News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 8/27/97
Was at BE yesterday, and it's interesting that they are following your advice. Give the OS away, and then let the Developer's take it where it needs to go. Plus they have all the right features and cross-platform delivery.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David Buell);
Sent at 8/27/97; 4:50:22 PM;
Re:Amelio on Competition
All they need is the apps.
Since they will be shipping the customer version of the cross-platform OS in January, planning to get 1M copies into the hands of end users, isn't that attractive? It seems like the Rhapsody proposition, except it's happening NOW.
Your article on Amelio and competition is almost right. However, you can't compete with one hand tied behind your back.
From: email@example.com (Charles Bleadon);
Sent at 8/27/97; 2:26:38 PM;
If it walks like a duck?
For example, in Amelio's SJ Merc article, I would like you to comment on the following:
"When Mike Markkula asked me to join the board in late 1994, Apple was just concluding a changeover from 68000 CPU-based Macs to PowerPC CPU-based PowerMacs. Apple then embarked on a strategy to grow market share to 20 percent, and the company geared up accordingly. This plan was pursued during all of 1995. At the end of the year, it was clear that the program was in deep trouble. Profits were heading south, inventories were bloated, sales were softening and quality problems were an increasing drain on resources. That's when I was named CEO."
My take is simple. While people like Jobs, Gates and Ellison are control freaks, they are not a "board of directors". From the statement above, it looks like Apple got exactly the camel they asked for.
Any company who has a single authority with enough balls to take the wheel and race the car (rather than drive their Dad's Oldsmobile) is aware of what needs to be done and gets it done! If you bring everything to a committee and need board approvals, there is no way a company can compete. (The board needs to hire a bull dog not a parrot)
Spindler was asked to ramp up and produce computers. He did. They were the wrong ones and many had problems.
Amelio came in as a butcher and did his job. While he didn't get the company turned around, he left it better than when he found it.
Apple now needs a Madonna with the foresight of any ordinary soothsayer. Perhaps a Madonna can keep the board entertained for more than 16 to 18 months. (Although she probably would loose interest sooner than that!)
Personally, I'm getting hurt badly with the Mac on its ass. People who need POS and Inventory Control software are not interested in investing on Apple's platform. That's not a good business decision, in their eyes.
Can you tell me how many feet Apple has to shoot?
Dan, it's time to read Bill Gates vs The Internet, again.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dave Winer);
Re:"Who's on our side?"
We're in an infinite loop.
PS: I totally support the idea of users getting together to make standards proposals.
I was just reading over on Mac OS Rumors about the latest "standard" that's being proposed by one group of the usual suspects and opposed by another group (or, in this case, Microsoft).
From: email@example.com (Daniel Brogan);
Sent at 8/27/97; 1:41:39 PM;
Who's on our side?
It got me to thinking.
Where are the users in all of this?
I realize that technology companies like to say that users get to vote with their dollars, but that can take an awfully long time. Especially in an industry that is moving this quickly. And besides, I'd rather have say on the front end, not after most everything's been settled.
What I'm getting at is the need for some kind of webmaster's group that could say to the various players: "We've looked at your various proposals, and we like this one. It's our strong recommendation that you all implement this as soon as possible."
There is some precedent for this in older media. During my time at Quark, it was not uncommon for key publishing and pre-press people to meet with us (usually at trade shows. but also at special meetings in Colorado), and make their voices heard. Tim listened. These same folks had impact with Aldus and Adobe, too (for example, Quark introduced the DCS spec for color seps; those users got support for it added to Adobe and Aldus products).
These guys didn't have an official organization. Their clout came from working for Time or Conde Nast or by being one of the top service bureaus. On the Web, everything is so new, and there are so many more of us, that maybe something more organized is order.
One of the simplest things might be a website, where proposals on a particular topic would be posted. Member webmasters could review the material and vote for their choice (voting could be limited to members to prevent spamming). Results would be posted, and forwarded to the proposing companies, as well as to pertinent standards bodies.
More important, the site would keep track of which companies actually implemented our recommendations. Over time, members would get a sense of who's listening and who isn't (and who they want to support with those aforementioned dollars).
What do you think?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rick LePage);
Sent at 8/27/97; 12:54:13 PM;
Re:Apple Avoids Competition
"If you look at the history of Apple, you'll see that instead of rising to competition, they often ignore it, or try to use legal means, or bundling clout, to erase it.
"When challenged by a larger market force, as with the IBM PC and its clones in the early 80s, and with Windows 3.0, 95 and then NT 4.0 in the 90s, they miss obvious marketing opportunities, ways to make their products stronger by participating in markets that others develop. This is an art that Microsoft has mastered, there's no reason Apple couldn't have learned the same lessons, but they didn't.
"And when dealing with smaller competitors, Apple routinely and often unconsciously forced them out of business by bundling, or declaring that they will bundle a competitive offering.
"When the Internet happened, Apple struggled against it instead of embracing it, preferring to invest in technologies that eventually ended up on the scrap heap. A wasted lead in content development, developers going to Windows, a poor Java implementation on the Mac.
"The bottom line, the strategy of avoiding competition has been disastrous for Apple. But they want to do it again."
Dave, like you, I've been involved with Apple since before there was a Mac, and those 5 grafs are among the most cogent analysis of Apple's problems that I've read. Unlike Microsoft, which has had the tendency to buy those technologies that it desired or competed with, Apple has chosen tactics that alienate everyone - developers and users alike.
It's funny, because one of the constants that has remained at Apple for nearly a decade is their huge cash reserves, but when have they used that to fund developers or to purchase technology that truly helps their platform? I can't recall.
Rick LePage is editor-in-chief of MacWEEK.