From richardb Thu Oct 31 16:04:39 1991
Subject: Managing the Microsoft Image for Public and Political Acceptance
Date: Thu Oct 31 16:59:01 1991
Daryl suggested that I should copy you on this:
> from: From richardb Thu Oct 31 12:22:15 1991
Subject: Managing the Microsoft Image for Public and Political Acceptance
Date: Thu Oct 31 12:22:11 1991
The position of Microsoft in the market has grown rapidly; today, it has
an impact on the economy, the information infrastructure of business,
and the public that is reminiscent of the situation of AT&T in the early
nineteen hundreds when telephones had been widely accepted, but not yet
Peter Drucker has written an account if how AT&T recognized the
implications of its position at the time, and how it responded
successfully. I would like to recount that story and then suggest how
Microsoft's situation is similar, and how it can and should apply the
lessons of our predecessor in order to be equally successful for the
long term (25 to 50 years).
"One of the earliest and most answers (to the question 'what is our
business') was worked out by Theodore N. Vail (1845 - 1920) for the
American Telephone and Telegraph Company almost seventy years ago: "Our
business is service." This sounds obvious once it has been said. But
first there has to be a realization that a telephone system, being a
natural monopoly, was susceptible to nationalization and the privately
owned telephone service in a developed and industrialized country was
exceptional and needed community support for its survival.
Second, there has been the realization that community support could not
be obtained by propaganda campaigns or by attacking critics as
"un-American" or "socialistic". It could be obtained only by creating
customer satisfaction. This realization meant radical innovations in
business policy. It meant constant indoctrination in dedication to
service for all employees, and public relations which stressed service.
It meant emphasis on research and technological leadership, and it
required financial policy which assumed that the company had to give
service wherever there was a demand, and that it was management's job to
find the necessary capitol and to earn a return on it. The United States
would hardly have gone through the New Deal period without a serious
attempt at telephone nationalization but for careful analysis of its own
business that the Telephone Company made between 1905 and 1915.
Microsoft's position is not exactly the same, but there are strong
The establishment of a universal platform upon which to build software
applications is in the interest of the general public, and of most ISVs,
unless they are in the business of supplying competing platforms.
The explosion of new software applications and ISVs after the market for
them was increased by a common PC platform is analogous to the growth in
the telephone business as the number of callable subscribers increased.
Software system platforms define communities that can purchase software,
analogous to the communities served by competing telephone networks of
the early 1900's
Just as the nation needed a common carrier for telephony, this nation
needs a single common platform upon which to build software, so that the
energies of our software engineers can be applied to building new
products at a higher level, rather then systems that duplicate work
already done by competing platforms. Multiple system architectures exist
today, because the technology is relatively new, and we are still
learning what works, but we will converge on a common solution (for
example, consider the multiple window systems starting from Xerox Parc's
Star that have appeared). As that happens, competition will be of less
value, and the advantages of a tolerated monopoly will be greater. I
believe convergence will take place in this decade.
The industry has recognized the value of such a monopoly and has
attempted to create one without creating a competitor by establishing
committees and standards groups (e.g. POSIX, Xwindows). Unfortunately,
such standards are defined by the groups who build systems, and thus
will not in fact establish a standard. For telephones, the analogy would
be of individual telephone companies which establish interface standards
to switch calls between systems. It will work only as wee as such
standards - which is to say not as well as a true monopoly where the
single vendor could apply more global optimizations and apply larger
advantages of scale.
Win32 is an alternative standard architecture defined by Microsoft. It
is our challenge to alternative standards, and we stand a chance of
making it stick because of our dominance in the market. The biggest
obstacles to making this happen are probably political rather then
technical or business related. This standard is only one of a series we
contemplate which lead to a new component architecture and true IAYF.
The recent FTC probe of Microsoft is a symptom of this coming challenge.
The probe may fail, and I'm sure there is no basis for it. But it should
be interpreted as the warning shot of a war that we will lose if we
don't recognize the danger and take actions now.
The recent letter from Senator Metzenbaum (from OHIO of all places)
telling the FTC to pursue this case vigorously because Microsoft clearly
has been 'anticompetitive' is an example of the kind of political forces
that will rise against us as our success and dominance increase, unless
we turn this feeling and win support.
We must make it clear that our business is providing the framework and
standards for building apps and integrating them into a common framework
where they work well together and get the benefits of synergy. We must
make it clear that what we do is for the benefit of the majority of ISVs
and businesses, and thus for the country, and that it is in their
interest to help us succeed. We must set this as our goal.
To accept this goal means to provide leadership for apps other ways
besides delivering software such as Windows. We must do other (perhaps
less profitable) tasks which contribute to the same goal.
For example, we should take the lead in establishing a common approach
to UI and to interoperability (of which OLE is only a part). Our efforts
to date are focussed too much on our own apps, and only incidentally on
the rest of the industry. We want to own these standards, so we should
not participate in standards groups. Rather, we should call 'to me' to
the industry and set a standard that works now and is for everyone's
benefit. We are large enough that this can work.
We can take some simple initial steps such as publishing, publish books
and articles about existing standards for GUI Interfaces, for apps, and
a guide to solving frequent UI issues in a common way. These may be as
useful and enabling for our ISVs as the software itself. We can back
this up with sample code and tools (such as additional standard Win
controls) that simplify building apps according to these guidelines.
We should develop spokespeople who can establish themselves as effective
advocates for the enablement of a large software industry build on wide
We should become actively involved in education in order to enable
people to use software - i.e. we should solve the usability problem by
attacking both ends of the problem (UI complexity and user experience).
We might do this through local schools, teachers, colleges where they
prepare teachers for local schools, through universities, etc.
A significant investment is required to do this task effectively. It
should be done by a separate group and not by product groups that make
their numbers by delivering specific apps. The group should have
sufficient talent and experience to deal with engineers in MS and other
companies, to deal with the press, with business people, and with
They should be committed to enabling applications to reach ever wider
markets and providing more value by working together. We are too big to
treat our business as strictly business - it is a matter of public affairs.
If we are successful, we will be asked/encouraged/led to extend the
reach of our architecture to mainframe and mini computer platforms. Our
architecture will achieve the goal that IBM set for SAA. The
difference will be that we own it.
IAYF: “Information at Your Fingertips”
court documents in the case of Comes v. Microsoft.