Turning the Tables on Microsoft

How Steve Jobs got Microsoft to pay for Jaguar’s Development.

Mac OS X has already become a hit with many consumers. Now, with Jaguar, Apple is about to make their systems as easy to adopt in the corporate world as they have been for consumers to do at home.

Jaguar, Apple’s next major update to OS X, is going to be packed so full of juicy networking compatibility for the corporate market, it isn’t even funny. By adding VPN connections, Exchange Server compatibility for e-mail services, the ability to hook up to any IP network and dynamically seek out available shares, servers and printers without typing in long and involved paths, the ability to share files from a Mac to Window’s users, to visually browse a windows network; suddenly there’s virtually nothing standing in the way of using a Mac on an enterprise network. Except for IT, that is.

Which is why, Apple has also added Rendezvous which is based on ZeroConfig, a technology that will virtually set up all of the above features for you! There’ll be no need to call to IT. Apple knew to get into the enterprise market; they’d have to make their new OS easier to hook up than Windows has ever dreamed of being. With Jaguar, once the end user connects the Ethernet cable to their Mac, the OS will take care of the rest, because, no one in mainstream IT is going to support a Mac, not yet at least.

Macs already work pretty seamlessly with any form of Unix but now they are adding nearly complete compatibility with every Windows networking and communication feature. OS X 10.1 added SMB connectivity, allowing you to connect to Windows servers and PC shares but the forth coming Jaguar update will give the Mac almost universal access to any corporate network.

But how did Apple do this? How is it that Apple is about to become the most adaptable network OS on the market? Well, they got Microsoft to pay them for it! That’s how.

The bad old days were about to get worse!
To learn what I mean, return with me to the dark days of the mid 90s. Apple was in desperate need of direction, a plan and a modern OS. The Mac OS, while still the most user friendly OS out there, was not in a position for a modern updates. Protected memory, symmetric multiprocessing, multithreading were all dreams for the Mac OS as it stood in the 90s. Copland had already been abandoned and there was nothing else waiting in the wings. Apple was in desperate need of a high technology shopping spree. When Apple returned from the IT Mall, they unpacked the trunk and put their shopping bags on the couch, out pops NeXT, Web Objects and a prodigal founder, Mr. Steve Jobs.

What happened next was amazing. In a whirlwind of excitement, shocked amazement and corporate skullduggery, Steve Jobs sent Gil Amelio Packing (along with most of the Apple board and several VPs), put himself in the iCEO’s seat and sold Apple’s soul to Microsoft for a 150 Million.

It’s this last act that most shocked everyone. Lynch mobs were formed, torches were lit and there was a sudden run on red shorts and sledgehammers. This was especially true after Steve Jobs announced at MacWorld that the platform wars were over and introduced the giant face of Bill Gates via satellite on a screen in front of a room full of nervous Apple fans, the room audibly gasped. It was simply too eerie, to 1984 Super Bowlesque than anyone cared to admit. Steve announced that Microsoft was investing 150 Million in non-voting stock. In return Apple was making Internet Explorer the default browser on the Mac, it would also drop the outstanding patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft. Beyond that, Apple also announced a “broad” cross license their patents with Microsoft (for an undisclosed sum, though it’s generally agreed it was another 150 million).

Think of Harold’s reaction to learning that Maude had taken an overdose of sleeping pills in the movie, “Harold and Maude.”

It wasn’t bad enough that Apple had betrayed Netscape, or that they finally admitted defeat against the Monolith that Microsoft had become but they not only gave Microsoft the key to Apple’s intellectual vault, they opened the damn door for them. The press at the time, as well as the posts in the forums, was full of fear and loathing that this was the true end of Apple. Steve had sold Apple’s very heart and soul to what was, for many, the devil himself.

But then something odd happened. Nothing.

What does MS do with access to these patents?
Days, weeks and months went by and we never really heard anything else about this cross licensing deal. Microsoft never raided apple’s patents. We never saw a Wintel Mac; we never saw QuickTime ripped off we never saw anything of the sort, nothing.

Then the iMac was released on the world and the Mac faithful forgot all about it. None of our worst fears from this cross licensing fiasco ever materialized. Heck, for some, they even ended up liking Internet Explorer better than Netscape.

Granted, Microsoft did make use of at least some of Apple’s patents. Strangely enough, it wasn’t from the Mac OS. It was in fact from the Apple II. I remember when Microsoft announced their ClearType technology the NY times released a story that showed that it was actually based on technology that Steve Wozniak had invented. You can read what the New York Times reported and what PCWorld had to say. What’s most ironic is that it comes from technology that Microsoft didn’t even have to pay for. The Apple II patents were expired and had been released to the public domain. It’s somewhat telling that Microsoft was adding technology to Windows that was adapted from the Apple II and 1976.

Now, back to the present and Jaguar.
It’s totally unlikely that Apple “reinvented the wheel” or use any “reverse engineering” when it came to adding Jaguar’s new Windows interoperability. They simply went fishing in Microsoft’s pool of patents and wrote Jaguar to take advantage of the Windows functions I mentioned above.

Amazing, huh? Back in August of ’97, we were thinking that Steve had sold Apple’s soul to the devil himself, that Microsoft would swoop in and raid Apple’s vault and that we’d be left standing with an empty shell of a Mac OS. Five years later, Apple is stronger, healthier and more profitable than ever. Who knew?

Steve knew. He knew that Microsoft wasn’t interested in raiding Apple’s vault. They were and are the standard in most of the computing World, why would they need to add anything else to Windows, that hadn’t already stolen? Steve also knew that Bill’s arrogance would pretty much preclude Microsoft from recognizing what goodies Apple possessed. Meanwhile, Steve’s engineers were making regular runs into Microsoft’s vault and getting the code so they could make OS X what it’s about to become–the most user friendly OS at home or in the office.

Microsoft wasn’t interested in adding features that Apple had developed–Microsoft already was the standard they didn’t have to add features to Windows. They just wanted to out of a messy legal entanglement with Apple, and put Netscape out of business.

What once had made us form lynch mobs and light torches is now actually a good thing. We’re about ready to be able to plug our Macs into our networks at work with the greatest of ease. We’ll be able to share our Office files with Windows users, direct from our Macs. We’ll be able to connect our iMacs to work over the Internet to check e-mail when we have to stay home with a sick child. And the best part of all is that we won’t have to even bother calling IT. HA! The Mac OS will seek out those network connections, shares and printers for us. No more paths to type; no more back slashes and no more arrogant techies saying, “Hey! you can’t use a Mac!”

This is completely brilliant on Apple’s part. They’ve been going to the Microsoft patent well, writing software to make the Mac nearly 100% compatible on the networking level with Windows. Combining that with Rendezvous gives the end user the ability to get their Mac set up without any intervention from IT, an IT that wouldn’t touch a Mac with a ten foot pole.

Apple’s retail stores are already reporting that virtually 50% of their customers are switching from Windows. It’s also those same users who still have to use Windows at work. Well, it won’t be long before they’ll be back to pick up an iBook or a PowerBook. They’ll demand that same famed “ease of use” they enjoy at home, at work. They’ll even buy another Mac, just so they can get it.

Within’ just a few years, there will be thousands of Macs connecting to enterprise networks. Supported or not, they’ll be there. IT will slowly wake up to the advanced technology that the Mac is based on and realize that supporting a Mac isn’t what they thought. But more than that, corporate America may just wake up to the fact that the return on investment in a Mac along with the increased productivity makes serious business sense.

All this ’cause Microsoft paid for Jaguar’s Development. Not a bad deal after all, huh? Now, what to do with all these torches, sledgehammers and red shorts?

Bob McCormick

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