News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus Mail Starting 5/26/98

From: TuckerG@sandellmgmt.com (Tucker Goodrich);
Sent at Tue, 26 May 1998 12:51:51 -0700;
Re:Healing the Netscape Wound

I've come to the conclusion that there is no way to "heal the Netscape wound."

If Microsoft wants to do what's made them successful, they're going to have to fight this thing tooth and nail, until the last dollar drains out of Bill's personal bank account.

Why is this? The DOJ case is a direct attack on MS's business model. If they can make the Netscape case stick, they can prevent Microsoft from executing their business model.

As I see it, MS's business model *is* "embrace and extend," the Windows "monopoly" is just a side effect.

When I first heard about the Netscape case, I immediately thought about Netmanage. Netmanage used to have a great business selling Chameleon, a TCP/IP stack and 'net apps for Win3.1. Great stuff--I still keep the disk that I got (the disk that came with the "Internet in a Box" product) that has all the Chameleon apps in it, since you need the install disk to use their telnet client--still the best, simplist Windows telnet app I've seen. This is the suite that got me on the Internet, and, without much hyperbole, changed *my* life...

Now it's gone. Along came Win95, and its TCP/IP stack. Lousy stack, lousy telnet app, command-line FTP, no SMTP mail client, and you still had to download Netscape to browse the web.

Just to be truly multimedia, I'm enclosing a graph of Netmanage's stock price. Note that it tanks just about the time MS announced they would be including a TCP/IP stack in Win95, and it never recovers.

Do I feel bad about this? No. Do I miss Chameleon? Well, I miss the telnet app, but the rest? No way. Dial-up Networking, which MS only just recently got right, rocked, nevertheless, from day 1. It was integrated; you could easily have multiple 'net accounts, and, while it was a pain to set up (especially the scripting part!) once you had it set up, you could forget about it. Plus, it would just dial when you wanted the 'net. That was great. Plus, the upgrades come for free, regularly, from MS's website. Netmanage charged for their upgrades.

The fact that Microsoft poached this business from Netmanage definitely made *my* life better, and judging from the price of Netmanages stock, I'd gather a *lot* of other people feel the same way.

Microsoft's product isn't Windows, or Office, or Internet Explorer; MS's product is *integration*. Embrace and Extend. Nobody wants to have to assemble Windows from scratch, from 40 different vendors. If they did, then nobody would be using Windows, and Gates wouldn't be the richest man in the world! Simple logic!

Internet Explorer didn't really take off until 3.0 (typically), when reviewers started to rate it on a par with Navigator. At *that* point, free became the right price. Before that, people were willing to pay for a better product, even if it wasn't integrated. When MS integrated it, then they really had the advantage.

But that's a good thing! People *want* integration! And for MS to continue to succeed, they need to be able to knock off the occasional developer (Netmanage, Netscape) to make there products better and more integrated, which is what the customer wants. If the DOJ gets a precedent to stop them from doing that, they're dead, and we're (the consumers) worse off.

The problem with this, and the point where I disagree with your piece, is that this will forever put MS at odds with the developer community, which MS uses as a free think tank. Keep developers close and happy, and eventually one of them will come up with a good idea that you'll snap into Windows--either buy the developer, or knock them off. Like sheep and a sheperd--you don't want to kill them all at once, or you'll get hungry; and you don't want to kill a bunch at once (like Apple), or the rest might get scared and run off; but if you kill one every once in a while so you can eat, the benefit of your leadership and protection will keep the rest happy enough to stick around and feed you in the future.

Not a happy prospect, but that's bionomics for you...

From: JerryHarri@aol.com (JerryHarris);
Sent at Tue, 26 May 1998 12:37:00 -0700;
Re:Netscape's Internet OS

You raise some good points in this piece.

Another thing that people seem to forget is that in 1996, the Internet software was all free. Netscape was charging a minimal fee for the browser so that corporations could remain "honest" for software audits. But, in reality, they were giving away their browser to build a market for their server business. Microsoft came along and did the same thing by giving away their browser.

Another point is that Netscape did a so-so job of supporting corporate Web developers from the browser's perspective. On Windows, DDE and OLE Automation are poor comparisons to Microsoft's WinInet.

From: caryn@caryn.com (Caryn Shalita);
Sent at Tue, 26 May 1998 12:30:49 -0700;
Re:Healing the Netscape Wound

Microsoft should definitely be broken up, and while I think this over-emphasis on Netscape is ridiculous, as Netscape is hardly the only company who has been adversely affected by Microsoft's predatory business practices, it has become the flagpole around which all the troops seem to want to rally.

Personally, I'd like to see more focus on everyone who was wronged, as I think that list numbers in the hundreds, and many of those companies aren't even here today to speak about what was done that forced them to shut down. I think if people realized how many of them there actually were, they'd sooner see Microsoft for the scary entity it is when its operating on a competitive field. Everyone likes a winner, but no one likes a winner who scored the touchdown by clipping an opponent, or committing clear pass interference that eluded the eyes of the referee.

From the stories I read about events that transpired in the court of computer resellers, Microsoft clearly leveraged its products to gain an unfair advantage in terms of market share. This is illegal--end of story. Now they just have to prove it in the court of justice. You reach enough people with DaveNet, I think, that you should carefully research an issue before you write about it, not just wax poetic on how software conpanies should all get along.

Look at what happened when AT&T broke up--and yes, now the companies in that industry are merging, but at the end there will be a few large companies, not one giant shadow that everything else operates under the spectre of. The industry is better for lack of that kind of gigantic presence.

And the software industry would develop better if given room to grow in directions that benefited it, whereas right now, to a large extent, how it grows is determined by what benefits Microsoft--and they will continue to make that more and more so. Don't you see that?

I was disgusted when you said:

The Netscape wound is totally hogging the idea space. And it's going to get worse before it gets better, unless Bill Gates takes power and changes the subject in a decisive way. He's the only one who can do it.

Why in the world would you want someone who has proven time and time again that he will choose what is economically best for his company, not what is best for the industry setting the subject for the entire industry?

This is completely antithetical to what you claim you want for the industry. Microsoft reinvents only in so far as it will increase the money coming into its coffers. Except as it relates to that, it doesn't give a flying ---- about the "wonderful new things" you speak of. I'm not saying that other large companies aren't equally guilty of the same thing, it's just that right now, Microsoft has that kind of leverage in a sensitive space, and has shown that it will use that fact to its advantage.

To quote Oprah Winfrey, who I believe was quoting Maya Angelou at the time, and perhaps she too got this from somewhere as it is common wisdom, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time..."


I said that Gates is the only one who can change the subject because I believe that's true. I didn't say I want him to be the only one who has the power to do it. DW

From: louis@wired.com (Louis Rossetto);
Sent at Tue, 26 May 1998 12:21:20 -0700;
Re:Healing the Netscape Wound

I read Denise's story yesterday and thought: this is advocacy masquerading as journalism. The Times has an agenda here, namely the one that it's had from the beginning: to marginalize and control the New Economy. This is part of what the Microsoft suit is about, Washington and the old Establishment trying to control the emerging economy before they're completely overwhelmed.

The other thing this suit is about is a bunch of Silicon Valley greedsters trying to use the power of the state to take down a stronger opponent. The hypocrisy of people like McNealy and Barksdale, libertarians and anti-government Republicans, now trying to use the government to do their dirty work for them, is really disgusting. Especially when you consider that Netscape still has a majority of the browser market, and that it "ties" its homepage to its browser, enabling it to capture traffic and compete directly against the entire Internet content business. Symmetry and poetic irony would call for CNET to now turn to Washington for an injunction against Netscape to separate its browser from its content operation.

I don't love Microsoft or Bill Gates, but comparing them to Standard Oil is laughable. Microsoft's "anti-competitive" transgressions are nominal compared to the anti-trust violations of other companies in the past, notably IBM. Basically, this suit is a reflection of the dark side of the US's Puritan/Calvinist tradition, where success in and of itself -- in other words, whether or not it actually has negative effects on anyone -- excites the fear and envy of the wannabes, resulting in public condemnation and attack.

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