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Steve Jobs’s Interview with Red Herring (1996) (evgenymorozov.tumblr.com)
58 points by ingve on Aug 18, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

"... the site I just showed you will help Chrysler sell cars, because it distributes information to customers far better than Chrysler’s dealers can."

almost 20 years later, and nothing has changed. I'm trying to buy a specific car, and the Internet knows everything, dealers know nothing. The salespeople and dealers know less about the cars on their lots than the consumers do.

The consumers know about new models before they're even announced; dealers don't know about them until they show up. Dealers can't tell you when a certain car will be built or shipped, you're lucky if they can even tell you when it arrives at port and is on a train or truck destined for their dealership.

I'm spending a lot of time online where "insiders" sneak information about production numbers and ship dates and tracking and so on, and the "official" channels are utterly worthless.

It's amazing, disastrously bad. And we pay for it. I can't way to see the dealership model die.

You're putting the finger on the problem, this is a motivation problem. Dealers are incentivized to sell not to inform.

Tesla is trying to change that by getting rid of dealerships.

Tesla isn't trying to get rid of dealerships. They're just trying to remove the legal requirement of dealerships for small auto manufacturers.

> Microsoft is busy trying to kill Netscape. And it has a certain track record of being successful at those kind of things. So I wouldn’t write off Microsoft right now. But all I am trying to say is that no one is going to make money by selling browsers. I do think a lot of people are going to make money off the pipes, but that ain’t us. The pipe is going to be owned by the RBOCs. Pac Bell and all those guys are going to provide cheap ISDN lines into the home that come with a little box that turns it into Ethernet, and they are going to be impossible to compete with. But, as we’ve been talking about, the new Web set-up is just like the mainframe computing model, where all the apps will run off the server, and these will mostly be custom apps.

Microsoft tried and very nearly succeeded in replacing the open web with the ActiveX "information superhighway". If they had done so we might not yet have the smartphone-with-browser, due to the difficultly in implementing competing ActiveX implementations to run on it.

Lots of people making money off the pipes? Comcast.

New mainframe computing model with web apps? That's certainly arrived.

> As an example, I predict that by the end of this year, Microsoft will announce that it has a Visual Basic variant or deviant that it proposes as the Web-client language. And Sun and Microsoft will have a war. And Microsoft will put everything it has into that war, because if it can win, it will have killed Netscape along the way. Netscape will put everything it has into that war, because if it loses, it is in trouble. So I ask you, who will win that war? Probably Microsoft.

Everybody lost. Microsoft built IE6's fortress of incompatibility that it now struggles to get rid of, like that indestructible anti-aircraft tower in Berlin. Netscape went bust and open-sourced everything. Sun folded into Oracle. Java is now the annoying thing that you have to update while avoiding the Ask toolbar in the installer, and many people have banned it too from their browser. VBScript in the browser is dead.

Only Javascript remains.

Loved the whole bit on Netscape.

"We are not going to make any money by selling browsers, and I personally don’t think they are going to make any money from it either. If you can get a browser from Microsoft for free, why are you going to pay $39 to Netscape?"

I love the next question just as much

The Herring: But if Navigator is platform-independent, and…

Jobs: But everybody uses Windows. Come on – 90%+ of the people use Windows, so 90%+ of the people are going to hook into the Internet using Microsoft. Now, you know me, I love the Mac too, but I am trying to be really objective here.

Its crazy that even today diehards defend the DOJ's insane war on MS in the 90s. Do you guys really want to pay for browsers or every single thing in a OS ala carte? MS was in the right here (the browser is just part of the OS) and the judgement just empowered OEMs to go apeshit with crapware and bundling, helping make the MS experience a lot crappier than it should be.

Trick is that it was not a war on browsers, it was a war on servers. In particular, intraservers.

Netscape, as best i can tell, pretty much seeded the idea of using web tech on the office network.

And this was a direct threat to the market share of MS on that network.

Thus MS rolled out IIS and IE, with the latter working closely with the former (as was the case between Netscape Navigator and Enterprise server).

So in the end the "browser war" was a proxy war for the office network.

> Its crazy that even today diehards defend the DOJ's insane war on MS in the 90s.

Its crazy that even today, diehards continue to misrepresent the DOJ prosecution of MS in the 1990s.

> Do you guys really want to pay for browsers or every single thing in a OS ala carte?

The basis for the DOJ prosecution of MS wasn't that it was illegal in general to include a browser or similar application as an included feature of an OS, it was that it was illegal for a market participant with monopoly power in a particular market to leverage that monopoly power in an effort to monopolize an existing distinct market.

People I think defend it in the same way as prosecuting Al Capone for tax evasion: we'll take what we can get. In the context of things like the "Halloween memos", funding the SCO controversy, and various other bits of anti-interoperability work people were just grateful for an impairment of the platform monopolist.

Nowadays Apple has a policy of banning all other web browsers and even program interpreters from its platform. This isn't really acceptable either, but there doesn't seem to be any prospect of doing anything about it.

Apple doesn't ban web browsers, they couldn't give a rat's arse about that. They ban PROT_EXEC.

Apple's position is essentially that iOS already has a perfectly good JavaScript engine (JavaScriptCore) and the security risks of allowing apps to use mprotect/mmap far outweigh the benefits of allowing other JS engines.

Your starting point is wrong there: the DOJ wasn't against them for making it free, but for bundling it with their OS.

They could offer it for free all they want. Similar in the EU, they weren't against them for it being free, and once they stopped bundling it and windows media player, they were off the hook (even though they still offered them for free).

There's room for improvement here. The case wasn't against them bundling it with their operating system, they're perfectly free to do that. It wasn't about them being a monopoly either, which also is perfectly allowed.

The DOJ was against them as a result of abuse of monopoly power. Using their market dominance with Windows, they attempted to strangle out Firefox by demanding that their reselling partners would not also bundle Firefox on their Windows-based computers. If they did bundle Firefox, they would lose their Windows certification.

Free = allowed

Bundling = allowed

Monopoly = allowed

Leveraging partner relationships to unfairly disadvantage a competitor = antitrust violation.

The browser was ultimately mid-level on the list of grievances the DOJ had with Microsoft. That's why MS can bundle IE and Edge with the operating system today and nobody cares, including the US government.

If all Microsoft had done is bundled a free browser with the OS, it would have never stood up in court in terms of anti-trust prosecution. It would have been a laughable case.

What the DOJ got them on, was restraint of trade issues with OEMs, restrictions on API access, deep integration of IE into the OS (lying about being able to remove it), and market place conduct through leveraging their monopoly, leading to (in the DOJ's opinion) harm to consumers. Microsoft also basically taunted the bull in the countless ways they tried to jam the government, the ways they acted like assholes at every turn (including to the judge), the quotes that came out on things they said about competition, etc. They ended up with nearly everyone against them and looked like the ultimate bullies. If you want to have a bad time, be a monopoly and pretend you're more powerful than the US Government, and pretend you can stone-wall them.

>That's why MS can bundle IE and Edge with the operating system today and nobody cares, including the US government.

No, the only reason MS is suddenly bundling more, including Anti-Virus, is because the judgement expired in 2011.

>If you want to have a bad time, be a monopoly and pretend you're more powerful than the US Government,

Or from a realpolitik stance, if Netscape has more friends with the Clintons than you do (which they did), you're going to have a bad time. A lot of "careers" were made at the DoJ over this asinine case, that changed nothing for the better.

That is incorrect. Microsoft has always been allowed to bundle things, except for the brief period between the original verdict and the appeal.

Bundling was the surface issue, but the antitrust violation was their undue exercise of monopoly power by refusing to let vendors bundle non-Microsoft software and using their Windows-compatible certification program as the stick to that particular carrot.

From Wikipedia on the settlement: "The proposed settlement required Microsoft to share its application programming interfaces with third-party companies and appoint a panel of three people who will have full access to Microsoft's systems, records, and source code for five years in order to ensure compliance.[24] However, the DOJ did not require Microsoft to change any of its code nor prevent Microsoft from tying other software with Windows in the future."

> Or from a realpolitik stance, if Netscape has more friends with the Clintons than you do (which they did), you're going to have a bad time. A lot of "careers" were made at the DoJ over this asinine case, that changed nothing for the better.

Its kind of amusing that you point to such a "realpolitik" explanation and yet would leave out that the reason it changed almost nothing at all (for better or worse) was that the Bush Administration, which was more MS friendly, came to office at the end of the case, and the Bush Justice Department abandoned any effort toward imposing any significant sanctions.

MS got up to a lot more than just bundling browsers

For instance, around the time this article was written, someone from Microsoft was sitting across the desk from me (this is in Seattle) and told me "you can re-engineer our product to use our technology, or we will bury you". Re-engineering would have made us microsoft windows only, and dependent on them for everything... and we would have lost all our value because it doesn't make any sense technically (the guy didn't understand what we did.)

Well, it's now been almost 20 years, and Microsoft has still never released what they claimed they were going to release and have us build on top of them.

So yeah, I have no love lost for Microsoft. Yet they're still not as evil as Google.

Could you elaborate more on what makes Google more evil in your opinion (honest question)?

That's not the way I remember it.

people want to ala carte their entertainment even today and many will do it even it cost them more.

So they want to buy a DVR, pay for a DVR OS, pay for a DVR browser, pay for a DVR movie store, and then finally pay for a movie to rent on the DVR?

Very few people.

The interview was made in 1995 as the following Steve's words show: "it will go into beta by the end of this year, and we are shipping in production in the first quarter of 1996 – my guess is by February." The date of the magazine is 1 Jan 1996, so I guess not later than November 1995.

At that moment Microsoft only had: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer_2

Even then, Jobs says: "Microsoft is busy trying to kill Netscape."

The way we set up the car financing feature is that it actually sends an OLE call to another Windows computer that launches an Excel spreadsheet that does the calculation for you, and then OLE messages the information back and shoves it onto the Web page.

If you came across something like that today it would probably make the DailyWTF

I have absolutely no love for the man, but he had some amazing visions of the future back then.

He was an amazing man. All of the hate is because he dared to follow that vision where it went, instead of merely being a vendor of software for Microsoft, or subservient to Google (eg: Apple built the entire infrastructure to do maps merely because Google wanted to sell apple customers information.)

I've yet to meet a Steve Jobs hater who actually understood what the guy did.

The steve jobs hate is all ideological and comes form the Apple hate which comes from people getting sold PCs by pimply nosed kids in the 1990s and being jealous of their friends much superior macintoshes (which fwiw, since the mid 1990s have been cheaper than comparable PCs, yet the myth is spread otherwise still to this day, because you can go buy a tagamochi for $4.99 and claim it's cheaper than a macintosh, and therefore the mac is overpriced.)

So, yeah, you should re-think what you believe about this guy and learn a bit about the real history.

I've been following him since the late 1980s, and he's always been a passionate, compassionate, genuine, honest and opinionated guy.

Amazing vision is true. Narcissist is true. Compassionate and Steve Jobs don't belong in the same sentence. He rejected his own daughter for many years - but he secretly admitted it (the Lisa computer). Pirates of Silicon Valley + feedback from Woz + Gates on the movie is worthwhile to understand Steve, as is Issacson's biography on Steve Jobs. I have very mixed feelings on the man.

I'd suggest reading any of his biographies or watching Pirates of Silicon Valley. My problem is not with Apple at all, it's with the man himself.

What has he done to you to make you so upset about him?

That's a very odd question to ask. I mentioned a distaste for him, not any sort of active upset. Kim Jong Un (deliberately avoiding reductio ad hitlerum) has done nothing to me personally, and I have to say I'm not a fan.

Edit: I don't like the way he treat his friends, family, staff or even applicants, details you can get by reading the biographies or watching the documentaries as I've said before.

Well you explicitly said you had a problem with him, not his company Apple. Then referenced him next to the North Korean leader.

You clearly have an issue with him? It's just interesting to see what that may be and whether it might able to be substantiated.


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We don't need you to like Steve Jobs, but we do need you to either comment civilly and substantively here, or not at all.

You don't have to have love, but you've got to give him some respect. I feel the same way.

It's 1996 and they're tossing around the term "apps."

NeXTSTEP was using the ".app" extension for it's application bundles even back in those years, so it's not surprising to hear Jobs through around "apps" as a term.

I seem to remember it being commonly used at the time (and earlier) as a shortened form of "applications". I don't think Jobs invented the term. :)

It was more common in the Apple camp however, and ended up "mainstream" with the iPhone.

Well you had "application servers" for the web very shortly after the first web and mail servers. It was a super hot early category; Netscape bought Kiva I think and Sun bought NetDynamics (whose founder ended up running Sun at the end believe it or not) So it really was a common term back then. Initially it was "web apps" then it was just shortened.

This surprised me too. Of course I'm not surprised to learn that the term was used before it was popularized for iOS devices, but I'm VERY surprised to see it thrown about so liberally in this article. I really don't remember the term back then.

This is different than my experience. I distinctly remember many magazines offering their reviews of "killer apps."

RiscOS used the term apps circa 1991: http://www.houseofmabel.com/puters/RISCOS3/plain.gif

"Apps" has always been common personal computer industry jargon.

STEVE JOBS is using the term apps.

That this factual comment is at -1 on Hacker News is my proudest achievement. No more proof of the anti-intellectualism of this site is needed.

I'm pretty much done wasting time here wading thru 20 year olds mindlessly regurgitating cargo cultism.

The Herring: What do you think about Netscape’s vision that someday soon we will all be automatically hooked to the Net when we boot up our computers, and their Navigator platform will be our primary interface to the world?

Jobs: I wish the world could work that easily, but it doesn’t. You are talking about ideas, I am talking about reality.

I got there (on the net all the time) in '96, that's probably the earliest it was possible for a residential customer here (Canada). Before that, unlimited plans weren't a thing.

I stopped being on the net all the time in late '97 when my ISP banned me from the modem pool during prime-time since my Linux box would tie up one of their line 24/7.

Then I got it back again in late '99 when we moved somewhere with DSL coverage (early Nortel 1024/128k "DSL".) I have had high-speed, always on internet continuously since. Currently FTTH at 100/30m.

So Jobs, speaking in 1994 about average consummers, was right. Late '90s / early '00s saw ubiquitous DSL/Cable take over as the dominant access technology. Obviously iPhone brought always online to the mobile phone market later.

20 years later with Chromebooks this finally happened.

No, it happened four years later with the iMac.

At the time of the article, you had trouble getting a computer with a TCP/IP stack on it out of the box. The NeXT machines did, and Macs did, but most people had windows and didn't even have TCP/IP, IIRC

The iMac was the first internet connected out of the box machine.

There's more to it than being connected to the Internet out of the box.

>> their Navigator platform will be our primary interface to the world

Replace Netscape with Google and Navigator with 'Chrome'

Windows 95 had TCP/IP support, but didn't enable it by default on network cards etc.

More so with Firefox OS, since it is a descendant of Netscape.

Gotta love those timescales! I don't know what you can build in 4 hours but the Fedex (even in 1996) certainly is somewhat hyperbolic!

"For example, it took Federal Express four months to build its Web site – using WebObjects, you could build that same site in four hours."

Jobs, hyberbole, perish the thought...

Depends what it did at the time :)

Tho brings back memories of the biz-tech magazine heyday of the late 90s early 2000s which emphasized layout, graphics and story. Some were more buzz than substance, but they enlivened the scene and made tech more popular while feeding off the frenzy. Kind of like the techcrunches, gigaom, pandos of the day.

So, red herring, the standard, fast company, business2.0, wired, others.

Sadly, tech journalism has only gotten worse in the past 20 years. As bad as it was then-- there was no surprise that reporters didn't understand technology-- now they think they do, which is worse.

Most amusing were the wild predictions and unbridled blind enthusiasm. How they might explain why webvan would be the next juggernaut, for example. Not sure they did a story on webvan in particular, but in general very frothy reporting.

I miss webvan! Still have some of their branded delivery boxes..

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