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It’s All About Love

[One of the long-time developers in the Macintosh world, Dave Winer has written ThinkTank and MORE, among others. More recently, he founded UserLand Software and in 1992, shipped Frontier, which, according to Dave, is "AppleScript done right."]

To Apple, and to the rest of the world – market share is a head-trip. It isn’t the issue. Developers are key. Apple’s economics are out of whack. Definitely. But increasing market share isn’t what it’s about.

Love is what it’s about.

This is going to take some explaining.

When I woke up this morning I found a bunch of flowers in my mailbox from Bill Gates. What a guy! I recently noted in a rather public message that I didn’t have a Windows 95 beta to play with. Bill-the-Platform-Vendor correctly read the message. Dave wants flowers. The love letter in my mailbox began "Bill Gates requested that we add you to the Windows 95 Beta Program." Ohhhh.

Another platform vendor who gets it, Jean-Louis Gassee (Be Inc.), had sent me a love letter too. I can’t repeat his message here; it was too sexy.

Have you read the Celestine Prophecy? These guys were getting me ready to write this angry love letter to Apple Computer. Reminding me that love is out there. There are options.

Developer relations is a mating game. Think of platform vendors as the guys, and developers as the girls. Send flowers. Like wives and girlfriends, developers just want to be thought of. It’s the little things that count. That’s a big secret. You sent flowers last week? So what! You gotta send them every week, rain or shine.

Apple always made a big deal of how many girlfriends it had. And it tended to favor the glamorous but less reliable ones (Lotus, Borland, etc.), while ignoring the ones that cooked the meals, cleaned the house, made the babies.

I’ve received my share of flowers from Apple, mostly in 1986 and 1987. There was a renaissance at Apple in that period. The Macintosh market was booming, which was great for the faithful and lucky developers who survived the mess of late 84-85. I remember those times fondly. I did win-win deals, almost routinely, with Apple. Many thanks to Guy Kawasaki, Bill Campbell, and Jean-Louis Gassee, who understood that a good developer is worth a hundred promiscuous girlfriends. In those days my mailbox overflowed with floral arrangements. And I cooked some great meals!

Then, something predictable happened. Kawasaki, Campbell, Gassee, and people of similar spirit were forced out. A legion of employees invaded the platform, hired by other employees to replace the developers with high-paid, low-output, loveless computer scientists. That’s the major reason Apple’s economics are way out of whack right now.

Back to Gates… I have never heard him say a negative thing about the Macintosh. Quite the opposite. At the System 7 rollout, not a single Apple executive could explain why the new OS was so cool. I sat in the audience, amazed that Bill Gates was the only one on stage who could get me excited about System 7. (It was also amazing that I was in the audience. I was the only developer in the room that was building on System 7 in a meaningful way [with Frontier]. I was being punished for that. I could have given a stirring speech, but Apple people were afraid that some of them would lose their jobs if I was successful.)

On 23-Oct-94, in an email to me, Bill Gates said "Other large developers have humiliated the Mac through their statements or by dropping support, in some cases many times. Over the last few years we have introduced more new titles for the Mac than any other company. This is despite Apple suing us and discriminating against us."

Has Apple ever thanked Bill Gates for developing for the Macintosh? What about Paul Brainerd? John Warnock? Tim Gill? Marc Canter? Nat Goldhaber? Don Brown? Leonard Rosenthol? Andrew Singer? What about me?

Why not take Gates at face value? If he’s produced so much Macintosh software without any gratitude from Apple, maybe he’d support the platform even more enthusiastically if Apple showed just a bit of appreciation.

1994 is the ten-year anniversary of the shipment of the Macintosh. Did Apple honor the developers who were there at startup? Absolutely not. Not even a plaque. Not even an email saying thank you. I was pissed.

At the ten-year celebration at Moscone Center in San Francisco on January 6th, I sat in the audience, fuming, listening to Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld talk about the magic of the Macintosh, how great they were, without a single reference to any developers. Where was Spindler? Didn’t he have anything to say at this important milestone?

Today, Macintosh is an empty, loveless house. Not a home. All the developers walked but left the babies behind. Not because of market share; that can be fixed with economic tweaks. We walked because Apple is a lousy lover.

A platform is like a harem of sorts. One rich husband. Lots of wives. If the husband abuses one wife, it hurts all the wives. All of sudden food starts getting cold. The bed is empty. All of a sudden, the husband isn’t so rich.

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