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cactus Mail Starting 11/6/97

From: cwillis@microsoft.com (Cornelius Willis);
Sent at Thu, 6 Nov 1997 18:19:00 -0700;
Benchmarks and Standards, Cooked and Raw

By now you have probably seen coverage of Sun's attempts to foil Pendragon Software's CaffeineMark benchmarks, and I wanted to take this opportunity to briefly reflect upon this issue and our impressions of the implications for the industry at large.

Given the inherent price disadvantage of Sun's Unix products, this is not unexpected. A low volume, high-priced platform is always going to be at a price performance disadvantage, and it may well be that Sun's most effective competitive option is manipulation of benchmark results.

While it may seem distasteful, this is not the first time performance benchmarks have been cooked in our competitive marketplace. (However I wouldn't call it a garden variety marketing tactic). Competitors want to make their products look good, and performance benchmarks provide an opportunity to create a piece of "documented evidence" that conveys a larger impression than it probably should, given how susceptible benchmarks are to these kinds of inappropriate optimizations.

However, in the context of Sun's attempt to become a fast track PAS submitter to ISO, this incident points out a more troubling conflict for developers and the industry as whole.

Sun is a high profile partisan in a highly competitive industry. But for precisely this reason, Sun, (or for that matter any other for-profit company), is at best a very conflicted controlling steward for an international standard.

If Sun is approved as a PAS submitter, Sun could prevent products from being certified as conformant with ISO standards for competitive reasons. Sun's application for PAS status allows them to retain control of Java conformance testing and the Java trademark, in spite of the earlier objections to these stipulations raised by the majority of participating countries.

The substance and process of Sun's revised application for PAS status is no different from the first. The concerns regarding Sun's first application were raised for good reason, as this benchmark cooking incident makes clear.

It would be unfortunate if the international standards process became, like benchmarks, a tool of partisan competition.

I'd be interested in your feedback as well as that of your readers.

Cornelius Willis
Director of Platform Marketing
Microsoft Corp.

From: faisal@visionfoundry.com (Faisal Jawdat);
Sent at Thu, 6 Nov 1997 17:36:16 -0700;
Bill Gates Hatemail

First it was "Crazy Larry" Ellison talking about how he wants to use his jet fighter to bomb Bill Gates. Now it's Scott McNealy telling people to mail bomb Bill Gates. I gotta ask: are they putting something strange in the CA water that we should know about?

And what's the PR departments over there? Sun claiming that outputting false results on a benchmark is a good idea? NS claiming that drunk MSIE engineers dragging the IE statue onto Netscape's campus shows how uncompetitive MSIE is?

Attention Britta marketing department: huge sales opportunities in California!

From: JohnCon@monad.net (John Conides);
Sent at Thu, 6 Nov 1997 19:07:31 -0500;
Re:"Sun's McNealy calls for a hatemail campaign against Bill Gates"

I'm a first time e-mailer, long time reader. Just wondering, after reading this thing, if we aren't possibly on the brink of an era where Sun is going to be quite like the old Apple. There sure seem to be some interesting similarities:

In its glory days, Apple had some great products (sold at premium prices), some incompetent management, and a captive market. You wanted a GUI, you wanted to do DTP or graphics stuff, you got a Mac. Apple sued Microsoft, got involved in a long, protracted legal battle which drained precious resources, and ultimately hurt Apple. It is interesting to note that the resurrected Steve Jobs was the person who ultimately got something out of Microsoft for the failed legal battle.

Sun has some great products (sold at premium prices), and, based on this NY Times article, some incompetent management. Just like Apple, they have proprietary hardware all over the place, their own expansion bus, monitor connectors, etc. You want a well proven, commercial UNIX to run your heavy-duty computing processes, you buy a SPARC box running Solaris. Maybe this last point is not so analogous to Apple, but Sun has a strong installed base in the "enterprise" market. Scott McNealy is sounding like he's pretty much lost focus these days. Although I hear the new Enterprise 450 boxes are backed right up in the old queue, Sun still needs to worry about NT making inroads into its enterprise customer base, as well as on the Java front. Oh yeah, and Sun is suing Microsoft. Of course, Microsoft has counter sued Sun, it looks maybe like Sun may have rigged some benchmarks (wow), Microsoft has scads more money now than when they fended off Apple, ugh.

Could it actually be plausible to think that Sun, and not Apple, is going to be Microsoft competitor that implodes?

John Conides

P.S. I often find you infuriating, and that's a good thing!:-)

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