I’m sure everybody realizes by now that Microsoft had every intention of attempting to completely monopolize the computing industry in the 1990’s. Bill Gates had a fierce competitive frustration with Apple and could be said to be nearly obsessed with crushing his only real consumer OS rival. Microsoft and Apple were locked in competitive struggles at that time including a never ending patent battle over Windowed UI and the use of the mouse.
When I joined Microsoft in late 1992 I had little idea or comprehension of the epic industry wide battle that I was joining by becoming Microsoft’s first “Publishing Technology Evangelist”. Gates was desperate to get Windows into the home and the massive overhaul of the Windows Operating System to create Windows 95 was a company wide initiative to end Apple in the home, schools and film industry once and for all. Even the Windows 95 UI could be trivially configured to mirror the Macs. Although I didn’t know any of this at the time that I joined Microsoft’s Developer Relations Group, the team had been created by Steve Ballmer in an effort to counter one of Apples most effective weapons against Microsoft. Strong support from major application developers DESPITE Apple’s tiny market share as a result of their own great Developer Relations efforts lead by Apple legend Guy Kawasaki.
Guy’s efforts at Apple had a devastating impact on Microsoft. Developers hated Windows, hated Microsoft, hated Microsoft tools and LOVED anything Apple did in large part because of Guy’s incredible evangelism talents. In response to Apple’s extremely effective efforts in this area, Ballmer created Microsoft’s DRG group under Cameron Myhrvold. Microsoft’s version of Developer Relations was somewhat different from Apple’s. Microsoft’s version was extremely aggressive, ruthless and essentially had a blank checkbook to wield against its adversaries. The father of Microsoft Evangelism and chief rival of Guy Kawasaki was James Plamondon.
James was a student of ancient warfare, military strategy and propaganda. He was an older “fatherly” figure who recruited young… impressionable engineers like myself and “raised” us to be Microsoft’s chief technology warriors. James was famously and CORRECTLY identified as one of the principal figures in Microsoft’s “anti-competitive” efforts.
Plamondon’s top-secret internal training program titled “Evangelism is War” is now famous for having been exposed during the Microsoft DOJ trial. http://www.alexstjohn.com/WP/2013/01/15/evangelism-is-war/
I was a student of that program and ultimately became the “Master” as my efforts with publishing and gaming were so devastating to Apple that I became responsible for running that team and James ultimately came to work for me. To be clear, James was an extremely nice likable guy, for him, technology strategy was just a giant competitive game of chess with Apple that he didn’t consider “diabolical” in the least, it was just competition. He was friends with Guy Kawasaki and aspired to develop superior evangelism tactics to exceed Guy’s own achievements in the area.
At the time that I joined Developer Relations there were over a dozen evangelists dedicated to challenging Apple’s progress on a variety of developer relations fronts. There was a team of 8 led by Rick Segal dedicated to competing with QuickTime, James and several others lead the Win32 API push, then other new comers like Craig Eisler and Eric Engstrom (who later built DirectX with me) were pitted against competing tool platforms like Borland. There were also teams of anti-Novell, anti-Sun, anti-IBM and intriguingly an Intel dedicated team. In addition to the technology focused evangelists there were people focused on driving Apple out of educational institutions and most interestingly, Hollywood evangelists to displace Apples presence in Movies and TV shows. (Vic Gundotra, now Sr. VP at Google was one of them) All had been trained by James.
To characterize DRG as a CIA like technology organization would not be a large stretch. Even Bill’s book “The Road Ahead” was drafted by DRG. Certain elements of Microsoft’s PR messaging were also driven by DRG. We ran the developer conferences and events, we produced MSDN, we developed the Windows logo programs. Our cover was simply “Developer Relations” a friendly “customer support” like organization to “help” developers adopt Microsoft tools and platforms. I recount all of this to make it clear that Microsoft was making a concerted effort at that time to wipe Apple and Steve Jobs from the history books. I’ve recounted many specific stories and events about those days in other blog articles, the purpose of this account is to put it all together in one place because it was a very pivotal time in the history of the computer industry. Microsoft actually succeeded in slaying Apple by 1997. History’s account of the events leading to Apples decline focus solely on Steve Jobs and Apples internal struggles which were certainly a dominant factor but as James Plamondon used to teach us;
“To increase the chances that a strong opponent will make a fatal error you must harry them constantly, cause them to lose sleep, cause fear, cause panic”
Microsoft was systematically pressing Apple on all fronts. I was hired as Microsoft’s first “Publishing Evangelist” because Apples strength among desktop publishing application developers like Aldus and Adobe was giving them a defensible niche in the market that Microsoft couldn’t root them out of. I was hired as a graphics and desktop publishing technology authority to help Microsoft dig Apple out of their entrenched position in media authoring. After my initial “conditioning” phase I was turned loose to wreak havoc on Apple. Something strange however had happened with my generation of evangelists. Previous evangelism efforts at Microsoft had almost always been exclusively outward facing. Evangelists promoted and influenced external developers to adopt whatever technology stratagem Microsoft was pursuing. The generation of evangelists that I came from were increasingly encouraged to turn more of our energy inward towards Microsoft itself. The 1992 batch of evangelists Microsoft recruited were increasingly leading experts in their technology domains. Instead of devoting our energy to trying to “sell” developers on adopting Microsoft stuff, we spent over half of our time influencing Microsoft product teams to build technologies that developers would WANT to adopt without having to be talked, cajoled, or bribed into doing it. The advent of internally focused evangelists was traumatic for Microsoft. We caused tremendous internal political conflict and strife as internal product teams, previously accustomed to pursuing their strategy relatively unimpeded by any actual customer focused requirements, were suddenly confronted by category authorities who knew better than they what solutions the market needed built regardless of what these groups WANTED to work on.
We had no special authority to impose our views on product teams, just James Plamondon’s training and our personalities. I didn’t spend much time worrying about Apple, I wreaked havoc inside Microsoft “influencing” the product groups to redesign the Windows 95 and Windows NT graphics and print architectures. I brought Adobe in to strike a deal with Brad Silverberg to write the PostScript driver for Windows 95 in exchange for Adobe application support for Windows 95. I recruited senior product managers from Aldus to run the Windows NT print group. We cloned Adobe’s Type 1 font technology to kill Adobe’s ATM product (ruthless), licensed Kodak’s color calibration technology, persuaded every major Desktop Publishing application developer to port to Windows 95 and booked Bill Gates to keynote the annual Seybold conference. By 1994 the impact of the work had been so sweeping that I was quite possibly the first Microsoft evangelist to succeed himself out of a job. Windows 95 would have every major desktop publishing and media authoring product available for it by 1995. Apple would lose its dominance in media authoring. I was asked what I wanted to work on next.
The battle with Apple over QuickTime and video standards was floundering. Microsoft’s own internal media technology teams just couldn’t keep up with Apple’s development speed. The team spent all of their time chasing Apple press releases and momentum. Rick Segal, the head of that team asked me what I thought we should do. I advocated pursuing gaming as a strategy. Keep pressure on Apple over video technology then catch them off guard with massive leadership in a completely unrelated media market. Eric Engstrom and Craig Eisler had nearly finished crippling Borland in the Windows tools business and were also looking at new opportunities. Segal gave me the job of Game Evangelist and I began to conspire with Craig Eisler and Eric Engstrom (Another Microsoft witness of DOJ fame) to shape a strategy that would give Microsoft total dominance in media API’s and render Apples leadership in video technology irrelevant. The early DirectX team was beginning to take form.
In 1995 Microsoft shipped Windows 95 with support for thousands of video games, dozens of hit titles from leading developers and widespread developer support for media authoring and graphics tools. Apple’s consumer market share dropped to its near record low of 3.3% by 1997.
Apple’s board, growing increasingly desperate in 1996 acquired Steve Job’s failing NeXTSTEP to try to revive Apple’s OS leadership, with the acquisition came Steve Jobs.
“By 1997 Apple was in rapid decline and Jobs struck a deal with Bill Gates for the survival of his company.
At the 1997 Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would be entering into a partnership with Microsoft. Included in this was a five-year commitment from Microsoft to release Microsoft Office for Macintosh as well as a US$150 million investment in Apple. As part of the deal Apple and Microsoft agreed to settle a long-standing dispute over whether Microsoft’s Windows operating system infringed on any of Apple’s patents. It was also announced that Internet Explorer would be shipped as the default browser on the Macintosh, with the user being able to have a preference. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates appeared at the expo on-screen, further explaining Microsoft’s plans for the software they were developing for Mac, and stating that he was very excited to be helping Apple return to success. After this, Steve Jobs said this to the audience at the expo:
“If we want to move forward and see Apple healthy and prospering again, we have to let go of a few things here. We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We have to embrace a notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job. And if others are going to help us that’s great, because we need all the help we can get, and if we screw up and we don’t do a good job, it’s not somebody else’s fault, it’s our fault. So I think that is a very important perspective. If we want Microsoft Office on the Mac, we better treat the company that puts it out with a little bit of gratitude; we like their software. So, the era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft is over as far as I’m concerned. This is about getting Apple healthy, this is about Apple being able to make incredibly great contributions to the industry and to get healthy and prosper again.”
The day before the announcement Apple had a market cap of $2.46 billion, and had ended its previous quarter with quarterly revenues of US$1.7 billion and cash reserves of US$1.2 billion, making the US$150 million amount of the investment largely symbolic. Apple CFO Fred Anderson stated that Apple would use the additional funds to invest in its core markets of education and creative content.”
In what must have been the happiest day in Bill Gates career, Bill got to loom over an entire audience of Microsoft hating developers and Steve Jobs himself to accept Apple’s “surrender” to Microsoft’s total dominance of their only safe haven from Microsoft’s hegemony. Contrary to the wiki article the $150M was hardly symbolic… an additional “undisclosed” sum was also paid under the table.
Gates not only invested in Apple, he called off his dogs. After crushing Apple and Netscape, the original DRG team was converted into the harmless technology marketing organization it had always presented itself as. The original evangelists disbanded and took other lucrative roles across Microsoft and the technology industry, many like Eric Engstrom, Craig Eisler and myself all started technology companies of our own.
All trace of our original charter had nearly vanished in time for the DOJ anti-trust trial… nearly… James Plamondon’s evangelism training program came to light and Eric Engstrom became a key witness for Microsoft DENYING his role in destroying QuickTime and Netscape. Gates got what he always wanted, total victory over Apple and the opportunity to magnanimously allow them to survive on his terms with the extra bonus of propping up a hand puppet competitor to point to for the anti-trust proceedings. James Plamondon moved to Australia to live a solitary life far from Silicon Valley and I had the good sense to get myself fired before being implicated. After the DOJ trial Microsoft poached away the DOJ legal team to ensure that the US Government would never have the talent to pursue such a case again. Years later Craig Eisler returned to Microsoft to run Microsoft’s Apple products business unit and Eric Engstrom returned to work on Microsoft’s mobile OS and BING.
THE END 🙂
PS>> A few related historical email threads: The email and DRG plan by NEW DRG head Tod Nielsen was sent the day I was fired.
From: Tod Nielsen
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 1997 4:14 PM
To: Developer Relations Group – Redmond; Developer Comm. Mkt. Permanent Employees; Tod Nielsen’s Direct Reports Cc: Rosemary Knapp
Subject: DRG BillG Review
On Friday I had a review with BillG, SteveB, PaulMa and NathanM on DRG and our FY 98 goals and objectives. Overall, the meeting went extremely well. We spent some time discussing the responsibilities of ADCU and our relationship with that customer unit. Bill and Steve thought we were doing the right thing to focus our energies on new technologies and working with strategic ISVs to get them to adopt our technologies. We discussed a number of specific ISVs and talked about how they would be handled between ADCU and DRG. Overall, the new model we have setup should work very well for both the ISVs and for Microsoft. We then spent time talking through each of the initiatives that we are focused on for FY 98. Everyone thought we had the right focus and that we were making the right trade offs. All in all, the feedback was super positive, and now we just need to deliver! From my perspective, the great thing about the review (other than the fact it is over and I’m still alive!) is that we now have a very clear charter that our executives have signed off on. Going forward, we need to make sure we meet (and exceed) our objectives, as well as take a much more visible roll providing feedback and direction to the product groups.
Bill, Steve, and Paul all have told me that they look to DRG to provide insight and direction so Microsoft can make the right platform for developers. In other words, the next generation computing platform will be defined by all of us…..think about that. You and your peers are being asked to define and gather support for the computing platform that the entire world will use in the future. That is unbelievable! Microsoft is in a major platform war, and we have been put on the front lines of it. You/we will determine how quickly and effectively Microsoft will win this war.
I’ve attached the slides that were presented during the review. Please let me or your manager know if you have any questions or would like to discuss any of these:
Since review time is upon us, I encourage all of you to take a look at your personal objectives for FY 98 and make sure they are in synch with our group’s priorities and objectives. I want all of us to spend some time thinking through what we can do better, smarter, and more effectively in order to help Microsoft win this platform war. FY 98 is going to be a turning point year for DRG, Microsoft, and for the Computer industry at large. Next year I want us all to look back and know that we made a difference and were critical in winning the platform war for Microsoft.
From: Paul Maritz
Sent: Saturday, June 14, 1997 12:06 AM
To: Alex St. John; Bill Gates; Eric Engstrom; Deborah Black; Jay Torborg; Kevin Dallas
Subject: RE: Developers Petition for Open GL
This has been decided. Our strategic direction is D3D. Wrt Talisman, we will continue to evangelize the approach and design, but it is separable from the position of pushing D3D forward. We recently had meeting with Intel’s graphics architects where they validate the key idea’s in Talisman (chunking, and anisotropic texturing) as being right way to go (though they think these features can and should be added incrementally to keep costs down). We will also be working with Intel to get them to agree on overall graphics framework, and get their energy directed in same direction as us. Wrt OGL, we have to ensure that we have good OGL support for NT in workstation market. We would like to cut our effort in this however, and let SGI pick up the work. We actually had really interesting mtg today with SGI where they basically said that they have decided that they are not a software company, they are not a consumer device company, they are a workstation/server company, and they see big oppty to inherit traditional Apple’s role in media community, but UNIX is non-starter to do this, and as a result they are going to build no-compromise NT machines. In mid’98, they plan to introduce a $3.5K NT based machine, that will have same performance as the mid range of their current Octane line ($35K machine today). They want us to actually get rid of MCD drivers in OGL since they think it results too constrained a hardware architecture. They want to rework the OGL stack and give it back to us. Longer term they want to see if there is some way to get OGL and D3D to share more and more. IFF we can give them an architecture that allows them to innovate in hardware, and allows them to migrate their OGL investment, then they are happy to be aligned with us, and have no interest in trying to migrate apps off native Windows. They have no interest in helping Java3D, and say that Sun has no interest in working with them. We will have follow-up mtg to discuss: (a) them picking up support for OGL on NT, and (b) to understand how they think D3D and OGL can share more (apparently they have idea’s on this, but paranoia has prevented them from sharing this to date). Obviously given the position on D3D above, we do not want to compromise our progress on D3D, but we should listen with open mind.
From: Brian Moran
Sent: Saturday, December 21, 1996 3:22 PM
To: DRG Chat
Subject: FW: It’s True!
————————————— Amusing Rants from Dave Winer’s Desktop
At 6PM, Steve Jobs is in a conference room on the Apple campus working out the last details on the deal with Apple CEO Gil Amelio. Later tonight there will be a press conference at Apple. One thing’s for sure, it’ll be great theater. I plan to be there… Don’t touch that dial! Dave
From: Alex St. John Sent: Friday, April 04, 1997 10:14 AM
To: Craig Eisler; Eric Engstrom
Subject: RE: Apple: (WSJ) Top Scientists Leave as Cuts In R&D Take Toll on Research Projects
Hmm, that would be funny to dredge up again. I should dig up the mail just to cause trouble. That would be pretty damn funny.
Another graduate of the Orville School of Analogy:
> “No one is happy about this,” said Rick LeFaivre, vice president in charge of
> Apple’s long-term research. “But when your homestead is under attack from
> flaming arrows, you can’t spend a lot of time planting corn.”
Say, Alex, why haven’t you been flogging the shit out of those DRGers that kept asserting Apple was going to kick ass a couple of years ago??
From: Library News Service
Sent: Monday, March 31, 1997 8:19 AM
To: Daily Newswire Subscribers
Subject: Apple: (WSJ) Top Scientists Leave as Cuts In R&D Take Toll on Research Projects
Apple’s Top Scientists Leave as Cuts In R&D Take Toll on Research Projects
By Lee Gomes Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
CUPERTINO, Calif. —
Apple Computer Inc.’s budget cutting has taken a heavy toll on the company’s once-famed research operations, leading to an accelerating exodus of top scientists and a dramatic reduction in research projects. Three of the five Apple “fellows” — senior researchers who are given free rein in their laboratory pursuits — have left the company, two of them just last week. The three are Don Norman, Gursharan Sidhu and Alan Kay; all are among the best-known computer scientists in their respective fields. In addition, Apple has shut down a list of promising but long-term projects, such as one involving the convergence of television sets and personal computers. By one Apple insider’s estimate, Apple’s annual budget for long-term research has been whacked to $12 million from $50 million, and the number of researchers slashed to 80 from 250. The developments mark another chapter in Apple’s decline, as the company concedes it can no longer afford the pioneering research that was once one of its defining characteristics. In addition, cutting research spending so sharply makes the kind of innovation that could lead to a turnaround at Apple even more difficult. The cuts in long-term research are part of Apple’s efforts to slash expenses to compensate for declining sales. In a March 14 announcement about a 30% layoff at the company, Apple officials disclosed that R&D efforts were being scaled back, though they didn’t provide details. Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder who is now an adviser at the company, was among those urging deep cuts in the R&D budget. Apple is continuing short-term engineering work on new products. And it hasn’t abandoned all of its long-term research: Projects in education, publishing and in computer-interface design, though pared back, are continuing. “No one is happy about this,” said Rick LeFaivre, vice president in charge of Apple’s long-term research. “But when your homestead is under attack from flaming arrows, you can’t spend a lot of time planting corn.” Mr. LeFaivre conceded that among Apple’s remaining scientists, “there is some concern about whether we can sustain the kinds of innovation we have in the past.” But should Apple’s cost cutting help restore profitability, “we will be able to revisit these things over the next several years,” he said. Mr. Norman, one of the Apple fellows who left last week, is considered one of the world’s leading experts on making computers easier to use. Mr. Sidhu, who also left last week, designed many of the networking features of the Macintosh. Mr. Kay, a prominent computer-industry figure who spent 12 years at Apple researching the role of computers in learning, left in October with several Apple scientists to do similar work for Walt Disney Imagineering, the research arm of Walt Disney Co. Also leaving last week was researcher Frank Casanova, who is well-known among Macintosh owners for technology demonstrations he frequently gave at Apple trade shows as well as on TV programs about the computer industry. In its heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Apple’s advanced R&D operation was considered a researcher’s paradise. Once, when some workers wanted to learn more about computer graphics, they made an entire 3-D movie as an experiment. But often, Apple couldn’t convert engineering advances into products. For example, several of the founders of Web TV, the easy-to-use Internet connection that works with living-room televisions, were Apple researchers who originally conceived of their machine while at Apple. The departed researchers, like Messrs. Norman and Sidhu, said they already have been deluged by offers from other computer companies, including many of Apple’s competitors — a fact that presents yet-another challenge for Apple. Journal Link: To join an on-line discussion about Apple Computer, see The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition at http://wsj.com> Copyright (c) 1997 Dow Jones and Company, Inc. Received by NewsEDGE/LAN: 3/30/97 11:06 PM
THE ABOVE MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND SHOULD NOT BE REPRODUCED OR DISTRIBUTED OUTSIDE OF MICROSOFT.
From: Alex St. John
Sent: Thursday, February 27, 1997 9:23 AM
To: Eric Engstrom; Craig Eisler
Subject: RE: FYI – QuickTime 3.0 blurb
Did you know 2 and 2 are 4?
Internet Multimedia Group Leads is our alias bozo.
From: Alex St. John
Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 1997 8:12 PM
To: Eric Engstrom; Craig Eisler
Subject: FW: FYI – QuickTime 3.0 blurb
From: Jason White
Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 1997 5:58 PM
To: Morris Beton MM – Games
Subject: FW: FYI – QuickTime 3.0 blurb
Importance: High FYI
From: Cristiano Pierry
Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 1997 1:32 PM
To: Internet Multimedia Group Leads
Cc: DirectMedia War Team; Quartz War Team
Subject: FW: FYI – QuickTime 3.0 blurb
From: Pablo Fernicola
Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 1997 11:36 AM
To: Channing Verbeck; Cristiano Pierry; Colin Campbell
Subject: FYI – QuickTime 3.0 blurb
Note the sprite and vector graphics. http://www.macweek.com/mw_1108/nw_tokyo.html Relevant parts below. -Pablo QuickTime 3 debuts at Tokyo Mac expo Streaming, sprites and new data types By Kelly Ryer (firstname.lastname@example.org) Tokyo – Before a backdrop of scaffolding and metal girders, Apple CEO Gilbert Amelio laid out a blueprint of his company’s plans to the crowd here last week at Macworld Expo Tokyo. In addition to the rollout of new machines, his presentation held a surprise: a peek at QuickTime 3.0. Version 3.0 will incorporate real-time rendering effects, new animation and alpha-channel compositing capabilities, and support for vector graphics. The forthcoming software will also stream virtual-reality content over the Web and add support for more data formats, including Video for Windows. According to QuickTime engineer Peter Hoddie, who wowed the crowd with a demonstration of an animated goldfish moving into and out of a rippling fishbowl, QuickTime 3.0 will ship simultaneously for Windows and Mac platforms “a little bit later this year.” Hoddie also showed QuickTime Sprite Export, an Xtra plug-in for Macromedia Director. With it, users will be able to convert a Director movie to a QuickTime movie. Apple’s plug-in will compress video, animation and sound data during the conversion, making it possible for Director content to be played over the Web with any browser that supports QuickTime.