13 Comments
May 23, 2021Liked by Steven Sinofsky

I could put together a really crackerjack college course on “Tech Companies And The Early Web” using only this Substack, jwz.org, and Merrill R. Chapman‘s “In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters“ as the (well-grounded but wildly differing in viewpoint) course reading materials. This was a fantastic entry, and I can’t wait for 28 and getting to the Fireworks Factory.

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Merrill got some things right, and a lot wrong. He simply wasn’t there at Ashton-Tate for a lot of what he talks about. Still a fun book though.

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May 31, 2021Liked by Steven Sinofsky

Oh my, that Microsoft image map brings back memories! And I still marvel at the fact my 1993ish First Technology account came with a way to do online banking. I remember my landlord didn't believe me. She couldn't wrap her head around the idea I could transfer money from one account to another through a computer.

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May 25, 2021Liked by Steven Sinofsky

When did Internet access from your office become standard at Microsoft?

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In the summer of 1994, MSIT added “SIAM” (secure internet access method) that allowed for FTP access, along with USENET access and a few others. Then for a few years we used an NT product that was a client side proxy, until everything was handled at the firewall level. It was never standard to have a “direct tap” with a static IP address and that was highly restricted.

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May 24, 2021Liked by Steven Sinofsky

Enjoyed the entire article and this part specifically.

"What kind of questions did Bill ask? Though I was able to show BillG a lot, he stumped me asking to explain the difference between WinHelp, Microsoft’s relatively new online help engine, and the WWW. They were both formatted text with hyperlinks and the user experience was similar. The formats even looked the same. WinHelp used Word’s RTF format, which was also tagged as ASCII format. In fact, WinHelp looked world’s ahead of HTML because it was richer and compressed, so it took fewer bytes."

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:)

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When people used to ask me how MSFT could bundle such sophisticated technology as a browser with an OS, I used to say, "Sophisticated? It's WinHelp on sockets. They could have released it 5 years ago"

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Ooh.. it’s almost October 1994. Can’t wait to hear about the reaction to that in the next chapter.

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I look forward to seeing how you handle the Netscape part of this given your current affiliation. My personal interactions with pmarca@ at the time told me that he would avoid any factual indications of MSFT openness about what they were doing, in order to maintain the illusion of being beleaguered by an unfair competitor.

When I confronted him in a 1:1 in a limo (long story) with simple examples, i.e. “a person with a $200 MSDN subscription has complete access to the ActiveX APIs need to embed a browser” he said “no they don’t”. I said “I did it, (I had done so and would later use that knowledge to present bills in Quicken) when we get back to my loft I’ll show it to you”. His response was “They don’t give it to anybody. Let’s change the subject - ever seen Caddyshack?”.

This gave me a good idea how they’d respond to IE3, and told me how I would steer Autodesk’s plug-in strategy in the coming year.

Looking forward to hearing how you talk about the internal aspects of this period.

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I remember many conversations around Java support at this time, when Netscape was out saying "Microsoft would never embrace Java". Meanwhile, internally we were full speed ahead on VM development, tools development, and Sun discussions. It was rewarding to knock the wind out of Netscape's sails.

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Yes no one believed we would license it for sure.

We would see Java show up a bit after the offsite in 1994 and not until after Windows 95 shipped. At the "internet strategy day", December 7, 1995, Bob and others were deep in the negotiations to license Java. It would end up being the big news of that day (distracting from my demo problems!) The December 7 press release isn't online anymore but it also took a few months to close the deal. https://news.microsoft.com/1996/03/12/microsoft-and-sun-microsystems-conclude-agreement-to-license-technology-for-java/

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What I found hilarious was when Sun forced MSFT to remove the Java logo for "non-compliance" as if they had damaged, MSFT. Yes, I thought, you just removed Java's brand from the #1 desktop OS. Brilliant!

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