Inside Report #104 Articles from Back Issues of...
IR Logo Top Nov. 1, 1994

All You Need is Love

Platform vendors must make the care and
feeding of developers a top priority.

In one of his recent electronic epistles to the computer industry grapevine, Userland Software's Dave Winer made several points about the emergence of the Internet as a phenomenon beyond the reach of Bill Gates, about the need for IBM to capitalize on the Mac religion, and about the viability of Windows 95 if IBM chooses to sell private-label Macs.

IR 104 pullquote I'll summarize those points in a moment, but it is important to note that while he provoked a response from Bill Gates that addressed these issues, Bill's response included a bit of truth about how developers actually feel. Winer happened to mention that he hadn't received a beta copy of Windows 95, so Gates sent him a copy overnight, with flowers. With flowers!

Winer loved it. "Love is what it's all about," he wrote in his next epistle. "Developer relations is a mating game."

Much of Winer's attitude is framed by Apple religion, Apple acceptance, Apple rejection, Apple indifference, and so on. Using the love analogy, Winer compared Apple's developer relations to a promiscuous bachelor bragging about girl friends. "It went for the sluts (Lotus, Borland, etc.), and ignored the ones that cooked the meals, cleaned the house, made the babies," he wrote.

When Apple first started its developer relations effort, it was called evangelism, and at that time the word gave off a warm glow. Guy Kawasaki worked hard to make Apple a religion. Jean-Louis Gassee and others of similar spirit were supportive (however wrong they may have been about other matters).

When they were forced out, they were replaced by, in Winer's words, "high-paid, low-output, loveless computer scientists." Third-party developers that offered neat products were denied the spotlight if the future growth of those products threatened some Apple engineer's job.

"Today, Macintosh is an empty loveless house. Not a home," wrote Winer. The developers have walked not only because the market share is low but because Apple is a lousy lover." They need that old-time religion.

Gates reminded Winer about his company's support for the Macintosh from day one. "We were the only company shipping software with the original machine," he responded. "Other large developers have humiliated the Macintosh through their statements or by dropping support in some cases many times. Over the last few years we have introduced more new titles for the Macintosh than any other company. This is despite Apple suing us and discriminating against us in disclosing information to our applications groups who signed unique personal non-disclosure agreements."

I can testify to the fact that Microsoft's original Mac application development teams had the old-time Mac religion, despite living inside the bowels of the DOS/Windows kingdom. Gates never shorted the Mac's success (until maybe recently with Word 6, which is another story, coming soon). He has confirmed that Microsoft makes more money when a Mac is sold than when a Windows machine is sold, even when you account for the system software difference.

But the subtle petulant tone of his reply reveals the hurt that so many developers feel when their efforts are not rewarded with some respect and kind words.

A company like Microsoft doesn't have to worry too much, due to its dominant position, but any would-be competitor for market share would have to use the developers' religious fervor as a competitive advantage. Third-party developers can make a platform; the lack of developers can break a platform. A betrayal of the developer-platform vendor relationship can throw the entire platform into jeopardy.

This sounds like a mom and apple pie issue, or an admonition to get out and vote. Yet it seems that some of the vendors that really need to hear this message are not heeding it.

Case in point: 3DO. With the U.S. installed base extremely low, 3DO recently doubled its royalty, asking developers of 3DO titles to pay an additional $3 per disc for a "market development fund." This money will be used for advertising, and to offset the manufacturers' losses.

Even the true believers among the few remaining 3DO developers are incensed. This is a last ditch effort--if 3DO can't make critical mass happen by Christmas, Nintendo/SGI and Sony will most likely blow the platform away in 1995 with a massive advertising campaign that will dwarf 3DO's, and performance specs that make the current 3DO machine look sick.

Next year, 3DO's failure will be blamed on a variety of reasons, and a lot of journalists will forget that one of its last-ditch moves was a betrayal of its favorite people, the developers. The developers are not likely to ever forget the bitter taste. This is no way to build a platform. Apple, take note: once you lose the development momentum, you lose the market share war. --TB

IBM: Bring a Mac Home to Me

Another imminent failure, IBM's, can also be told from the point of view of third-party developers. The rallying cry is for IBM to cast aside OS/2 and start selling private-label Macs. The Macintosh has a constituency of dedicated third-party developers, due to early "evangelizing" efforts by Apple. These folks are true believers. Some of them have moved on to Windows development with the resigned air of defeat and secretly long for a larger Mac installed base.

As a potential Microsoft competitor, IBM can't ask for a better window of opportunity and a better partner in Apple. Although Windows 95 itself can run on the existing installed base of high-powered 486 and Pentium machines, its plug-and-play feature with cards and peripherals requires that customers jump to new hardware. Meanwhile, third-party developers are aching to write more Mac code, but the bottom line just doesn't measure up to profits unless they sign those non-disclosures and develop first for Windows 95. IBM could give them a reason not to.

The idea for a restructuring of the Apple-IBM partnership is from another of Dave Winer's epistles, this time to IBM's Jim Cannavino. Winer proposed that IBM should simply drop all pretense and start selling in early 1995 a private-label Mac for the home. It should be one model, a screamer, with an extremely low price, and a really attractive form factor and beautiful color display.

It's chief benefit? no need for Windows! No need to deal with all the AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS bullshit! I can see the TV commercials. The Windows family spends an entire weekend getting their CD-ROM drive to work. A week later, junior comes home from school with a new utility program that organizes files, but the installation causes the CD-ROM drive to stop working.

Cut to the Mac family. Up and running immediately after unpacking, the family merrily strings ordinary phone lines to connect all the Macs in the house to the family printer and net modem, and junior carries a tiny hard disk to and from school to transfer digital video files for the class movie project.

It's time to buy a home computer. Who're you gonna call?

This is all fine, a wonderful fantasy. What could make this campaign a reality is a vibrant third-party market of developers offering many different products that work seamlessly on the well-defined platform. Plug and play indeed: the Mac has been plugging and playing for years.

Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to port the Mac OS to IBM's version of the PowerPC, and then trying to get developers interested in this niche of a niche, IBM should stretch the money and settle for slimmer margins to offer the best possible home Mac for the best possible price. --TB

Volunteers of the Internet

Another Winer-ism: While the software industry was looking one way with its obsession with Bill Gates and Microsoft, the users went the other way and grew the Internet. Now the tail is wagging the dog--the next versions of Windows, Mac OS, and OS/2 include Internet client software. These platform vendors have to support standards, such as Gopher, WAIS, FTP, Telnet, Mosaic, and so on, that they have no control over. The Internet exists without having to support any of the standards promulgated by the platform vendors, such as OpenDoc, OLE 2.0, ScriptX, Taligent, AppWare, or any of the various database standards that industry "leaders" Bill Gates and Philippe Kahn were arguing about a few years ago.

Microsoft is set to roll out its Marvel online service, and you can bet that Marvel will be supported with more features in Windows 95 than Internet client software. But the Internet is beyond even Microsoft's control. The World Wide Web spawns new web sites without any Microsoft software or standards involved.

Gates understands that his company can't control the Internet, but also that it can't live without it or compete with it. If an online service provider views itself as a competitor to the Internet, wrote Bill in his response to Winer's epistle, it will not make money.

Of course, the Internet itself is not a business. It is a social phenomenon. The only rules that exist are for restricting business activity. But this non-business nature has an advantage: it can't be bought by Bill Gates or anyone else. No one person or organization or government will ever have control. over it. An interesting platform! As Winer put it, "it is FUD-proof."

Publishers, acting as sophisticated users and as content and service providers, will play a greater role in developing standards, because they can't afford to develop a large amount of content for every online browser.

The online business is turning out to be fundamentally different than the PC business, growing quickly and sprouting in new directions faster than any one company can keep up with. --TB

Gates of Eden

So you've "heard" this joke? It showed up in our emailbox:

Bill Gates died and, much to everyone's surprise, went to Heaven. When he got there, he had to wait in the reception area.

Heaven's reception area was the size of Massachusetts. There were literally millions of people milling about, living in tents with nothing to do all day. Food and water were being distributed from the backs of trucks, while staffers with clipboards slowly worked their way through the crowd. Booze and drugs were being passed around. Fights were commonplace. Sanitation conditions were appalling. All in all, the scene looked like Woodstock gone metastatic.

Bill lived in a tent for three weeks until, finally, one of the staffers approached him. The staffer was a young man in his late teens, face scarred with acne. He was wearing a blue T-shirt with the words TEAM PETER emblazoned on it in large yellow lettering.

"Hello," said the staffer in a bored voice that could have been the voice of any clerk in any overgrown bureaucracy. "My name is Gabriel and I'll be your induction coordinator." Bill started to ask a question, but Gabriel interrupted him. "No, I'm not the Archangel Gabriel. I'm just a guy from Philadelphia named Gabriel who died in a car wreck at the age of 17. Now give me your name, last name first, unless you were Chinese in which case it's first name first."

"Gates, Bill." Gabriel started searching through the sheaf of papers on his clipboard, looking for Bill's Record of Earthly Works. "What's going on here?" asked Bill. "Why are all these people here? Where's Saint Peter? Where are the Pearly Gates?"

Gabriel ignored the questions until he located Bill's records. Then Gabriel looked up in surprise. "It says here that you were the president of a large software company. Is that right?"


"Well then, do the math chip-head! When this Saint Peter business started, it was an easy gig. Only a hundred or so people died every day, and Peter could handle it all by himself, no problem. But now there are over five billion people on earth. Jesus, when God said to 'go forth and multiply,' he didn't say 'like rabbits!' With that large a population, ten thousand people die every hour. Over a quarter-million people a day. Do you think Peter can meet them all personally?"

"I guess not."

"You guess right. So Peter had to franchise the operation. Now, Peter is the CEO of Team Peter Enterprises, Inc. He just sits in the corporate headquarters and sets policy. Franchisees like me handle the actual inductions." Gabriel looked though his paperwork some more, and then continued. "Your paperwork seems to be in order. And with a background like yours, you'll be getting a plum job assignment."

"Job assignment?"

"Of course. Did you expect to spend the rest of eternity sitting on your ass and drinking ambrosia? Heaven is a big operation. You have to pull your weight around here!" Gabriel took out a triplicate form, had Bill sign at the bottom, and then tore out the middle copy and handed it to Bill. "Take this down to induction center #23 and meet up with your occupational orientator. His name is Abraham." Bill started to ask a question, but Gabriel interrupted him. "No, he's not that Abraham."

Bill walked down a muddy trail for ten miles until he came to induction center #23. He met with Abraham after a mere six-hour wait.

"Heaven is centuries behind in building its data processing infrastructure," explained Abraham. "As you've seen, we're still doing everything on paper. It takes us a week just to process new entries."

"I had to wait three weeks," said Bill. Abraham stared at Bill angrily, and Bill realized that he'd made a mistake. Even in Heaven, it's best not to contradict a bureaucrat. "Well," Bill offered, "maybe that Bosnia thing has you guys backed up."

Abraham's look of anger faded to mere annoyance. "Your job will be to supervise Heaven's new data processing center. We're building the largest computing facility in creation. Half a million computers connected by a multi-segment fiber optic network, all running into a back-end server network with a thousand CPUs on a gigabit channel. Fully fault tolerant. Fully distributed processing. The works."

Bill could barely contain his excitement. "Wow! What a great job! This is really Heaven!"

"We're just finishing construction, and we'll be starting operations soon. Would you like to go see the center now?"

"You bet!"

Abraham and Bill caught the shuttle bus and went to Heaven's new data processing center. It was a truly huge facility, a hundred times bigger than the Astrodome. Workmen were crawling all over the place, getting the miles of fiber optic cables properly installed. But the center was dominated by the computers. Half a million computers, arranged neatly row-by-row, half a million...


... all running Claris software! Not a PC in sight! Not a single byte of Microsoft code!

The thought of spending the rest of eternity using products that he had spent his whole life working to destroy was too much for Bill. "What about PCs???" he exclaimed. "What about Windows??? What about Excel??? What about Word???"

"You're forgetting something," said Abraham.

"What's that?" asked Bill plaintively.

"This is Heaven," explained Abraham. "We need a computer system that's heavenly to use. If you want to build a data processing center based on PCs running Windows, then...


Copyright © 1994 11/04/94 by HyperMedia Comm. Inc.
Written by Tony Bove (TB) and/or Cheryl Rhodes (CR)