Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Apple as a server company

Author:Dave Winer
Posted:4/29/1999; 6:26:24 AM
Topic:Linux' wide open spaces
Msg #:5408 (In response to 5353)
Prev/Next:5407 / 5409

This thread has been picked up on the Script Meridian Community list. I just posted this message to that list and am cc'ing it here.

Just a few thoughts on this thread. First, thanks for not making this an emotional issue because of course it's a business issue. When I say a lot can happen in a year, I mean it. How do I know? My birthday is coming up. I remember driving to my party last year with my stomach tied in knots over the flames happening on the Frontier-central list. None of that is happening now. Thank you. I've grown a lot in the last year, as we all have, as a group, we're more focused on winning and business, and are not bringing other kinds of stuff to this group. To me this is clear proof that a lot can change in a year.

The thread on came as an offshoot of our first explorations into Linux. Apparently it's going to be easier to produce a Frontier for Linux because of WINE, which is a library of routines that emulate the Win32 calls on Intel CPUs. Our other choice appears to be Latitude, which would allow us to move our Mac API codebase to Linux, but we're more interested in WINE because it's a more used path, and we can leverage our work with more developers, such as Corel, which is using WINE to move their productivity suite to Linux. One way or another, the port to Linux is not going to be anywhere near as much work as the port to Win32.

There's tremendous economic pull to get us onto Unix. This is what we want to tap into. The Mac server platform, and its future incarnations does not, at this time, support that. In fact, we have a very unclear idea of what Apple is doing, there have been some surprises lately that don't seem prudent. I would like to see them support WebSTAR and WebTen. I would like to see them show appreciation for the developers that stood by the Mac during the dark years. There should be a payoff for simply supporting the Mac APIs. I pay attention to the relationships other developers have with Apple. I listen to the market too. I don't hear anyone running a major traffic website with Apple server hardware and software. When and if that changes, when we can build new business on Apple servers, when other developers are building systems around Apple servers, our attitude will likely change.

However! (Yes there is a however) the Mac has an important role. It's complicated to explain because of the semi-sick server environment. There's nothing wrong with Mac OS Classic (System 7 and System 8) as a web server. But there was no marketing air cover from Apple in the formative years, 1994-present. And the current Apple is undermining that environment. (That's why I wanted to see them support WebSTAR and WebTen.) So I'm writing it off for the time-being. If Apple gets the fire going under Mac OS X, great. But I can afford the luxury of waiting to see if it works, and I don't have the option to focus on it now anyway since we want to get to Linux.

The "however" is that writers, designers, artists and programmers are not going to be using Unix any time soon. I had a long talk about this with an old friend, Doc Searls, who's now a senior editor at Linux Journal. They're making the flipside mistake that many in the Mac/Windows world are making, forcing their editors to use Linux. Not a great idea! The human work will be done by Mac/Windows and the server work will be done by Linux (viewed from their perspective). Our goal is to make it so that you can use any of the three platforms as a server, and focus on Mac/Windows for the writing, the human creative work.

Right now, for their own reasons, Apple has put the focus on their server strategy. This will change for sure because Apple is not a server company. And if Apple should manage to change that, we're inches away from being in their camp.

Anyway, thanks for the high road. I'm not going to tell you to turn your jets on Apple because I always found that offensive when Kawasaki told people to bombard me and others with flame-o-grams. I think your issue is with Apple. We want to have a thriving business that makes us and our developers lots of money and takes them to interesting places career-wise. They should have the same goals for their developers. What's their pitch to us? Why should we be going along with them for the ride? I haven't heard a clear convincing explanation of that. Neat technology is not the right answer. Market pull is the only one that works. It doesn't have to be realized market pull. A good partnership, one where we can deliver unique value to customers, could work. We've sold Apple hardware in the past, it can be a good business.

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