Hey Eve, Bill Bit the Wrong Apple!

Francis Vale


I recently spent seven days and nights breaking my back trying to migrate from MacOs 8 to Win95. Can you believe it?

For a while there, it looked like Apple was in free fall. Time for the Big Change, I figured. So, let's try out a top of the line Pentium with Win95 and load everything up.

Ah, excuse me? You MS people still have to futz with DOS? And what's this device configuration manager stuff? I have to go in and edit my config. files just because I install a joystick? Or that when I install Eudora Pro, Win95 keeps on telling me this e-mail program is doing illegal operations if I have the app running at system shutdown? Or, just to be on the safe side after I install each and every new app, I have to run FirstAid 97 to be sure that a stray DLL is not doing something to clobber its neighbors? Indeed, various apps doing all kinds of awful operations seem to be the norm in Win95. In short, my nasty experiences with Win95 have driven me back to the Mac as my primary platform.

But this still may not save me from the grasping clutches of an MS OS, in this case, some weird hybrid combining MS CE and the recently acquired WebTV platform. For now I learn that MSGates has decided that his company is about to make another big cable TV company investment, this time in US West. This regional Bell operating company made its big move on cable TV when it bought Continental Cablevision in Boston, which is where I live. Bill's $1 billion slug of cash will buy Microsoft 6.3 % of this cable operation (he must be slipping; his $1B investment in Comcast netted him 11.5%.)

The reason for this corporate largesse is that Bill wants MS operating systems running on all those cable TV set top boxes, thus ensuring a happy home for IE Explorer in every home in the U.S. This is all being done under the do good guise of providing high-speed cable access to bandwidth deprived Americans. How can the Justice Department fault such noble intentions? Of course, the fact that Bill's deal with Tele-Communications, the granddaddy of TV cable-dom, fell apart over it's 39.5% stake in @home, an ISP offering high end services, for consumers may muddy the purity of the more bits is better MS message. It seems that @home standardized on Netscape browsers. Oops. Apparently, more bandwidth is only good when it comes with IE Explorer attached. Well, at least Bill got MS CE inside those TCI Digital TV set top boxes, so he can still sucker punch Sun Java, which TCI has also licensed.

After having lived with Win95 for a while, up close and personal, and even if MS CE has no MS DOS underneath, it's clear to me that Bill & Co. are clueless when it comes to ease of use issues. Moreover, with IE Explorer in the set top boxes, the natural migration path is to give users seamless integration between their various MS CE systems, and their Win95/98 PCs. This move can only mean increasing bloat and complexity on the CE end, which in turn gets you more nasty application internecine fights, like the kind I have been recently experiencing; e.g., my recent fight just to install a SCSI board. Such CE bloat is inevitable, given Microsoft's Borg-like approach to absorbing everything in sight into the OS. (Sorry, Janet, if even Jean Luc nearly got assimilated, I don't think you stand much of a chance at stopping them.)

There comes a point in any system when it gets so complex, that with just one more software snowflake, an OS destructive avalanche starts. While Win95, et al, may survive and prosper in the office, Microsoft is probably going to suffer explosive decompression in the huge new market for devices that can manage digital convergence. Consumers just wont put with such complex nonsense. They can't even get their VCR clocks going. If that CE market catastrophe happens, then all Bill & Co. can look forward to is upgrade nickels and dimes.

Meanwhile, excuse me while I go set up my new G3 Mac.

The Bottom Line

Home Users: Psst! Wanna buy a nice new $1,000 PC? Of course, if you value your time at being worth even $10 an hour, then that cheap box just cost you at least $3,000 more -- this year alone. What a deal, huh?

Business Users: You are already living in the Land of the Windows Damned. There is no hope for you. Not even in the next MS OS upgrade.

Power Users: You know you are out of business if Apple stays in business. How will you ever justify your existence in a world where computers mostly work OK?

Copyright 1998, Francis Vale, All Rights Reserved

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