What a difference a year makes

There they go again. Prominent software industry CEOs once again have gone to Capitol Hill in Washington to warn about the dangers of Microsoft's unchecked market power. Anybody who regularly reads this column knows that I sympathise with much of what they had to say. But I thought it strange when Messrs. Glaser, Papows and Ellison recently denounced the damage Microsoft is inflicting on RealNetworks, Lotus Development and Apple Computer.

I couldn't put my finger on it until I spent some time trawling through a bunch of Web site archives. Then I rediscovered what those very same companies were saying just 12 months ago.

On July 21, 1997, Microsoft and what was then Progressive Networks "announced an agreement that will help to define industry standards for the streaming media market. ... As part of the agreement, Microsoft has also made a minority investment in Progressive Networks."

Rob Glaser, that small company's CEO, added, "We have worked successfully with Microsoft in the past, and this agreement brings our relationship to a new level."

Then, on July 29, 1997, Lotus and Microsoft "announced that they have reached agreement on new initiatives aimed at meeting customers' need for great interoperability. ... The initiatives include plans for Lotus to ship Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 with strategic Lotus products." Lotus President Jeff Papows commented, "We are excited about the current work that we are doing with Microsoft ... and we look forward to future cooperation."

Finally, on August 6, 1997, Apple introduced its new board of directors, which included Oracle's Larry Ellison. That same day, Apple and Microsoft announced a broad agreement that included patent cross-licensing, making Internet Explorer the default Apple browser and a Microsoft acquisition of $US150 million in Apple stock.

Apple's acting CEO, Steve Jobs, said, "We are thrilled at the prospect of working more closely with Microsoft. ... We are confident that this is the beginning of a much closer relationship between the two companies."

Now, I don't want to be too hard on these gentlemen. Between fear, the lure of power and gold, and the sincere desire to serve customers and establish peace in the IT community, there are many reasons to try to work with Microsoft. Besides, sometimes the folks in Redmond make you an offer that you simply can't refuse.

Nevertheless, it seems fair to say that those deals have proved to be more than a bit naive. By 1997, its all-out assault on Netscape had made it obvious that Microsoft was indeed an unrestrained predator. Why did these executives think they would be anything but next year's lunch?

Technology vendors love to talk about how they thrive in a world of "coopetition". Certainly, there have been many important examples of rivals working together to set standards and accelerate market growth. But how many of those involved Microsoft?

Software Publishers Association President Ken Wasch put it objectively: "For firms that have chosen not to compete with any Microsoft product, the relationship is often very positive. However, for firms seeking to develop products that may compete with Microsoft's own offerings, the relationship can be extremely problematic."

In a recent US Computerworld interview, former Apple CEO Gil Amelio put it colourfully: "Bill is ... incapable of even letting you have one of the marbles."

The only question now is whether anyone has learned anything. Cooperation and coopetition haven't worked; how about some plain old-fashioned competition? What a novel idea.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Moschella

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?