, thread, processs etc.
Here's an additional angle on why Microsoft invested. According to an analyst I interviewed, Mac software accounts for between ten and fifteen percent of Microsoft's sales - i.e., hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The investment is chicken feed to help maintain years worth of cash flow. Also, given that the Mac represents between five and ten percent of the desktop computers out there, you have the interesting situation of Mac users spending more money with Microsoft, on the average, than PC users. In other words, Mac end users may indeed be Microsoft's best customers, so they are protecting their own self interest. Finally, since the bulk of the code is written for Windows and the work to port to the Mac is really incremental, the dollars are even more profitable. How could they not invest?
From: InterMark_Consulting_Group@compuserve.com (Erik Sherman);
Sent at 8/12/97; 11:47:33 AM;
High Roads & Big Picture