Opinion: Page (1) of 2 - 10/18/01 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

Talkin' Smack: At It Again

Microsoft takes a subtle but decisive step toward Web domination By Dave Nagel
In some ways, it's reassuring to know that some things don't change. Even if it's a lame thing. Take Microsoft, for example.

Long-time Mac users should remember what it was like when Microsoft began its descent to domination of the OS market. The rallying cry was, "The Macintosh is incompatible." Remember that? Remember how your Mac, which was still to dominate the market for years to come, both in terms of software and hardware, suddenly became "incompatible?" There were more Macs on the market than anything else. There was more software for the Mac?including games?than for any other platform. The Mac had speed and sophistication. It could talk to you. It could play music. It could display actual graphics. It could network. All without any additional hardware. And all the peecee could do was sit there and make beeping sounds as users stared at a blue screen with white text.


And we were the ones who were incompatible.

Millions of dollars worth of bribes later (what the industry calls "seed money"), developers abandoned the Mac in favor of the Microsoft-led peecee parade. Now, when I say developers "abandoned" the Mac, I'm really referring to the kinds of developers who made products for the office, accounting banking, as well as games. Most everybody else, especially makers of professional creative software, actually did stick with the Mac. And, in most cases, the Mac versions of their software was better (as it still is today) than the peecee versions.

Nevertheless, the word had gone out: There's no software for the Mac.

By this time, I.S. people who had been trained in Microsoft-tainted adult education schools were by far the dominant decision makers in corporations where computer purchases were concerned. And so began the great toppling of the traditional Mac base.

Funny story: In my last publishing company, our peecee-supporting I.S. guys waned to convert all of us art and editorial people over to Windows. One factor prevented this. I and a few other Mac guys insisted that if we were going to switch to Windows, it should be Windows NT. And so it happened. But we were a publishing company on a QuarkXPress system, so, of course, it was a miserable failure. Quark didn't work right with NT, and ATM?which was fundamental to our publishing process?didn't work at all. And so, after the initial test period, we all kept our Macs. Our vindictive I.S. department found many ways to screw me once they figured out what had happened, but, in the end, my mission was fulfilled.

So why do I bring all of this up now? This is all ancient history, right?

Wrong.

Because Microsoft still exists and because there are still competitors standing in the way of Microsoft's total domination of all things relating to computers. In this case, I'm talking about recent developments on the Web.

The end at the beginning
Remember the early, beautiful days of the Internet? Nobody cared about stock prices, e-this or -that or synergistic strategies for shifting to proactive paradigms. It was just an excellent way to get information out and to exchange ideas with people. It was also an excuse to play around with your Mac a little more than usual. Plus it was just a really nice place to be, seeing as Microsoft wasn't involved at all.

But then came Internet Explorer. Of course, it was crap, but what does that matter? You don't have to be the best to win, right? Especially if you have a seed fund and a practical monopoly that you can parley in any way you see fit. Any Mac user worthy of his or her IIci knew what was coming next.

Strangely enough, it didn't happen as quickly or decisively as we all thought it would. First off, Netscape maintained its browser's domination for considerably longer than any of us could have guessed. Second, Microsoft lost big time in its battle with AOL to become the dominant proprietary online service. Whatever you think of AOL, you have to give them that they're better than anything else that was out there. And not only did they topple the peecee-oriented Compuserve and Prodigy powerhouses, but they also gave Bill Gates the involuntary colonoscopy he deserved for his quest to ruin yet another area of computing.

At least temporarily.


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