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Microsoft Programming AI

Microsoft's Missed Opportunities: Memo From 1997 161

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the hyper-cube-os dept.
New submitter gthuang88 (3752041) writes In the 1990s, Microsoft was in position to own the software and devices market. Here is Nathan Myhrvold's previously unpublished 1997 memo on expanding Microsoft Research to tackle problems in software testing, operating systems, artificial intelligence, and applications. Those fields would become crucial in the company's competition with Google, Apple, Amazon, and Oracle. But research didn't do enough to make the company broaden its businesses. While Microsoft Research was originally founded to ensure the company's future, the organization only mapped out some possible futures. And now Microsoft is undergoing the biggest restructuring in its history. At least F# and LINQ saw the light of day.

Microsoft's Missed Opportunities: Memo From 1997

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  • Too long (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @06:42PM (#47478739) Homepage Journal

    That memo is waaaay too long. No wonder none of that stuff happened - no one read past the first page and a half.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Can you sum it up for me?
      Okay, now can you put it in layman's terms?
      Okay, now tell it to me like I'm a ten year old.
      Okay, tell it to me like I'm a five year old.
      Okay, now tell it to me like I'm a five year old who drank a Big Gulp and you don't want to mop the floor.

      • Re:Too long (Score:5, Funny)

        by vandelais (164490) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @07:16PM (#47478895)

        Microsoft ought to have presented screens showing a "house", with "rooms" that the user could go to containing familiar objects corresponding to computer applications – for instance, a desk with pen and paper, a checkbook, and other items. Clicking on the pen and paper would open the word processor, and so forth.

      • In order to justify a budget increase of 300%+, the head of Microsoft Research had to write a really long essay beginning with business buzzwords (like embark, unprecedented, and endeavor) and ending with some justifications for his recommendations.
        • Re:Too long (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 17, 2014 @11:57PM (#47480083)

          In order to justify a budget increase of 300%+, the head of Microsoft Research had to write a really long essay beginning with business buzzwords (like embark, unprecedented, and endeavor) and ending with some justifications for his recommendations.

          Yep, Myhrvold's memos were always substantial, they often defined the future of the company. This is from a New Yorker article in 1997.

          Reading the memos chronologically, one can look at some of the business decisions that Microsoft faced during the years it grew to a nearly nine-billion-dollar giant that in 1996 earned two billion one hundred and ninety-five million dollars. It’s easier to understand the company’s path to success: a rare marriage of technical and business prowess.

          Myhrvold's role was essentially to be the futurist at Microsoft. He was their forward thinker and gave them the geeky excitement that allowed them to make many of the right choices throughout the '80s and '90s. Ignoring him and concentrating instead of the business and litigation-driven path resulted in the gradual slide to the barely relevant, spiteful and fading dinosaur, shedding workers and market share we're saddled with today.

          Imagine instead if they'd listened to him and worked towards this vision:

          Myhrvold then turned to what he called “the truly personal computer—something which has the size and weight appropriate to be carried with you at all times.” This wireless “digital wallet,” as he called it, would allow anyone to communicate, untethered to a wire, by voice, video, fax, E-mail, or pager. The device would be a clock, an alarm, a schedule manager, a notepad, an archive of phone numbers and records, and a library of music and books. The digital signature produced by this wallet would have a personal I.D. for security, and could replace cash, credit cards, checks, and keys. He believed that the obstacles were economic and human, not technological. “The cost will not be very high—it is pretty easy to imagine a total cost of manufacture in the range of $100 to $250 on introduction, which means $400 to $1000 retail price,” he wrote. He guessed that keyboards would be superseded by devices capable of recognizing handwriting.

          http://www.newyorker.com/archi... [newyorker.com]

          OP is saying 22 pages is too long a memo to bet the company on, and gets modded insightful? Why?

          • by Dogtanian (588974)

            Myhrvold's role was essentially to be the futurist at Microsoft. He was their forward thinker and gave them the geeky excitement that allowed them to make many of the right choices throughout the '80s and '90s. Ignoring him and concentrating instead of the business and litigation-driven path resulted in the gradual slide to the barely relevant, spiteful and fading dinosaur, shedding workers and market share we're saddled with today.

            I'm at work, so haven't had the time to properly read the articles et al. However, it's been known for years that MS *have* been doing a lot of serious research with talented people- the research they needed to avoid the position they're now in. The problem is that the vast majority never made its way out for short-term business and political reasons, and they're reaping that failure now. Here's a post I originally made in early 2012 [slashdot.org] in turn referencing someone else's *very* informative comment [dailytech.com] (itself

            • Does Microsoft promote people into Windows/Office executive positions more or less permanently, or does it rotate people in and out of those jobs so that nobody is wed to the success of those products permanently?

              If those were the jobs people strived for and then hung onto, it's easy to see how the most ambitions people would work to get into those jobs and then use their skills (political and otherwise) to maintain those products pre-eminence and power to keep those jobs and suppress disruptive technologie

          • by gbjbaanb (229885)

            Imagine instead if they'd listened to him and worked towards this vision

            then he would have replaced Ballmer by the board ... so obviously first thing to do was ignore him, and then sack him. Got to look at the "big picture" - you know, the one of Ballmer's bonuses that matter much more than any thing stupid like innovating in the right way to keep the company at the forefront of their field.

          • by NotDrWho (3543773)

            Myhrvold then turned to what he called “the truly personal computer—something which has the size and weight appropriate to be carried with you at all times.” This wireless “digital wallet,” as he called it, would allow anyone to communicate, untethered to a wire, by voice, video, fax, E-mail, or pager. The device would be a clock, an alarm, a schedule manager, a notepad, an archive of phone numbers and records, and a library of music and books.

            Yeah, he was just encouraging MS to make their own Palm Pilot, which it was already out when he wrote this. He wasn't predicting the smartphone, he was just imitating the PDA.

            It's like crediting someone in in 1900 for predicting the airplane because he wrote about "Skies full of great flying boats"--not realizing that he's talking about comtemporary dirigibles, not airplanes.

            • Myhrvold then turned to what he called “the truly personal computer—something which has the size and weight appropriate to be carried with you at all times.” This wireless “digital wallet,” as he called it, would allow anyone to communicate, untethered to a wire, by voice, video, fax, E-mail, or pager. The device would be a clock, an alarm, a schedule manager, a notepad, an archive of phone numbers and records, and a library of music and books.

              Yeah, he was just encouraging MS to make their own Palm Pilot, which it was already out when he wrote this. He wasn't predicting the smartphone, he was just imitating the PDA.

              It's like crediting someone in in 1900 for predicting the airplane because he wrote about "Skies full of great flying boats"--not realizing that he's talking about comtemporary dirigibles, not airplanes.

              He does a damn good job of describing the smartphone, probably because he's couching it in the terms of what it is "a small personal computer" rather than a "phone". A better analogy would be somebody working at a shop making canvas and wood biplanes in 1910 predicting that they will eventually be monowing plane constructed out of metal used for war and transport and that the company should head in that direction. The direction is sort of obvious but the tech wasn't there yet, but there was great rewards f

          • by B33rNinj4 (666756)
            Because people are too distracted in their daily lives to take a few moments to read.
      • Re:Too long (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dishevel (1105119) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @09:56PM (#47479637)
        You forgot to have it told to you in a car analogy.

        You must be new here.

      • by Zanadou (1043400)
        "And then finally, tell it to me like I'm five year-old who's been given three double espressos and a new kitten to play with."
      • Can you sum it up for me?
        Okay, now can you put it in layman's terms?
        Okay, now tell it to me like I'm a ten year old.
        Okay, tell it to me like I'm a five year old.
        Okay, now tell it to me like I'm a five year old who drank a Big Gulp and you don't want to mop the floor.

        Okay, now tell it to my like I'm the CEO.

    • Re:Too long (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@nOsPAm.hotmail.com> on Thursday July 17, 2014 @09:18PM (#47479479) Journal

      No wonder none of that stuff happened - no one read past the first page and a half.

      No. Just no. That's pure and slick as goose fat spin control. Businesses simply don't work that way.

      That stuff didn't happen because Microsoft decided to spend the next decade and a half focused on embracing, extending and extinguishing or just f***ing killing and just f***ing burying their competitors instead of making good products.

      With toxic corporate citizenship at their heart, they stacked standards committees instead of making a better Office product. When online security and malware became a problem, instead of improving and securing their colander-like OS they funded a feral and failing software company to attack a community-built competitor. When that failed, they wielded 235 patents as a FUD-bludgeon, and sold more to a 3rd party patent troll. When it became clear they couldn't compete in the mobile space, they used some questionable patents to extort money from manufacturers using a competing OS. Their customers suffered high costs and poor products because, whenever possible, they chose to litigate instead of innovate.

      That's why they now have 14% market share and are laying off thousands of workers. As soon as there were viable alternatives, ex-Microsoft customers fled to them in droves.

      • Everything spot-on!

        You did forget to mention that they established Windows by essentially dumping the product on the market, benefitting from rampant piracy of Windows and more or less preventing anyone from making money developing a competing OS. (MSDOS was so bad that it made this an easy play...certainly nothing they'd want to stop or curtail.)

        This is what built the Windows monopoly. If piracy wasn't such an easy option, I doubt Windows would ever have achieved critical mass.

        Sure you COULD pay fo
  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @06:52PM (#47478791)
    It is so difficult to stay on top in any field, let alone atop a technology that changes virtually overnight, that even Microsoft's relatively short run as apex predator was commendable.

    You can make a hundred correct predictions in a row as to where the market is heading, and then whiff on two, and an apple or a google gain a foothold.

    It's not rocket science... it's way harder than that.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 17, 2014 @07:12PM (#47478875)

      Rocket science needs complex math. market prediction needs a functioning crystal ball.

    • It is so difficult to stay on top in any field, let alone atop a technology that changes virtually overnight, that even Microsoft's relatively short run as apex predator was commendable.

      You can make a hundred correct predictions in a row as to where the market is heading, and then whiff on two, and an apple or a google gain a foothold.

      It's not rocket science... it's way harder than that.

      I don't know about that. Microsoft made some pretty asinine mistakes along the way. The search engine problem was obvious, and everyone knew it. It basically became impossible to find anything on the net, and yahoo and others were flooding their front pages with so much crap, half the time you couldn't even find the search bar. Then came Google... sifting out all the ads, even from their own front page. It was like they were selling Viagra at a hooker convention. That could ahve been Microsoft but they miss

      • by plover (150551) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @09:03PM (#47479401) Homepage Journal

        Microsoft has done some really brilliant things as of late. They've wholeheartedly adopted automated testing for everything. I don't know if they have any product teams that aren't Agile, or aren't doing test driven development. I recently asked a product manager about his product's defect backlog, and he shot me with a cold stare: "We don't have any known defects in our product. As soon as a bug report arrives, the entire team drops what they're doing, and within 15 minutes a developer is working on repro'ing it, and it's fixed within a day. These are very rare occurrences." This was for a million line shrink-wrapped product.

        Although it's taking them a long time to turn their teams around, Microsoft finally knows how to engineer code right, and they are quite willing to share with anyone willing to listen. But too many of their clients don't listen, too many of their vendors and suppliers don't listen (driver bugs, etc), too many of their own internal teams are still dragging legacy code bases forward, and they still have a long history of bugs that we all remember. Another problem they have is economic: their primary competition is their old products, like Office 2007, which are good enough for most businesses and students. They really want to get everyone on their Azure cloud, using Office365, live, OneCloud, and to rent computing resources from them, and that's driving a lot of their products in an unnatural direction for their consumers.

        Their marketing people haven't helped. Windows RT? Really, they had to emulate Apple's walled garden? The closed iOS ecosystem is about the worst thing Apple ever did to their customers, The Apple tax sucks 30% from every dollar spent on the platform, and there's virtually no escape. And because we all know it sucks, we won't willingly jump into it again - so Microsoft loses even more.

        Their forays into other platforms have been abysmal: Ford's SYNC is a crime against drivers. They bought a failing phone company for their hardware, turned out walled garden phones, and nobody showed up. Their previous attempts at embedded systems make people WinCE. And because they start everything out as closed source, and try to contain their own stuff, they see every product as a battle entering competition to the death, instead of an opportunity to cooperate. That got them a long way, and made them a lot of money, but now there are good alternatives, and nobody gives a damn anymore. The stuff they're producing now will all be too much, but way too late.

        • Its only brilliant if you do something nobody else has already done. Imitating success is not brilliant, its obvious.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by netsavior (627338)
            that's just not true. You don't have to do new things to be brilliant. You can do old things, better.
            Google search was not new, but it was better
            When iPhone came out, there was nothing it did that my Palm Treo didn't do, but it was better
            The Printing press, which revolutionized the world, was just a big screw press combined with some thousand year old block printing techniques... it was nothing new.
            Every best picture Oscar ever was an old story, retold.
            Shakespeare's Hamlet was a re-telling of a commo
        • by aybiss (876862)

          I'm not sure if this post was sarcastic... but just in case it wasn't: Microsoft have adopted automated testing? Wow! What's next, bug tracking?

        • by gtall (79522)

          Sooo... they know how to do software development now that they've adopted Agile. I think rather that Agile has more or less codified how they've always done software development, and with it, Agile's sins. The most egregious is that your product will look like a dirty snowball that, if it is of decent size, no one will understand.

          And if they are jerking developers off the project to address every single bug as it comes in, they've already shot themselves in the foot. No defect backlog means no bug backlog.

        • They bought a failing phone company for their hardware, turned out walled garden phones, and nobody showed up.

          Say WHAT?! Nokia was a FAILING phone company when Microsoft bought them? What planet are you on? They were THE dominant phone company at the time. Samsung and Apple were barely even nudging the market with their offerings yet; although Apple was indeed on a steep rise at the time and the Galaxy S was just released which rocketed Samsung upwards.

          No, Nokia had some issues that they needed to work through but they were definitely not a failing phone manufacturing company when Microsoft bought them. Microsoft d

          • by plover (150551)

            Of course they were failing. They were failing in 2011, and they knew it, and in case they didn't know it, their CEO told them so. Go re-read their CEO's Burning Platform memo [wsj.com] in case you had forgotten how badly they were doing.

            In 2007, Apple stepped in and not only did they define a new high-end smartphone market, they owned it, and shared it with nobody. Nokia went from sharing the top-of-the-line smartphone market with Blackberry to a middle-of-the-road smartphone company, and they did it without movi

            • My apologies John. I was counting Microsoft's ownership from when a Microsoft Executive (Elop) took over Nokia. This is not the standard definition so I will concede that I was wrong when arguing that Microsoft bought a failing phone company.

              Dave

        • by Teckla (630646)

          The closed iOS ecosystem is about the worst thing Apple ever did to their customers

          Whoa now, that just ain't true. Not at all.

          Techies tend to forget how ridiculously hard it is for non-techies to administer their computers. Apple's iOS frees its customers from complexity, it frees them from stress and worry about viruses and Trojans, it frees them from the repercussions of being successfully hacked.

          Sure, for your typical geek-o-matic here, OMG-I-don't-have-root-and-I-can't-allow-that! But for regular people, Apple's walled garden is a blessing.

  • "In our defense, nobody was doing that yet to prove it profitable. Now that we know it is, research me too!"

  • by derinax (93566) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @07:15PM (#47478887)

    In the late nineties and into the last decade Microsoft just dumped too much time and money on their vision of a hyper-connected home. They dumped so much research money into building out test spaces and building out test devices, they failed to realize that people don't want an intelligent dryer and an intelligent toaster and an intelligent melon baller. The reality is whatever fancy device you own that has any kind of transistor in it, much less a CPU-- a phone, a tablet, a TV-- you're having to fuss with it. Constantly. And the same is/was always true for their "Microsoft At Home" vision. And yes, these things were connected-- but only to each other.

    That, and the fact that Microsoft has always misread the Internet, from coming to TCP/IP late, to ignoring the vital interoperability that cloud services demand. It's always been about the toys with them. Toys that run Windows. Ugh.

    Gratefully, only a few of these monstrous things ever saw the light of day beyond the lab.

    • by Fubari (196373)
      Does Anyone Want Any Toast? - Red Dwarf - BBC [youtube.com]

      people don't want an intelligent dryer and an intelligent toaster

    • by BigDish (636009)

      Disagreed - I DO want an intelligent dryer. That's not to say I want a heavy-weight OS or the ability to browse the internet on it, but my dryer is in my basement and I can't hear the buzzer. I DO want my smartphone to notify me when the cycle is done so I can go get the clothes. Nerd-things, like being able to see current temp/humidity inside would be a bonus, but just to know when it's done would be a huge selling point.

      Disclaimer: I haven't shopped for a dryer in a few years - perhaps this exists now.

      • Get an Arduino and connect it to the circuit controlling the buzzer on the dryer.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Or, the low-fi approach ... set a timer on your smart phone, or buy a dollar store timer, or just come back in an hour.

        As nerdtacular as a dryer which talks to your phone via bluetooth (or whatever) sounds ... I'd rather not pay more for my next dryer in order to have this feature. Because for me it's utterly pointless.

        There is no real need for this, it's just something which sounds like it might be cool.

        It just sounds like technology for the sake of technology, and all "ZOMG, what did people do before th

        • And how do you suggest I pick the time to set my timer to, given that drying time is variable when I use the dryness sensor of my dryer.

          If you don't want to pay for it, buy a cheap dryer. I'd rather have a high-end one.

        • by r_a_trip (612314)

          It's a solution in search of a problem

          Which is what people have probably said about wheels, boats, bows, guns, castles, astronomy, gaslight, electricity, self driving carriages, photo cameras, computers, dishwashers, dryers, mobile phones, the Internet, etc.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          How about the hack approach? The dryer timer is a fairly simple thing to comprehend. The dryer is typically incredibly simple to open and service, even if it runs on gas. I converted mine from natgas to propane and cleaned it out while I was in there, there's not a whole lot going on. Wire the buzzer up to something that will send you an alert. Low-fi dryer plus monitoring.

          It's nice to just buy something turnkey, but I prefer to be in control. So I'll take no automation, or my own, over the internet of vuln

      • Meile will do this. It'll cost you though. High end appliances, with a very high end price tag.

    • by _Ludwig (86077)

      Now that you mention it, I do want an intelligent melon baller.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      That, and the fact that Microsoft has always misread the Internet, from coming to TCP/IP late,

      Late for what? IPX was a lot easier to manage back then. By the time the internet was an interesting thing for more than a small slice of the population, Windows had support for TCP/IP and PPP.

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Thursday July 17, 2014 @09:15PM (#47479465) Homepage

      The reality is whatever fancy device you own that has any kind of transistor in it, much less a CPU-- a phone, a tablet, a TV-- you're having to fuss with it. Constantly.

      Horseshit. My printer has a CPU in it, and in three years I've never had to do anything but turn in on. (I rely on the auto off feature.) Ditto for the CPU's in my and my wife's cars. Or in our GPSr's (a handheld and two dashboard navigation systems). Or in our washer and dryer. Or in our home entertainment system (TV, Tivo, HDMI switch, Roku, Blu-Ray player). Or in our microwave. Or... we pretty much haven't had to "mess with" any of the dozens of the CPU's in our possession. (And most of what little "messing with" we've had to do has been with the phone and desktop, and the "messing with" has been minimal... hit "update" and walk away for bit.) I don't know what planet you live on, but here on Earth in 2014, consumer grade devices don't generally require user intervention.

      • None of those devices you mentioned were made by Microsoft or run Microsoft software.

        • Since the significant point mentioned was "the presence of a CPU" and not "the presence of Microsoft".... your point would be what?

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      they failed to realize that people don't want an intelligent dryer and an intelligent toaster and an intelligent melon baller.

      Maybe so but intelligent thermostats and lighting systems most definitely.

      The reality is whatever fancy device you own that has any kind of transistor in it, much less a CPU-- a phone, a tablet, a TV-- you're having to fuss with it.

      Nope, either you have never used a decent intelligent thermostat or you're doing it wrong. Or there's internet-connected appliances like air conditioners, the ability to control them remotely is great. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting what you mean by "having to fuss with it".

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @07:32PM (#47478979)

    Are we violating any of Intellectual Ventures' patents by reading it?

    • Only if you memorize more than 3 consecutive words, write a summary, or link to it (without prior written approval). Otherwise, you're good to go mister dude.

    • by Kittenman (971447)

      Are we violating any of Intellectual Ventures' patents by reading it?

      Reading the attached article? Now c'mon, this is slashdot. We'll just make random, unsubstantiated statements.

    • by BonThomme (239873)

      I think you violate their patents by talking about them.

  • by echtertyp (1094605) on Thursday July 17, 2014 @08:13PM (#47479171)
    Waaay back I remember someone pointing out that Microsoft was spending enormous sums to hire researchers, especially promising ones in academia. The idea, apparently, was for MS Research to be a sort of "intellectual roach motel" (love that phrase) were IQ would check in, and nothing checked out. This made a certain amount of sense. As a monopolist you don't -want- any innovation. One way to do that is hire hitmen to kill potential innovators. But the risks there are huge. A much easier way if you have the money is to hire promising minds and then keep them neutralized. That's just what Microsoft did.
    • As a monopolist you don't -want- any innovation.

      Why do you say this?

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        As a monopolist you don't -want- any innovation.

        Why do you say this?

        Progress is disruptive. It messes up the spreadsheets.

        • Progress is what allows one to maintain a monopoly. History has demonstrated that static monopolies die quick, natural deaths.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Progress is what allows one to maintain a monopoly. History has demonstrated that static monopolies die quick, natural deaths.

            Progress disrupts monopolies. Retarding progress in an entire industry extends their lifetimes. Hence patents.

            • The only reason Microsoft still has it's 'monopoly' is it's ability to change and refocus, thus preventing it's competition from disrupting them.

              Were Microsoft static, it would have been supplanted long long ago. When is the last time, for example, you saw a piece of software which advertised, as a system requirement, "IBM PC or 100 percent compatible?"

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                Were Microsoft static, it would have been supplanted long long ago.

                Microsoft is mostly static. The big exception is their foray into the living room, on which they continue to choke. They've finally made some money at it, but they'd have made so much more if they hadn't totally blown the Xbox One launch. Otherwise Microsoft has been playing sit-still all along, doing the absolute minimum. It's been Windows and Office, Windows and Office, Windows and Office.

                • Microsoft isn't static. Take their utter dismissal, followed by 180 degree turn around and headlong rush into TCP/IP and the Internet. They're surprisingly agile, for such a large company. If they weren't, they'd have been eaten long ago.
  • All that memo will do (and it did) is to create a regressive hierarchy of backbiting political scum, who devote their energy to their next, larger, paycheck.
    Any new ideas will be ruthlessly crushed, to avoid the risk their will succeed and toss those on high into the rubbish heap of history.
    So they have done that with the company, and it only survive because of its natural monopolies in a few software fields.

    Apple could have killed them ages ago, by allowing their OS to be licensed on any processor, and include a state machine rom with each licenced copy, said state machine being a soldered un-crackable dongle, so that Apple gets ~~$100 per copy - they would slay Microsoft.
    As it is Apple clings to their walled garden = dumb, but Apple = richer than me, so what do I know?

    • by edelbrp (62429) on Friday July 18, 2014 @12:35AM (#47480181)

      Apple could have killed them ages ago, by allowing their OS to be licensed on any processor, and include a state machine rom with each licenced copy, said state machine being a soldered un-crackable dongle, so that Apple gets ~~$100 per copy - they would slay Microsoft.
      As it is Apple clings to their walled garden = dumb, but Apple = richer than me, so what do I know?

      I think you forgot about the Mac clone era. Unfortunately, the third party clones were horrible. At the time, discontinuing the licensing of Mac clones was the right thing to do. All they did was tarnish Apple's image.

      • by aurizon (122550)

        Horrible? No they worked quite well, in fact so well that they caused the over priced Apples to lose share to the same systems made by others with lower cost parts.

        What apple did was fail to make sure a profit came back to Apple from each clone sold, via that hard wired dongle I spoke of. That way only a true OS buyer could use it = Apple gets its profit.
        Look at Microsoft, built on sales of the original OS and the descendants.

        Apple is lucky it came out with the series of products it did. It is still a very

      • by steveha (103154)

        At the time, discontinuing the licensing of Mac clones was the right thing to do. All they did was tarnish Apple's image.

        Actually, I agree with both you and the person to whom you are responding. Apple could have killed Windows by licensing out Mac OS, but it was the wrong thing at the time they actually tried it.

        The Microsoft approach was to license out DOS and Windows to anyone who wanted it, taking a small royalty per copy and making money on a huge volume. The Apple approach is to make more money p

        • MacOS was designed to run on a rather small range of hardware, although it was opening up in 1988. If licensed like DOS, it would have every bit as many compatibility problems.

          Moreover, in 1988 it took some pretty upscale hardware to run it properly. (Anybody remember the Epson QX-10, a little earlier, which had essentially a Mac-type UI with a lot less horsepower? I didn't think so.) It also didn't run a great many applications. What we'd be looking at is something like the Tandy 2000, which was a m

          • by steveha (103154)

            If licensed like DOS, it would have every bit as many compatibility problems.

            Oh, not as bad, at least at first. The companies licensing MacOS would have had to make suitable hardware, and Apple could have held their feet to the fire to get compatibility and quality.

            In those days, there was so much pent-up demand for Mac laptops that there were companies that would buy a Mac, crack it open and pull out the ROMs, build a laptop with the ROMs, and provide some sort of docking station so the original Mac would

  • It looks like you're trying to write a memo... let me help you with that

  • Plenty of other organisations, (IBM, Xerox...) have equally-sad stories.
    Genuine transformational innovation ignored by the senior management...who in the case of IBM, then Microsoft, were focused exclusively on two things:

    1. Screwing their customers
    2. Screwing their competition

    IBM got their comeuppance, and had to reinvent themselves as the "services" company we know and love (ahem) today.
    A far cry from the company that had Nobel prize-winning people on their R&D teams.

    Now its Microsoft's turn.

  • Steve Jobs: We're better than you are! We have better stuff.
    Bill Gates: You don't get it, Steve. That doesn't matter!

    Apparently it actually does.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Apparently it actually does.

      Except it doesn't, because Apple sold style, not superiority. What brought them back into fashion was the iPod, and there were competitors which were superior in every way other than style.

      • Don't think so, those competitors did not have the insight to hook it up to a great online store and articulate a groundbreaking desktop digital hub strategy like Apple.

        Besides we were talking about Microsoft and Apple, not "generic music player no one has since heard of" vs Apple.

      • Apparently it actually does.

        Except it doesn't, because Apple sold style, not superiority. What brought them back into fashion was the iPod, and there were competitors which were superior in every way other than style.

        The competitors were superior in bullet points on paper, but failed in real world use and usability in the market they were intended. If "style" means being able to use it without wanting it to slam it against the wall on the third attempt, I'm all for style.

      • by mccabem (44513)
        That's a shallow view of the past, at best. At worst, you may be wearing poop-colored-glasses! ;)

        Apple had a superior product in the Apple I and II (etc)! Apple again had a superior product in the Mac.

        The only reason Apple didn't keep flogging the Apple I system forever is that THEY KILLED IT with their next superior product.

        It's a little more questionable if the Mac will be killed off completely, but the IOS system is clearly having the same effect as the Mac had on the Apple I system back in it's
        • Apple actually screwed up with the Apple II (or one of the typographic variations), holding it back to preventing it from competing with the Apple III. Remember all the people using the III? How it was popular and sold well? Me neither. I think they learned from that. (Source: an issue of Byte from way back.)

          iOS is not going to kill off the Mac, although it's definitely influencing MacOSX. Apple is smart enough to realize that people want their desktops to work slightly different from their phones

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