Re: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire

Chris Wilson (cwilso@MICROSOFT.com)
Fri, 18 Oct 1996 12:14:03 -0700


Message-ID: <c=US%a=_%p=msft%l=RED-76-MSG-961018191403Z-19406@mail5.microsoft.com>
From: "Chris Wilson (PSD)" <cwilso@MICROSOFT.com>
To: "'S.N.Brodie@ecs.soton.ac.uk'" <S.N.Brodie@ecs.soton.ac.uk>,
Cc: "'smishra@cc.gatech.edu'" <smishra@cc.gatech.edu>,
Subject: RE: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 12:14:03 -0700

As much as I dislike wasting time arguing with obvious Microsoft-haters,
I do have a few things to say here.

>S.N.Brodie@ecs.soton.ac.uk (Stewart Brodie) wrote:
>>It's a constant reminder that I *MUST* use a platform that is Microsoft's
>>in order to access some providers' data.
>
>I'm not sure why everyone keeps using the word "MUST".  The boilerplate text
>we're talking about here is "this content BEST viewed by BrowserX."  This
>does not imply that it is impossible to view the content with any other
>browser, just that the presentation may not be as the designer intended, and
>some features or sections of data may not be presented properly.  In some
>cases, it is impossible to get to the data at all (e.g., a ShockWave
>presentation that is not mirrored in text) - in general, I consider those to
>be very poor uses of the Web.
>
>My own personal pages have text on them that says, "<These pages> will look
>sane in all browsers, and good in any that support Cascading Stylesheets, but
>without stylesheet support you're missing a lot of the effect.  Obviously, I
>authored these pages to look their best in Internet Explorer."  And it's
>true; you can still access the most interesting bits of my pages on an
>80-column text mode browser from 1994 without severe degradation of the
>content.  The presentation, of course, will be significantly different - you
>won't have all the stylesheet effects, no animated images, and all the other
>eye candy.  When/if I get around to doing any significant amount of work with
>scripting or OBJECTs, I'll probably add to my boilerplate a warning that
>those features will not work in all browsers, and refer to the browser(s)
>that will work with it.
>
>>But it IS *NOT* platform independent any more!  If a page claims to be
>>viewable only with MSIE, then I have to be running either Win95 or
>>WinNT.
>
>Or the Apple Macintosh (come on, we've had a Mac browser out in the public
>for months and months now), or shortly a few varieties of UNIX/X Windows.
>And again, there is not that much content that should only be viewable in one
>particular browser.  There are such pages out there, and in general I avoid
>them unless their content is extremely compelling and their reason for
>limiting their site is a real reason.  The situation I find most annoying is
>when document authors actually refuse access to users of a particular browser
>for absolutely no reason.  This is purely a personal problem IMO, regardless
>of whose browser is the target.  Note that I do not limit access to my pages
>in any way to Netscape Navigator users, even though I would obviously prefer
>that people use Microsoft Internet Explorer, for personal reasons as well as
>for a better presentation of my pages (until, if ever, Netscape decides to
>support CSS).
>
>>> Something else I expect, by the way, is browsers that maintain their
>>> currency automatically by fetching new components from their vendor's
>>> server as needed; this requires a shift to a much more modular
>>> architecture for browsers (to keep upgrade downloading cheap and fast),
>>> but I think it's sure to turn up in a year or so.
>>
>>This is the solution adopted by the Network Computer.  However, I'd
>>guess that both IE3 and Netscape 3 (for all the claims they make about
>>being a having small browser) are far too large to fit into the memory
>>of a network computer (typically 4MB RAM, or 8MB on Intel based boxes)
>
>A version of Internet Explorer ships as part of Windows CE, the palmtop
>"companion" OS Microsoft has been developing (hardware will be shipping by
>Christmas, from what I hear), so that's not true for IE.  And didn't Netscape
>spin out Navio for the purpose of developing a smaller-footprint version of
>Navigator for embedded hardware applications?
>
>In addition, a significant feature of Microsoft's Authenticode technology is
>to allow upgrade downloading.  A large part of the work that went into
>Internet Explorer 3.0 was the modularization and accessible interfaces
>(through ActiveX) of the browser.
>
>>An awful lot of
>>people believe that Microsoft is the be all and end all of computing
>>and are unwilling to comtemplate that there could possibly be anything
>>better, and that therefore anyone who doesn't follow Uncle Bill
>>unconditionally is some kind of weirdo.  Such is the power of American
>>marketing budgets ...  Netscape were beginning to eat into this, but
>>Microsoft have realised the danger and are busy trying to make it hard
>>for them to keep up.
>
>Hmm, well, I don't think anyone here thinks Microsoft is the "be all and end
>all of computing" - that would be a very closed-minded viewpoint.  If we
>thought that way, why would we ever invest in other companies or buy
>technology?  However, it cannot be denied that Microsoft is the world leader
>in personal computer software.  Regardless of your impressions or opinions of
>how we got to that position, do you really feel that Microsoft creates NO
>innovative software, nor software that is better than the competition?
>
>Oh, and I don't "follow Uncle Bill unconditionally" - nor do most of the
>Microsoft employees I know.  I have a great respect for Bill Gates, but I
>don't think he has the only good ideas in the company, nor is he infallible.
>Microsoft is a collection of smart people, both those who develop the
>software and those who market it.
>
>>Will the Network Computer succeed?  It depends on Microsoft.  What's
>>the betting we'll get some new "essential" features for the web which
>>are hard for NCs to achieve?  eg.  extremely memory intensive and
>>require a lot of RAM to work anything like quickly enough - and that
>>the only such machines capable of running it will have a minimum spec
>>of PPro 200 with Windows97 or Windows TNG or whatever the successor to
>>WinNT 4 is going to be called.
>
>Hmm, why are you assuming it will be Microsoft's fault when those features
>come out?  We didn't invent VRML, or ShockWave, or frames, or any number of
>other features that add to the code bloat.  Certainly, we've done a few, and
>have clearly championed a few (e.g., CSS stylesheets, my personal area) -
>some of which will not allow access to the content without that feature being
>present (e.g., ActiveX controls), and some which will (e.g., CSS
>stylesheets).
>
>>checked for and the user is asked to confirm that the upgrade should be
>>performed and given the go-ahead, it is upgraded automatically.
>>So that's not new, and happens today.  I suspect that even some Wintel
>>based software may be capable of it too - it's not hard.
>
>Yes, we can indeed do that.
>
>>But it _is_ at the stage of "I can't read these pages because Microsoft
>>& Netscape have decided that my platform is not worthy of their
>>support" and they are pushing their very latest extensions to content
>>providers to ensure that their product is the #1 browser on the net
>>by having no competition by forcing the competition out of business.
>
>Again, we're back to the can't-read vs. best-viewed-with difference.  Sorry,
>but I can't give you a 3D world if you don't have VRML installed.  I can give
>you some of the data that might be represented in that environment, but I
>can't give you the same presentation, and therefore, I can't give you the
>exact EXPERIENCE I authored.  This is the difference between CONTENT and
>EXPERIENCE - one does not require a particular set of presentation or
>data-handling abilities, and one does.
>
>>It's called a monopoly, and it's what Microsoft has at the moment.
>
>In Web software?  You made me fall off my chair.
>
>	-Chris
>Chris Wilson
>cwilso@microsoft.com
>The opinions expressed in this email are my personal views, not necessarily
>those of Microsoft.
>