Logging On


Microsoft Talks Back

Paul Maritz

Network Computing

March 1, 1991

In your open letter to Bill Gates (January 1991) on his Information at Your Fingertips speech, you point out that we have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do, for our vision to become a reality.

Bill talked about where he wanted the industry to be in five years, and you talked about the problems we would have to overcome to get there. Both viewpoints are valid.

Let's take your suppositions in order:

* PC-centrism. You made some elegant comments about the need to put applications on the platform appropriate to the applications, and the need to connect PCs with minis and mainframes. Bill's position sounds very much like yours: that the network is at the heart of the matter.

Your one comment about mainframes presumes that Bill believes that mainframes will disappear. He made no such point in his speech, and the idea is rather silly, as you point out. We do believe that the PC will be the user's window into this larger world. As PC server technology continues to improve, networked PC systems will play a more strategic role in corporate systems and will serve as the foundation for many distributed applications. Neither position is at odds with anything you printed.

* Graphical user interface. You said that the real problem for corporations is the resource cost "to configure and manage several thousand networked workstations." We agree that there are many, many ways in which Windows can and will be further improved, in everything from workstation installation to software distribution and updating.

Your other point - that the user interface itself needs work - is well taken. Our vision speaks of the future, when the interface has evolved, and when other advanced features have become available.

* Standards. It has always been true that Microsoft cannot set standards by itself, and it always will be. Articulating the vision is the necessary first step in developing a standard.

There is already concrete evidence that Microsoft is drawing industry support to develop the systems necessary to make Information at Your Fingertips come true. Since Bill's COMDEX speech, IBM and Microsoft announced a joint specification for multimedia support in Windows and OS/2; Microsoft, Tandy Corp. and six other major computer vendors announced a standard hardware platform for multimedia PCs; and Lotus, Aldus, WordPerfect and other important software developers joined us in supporting a common specification for object linking and embedding.

Overall, your biggest complaint seemed to be the lack of technical definition in Bill's presentation, particularly the details relating to networking. On the technical level, we recognize that a lot of work remains to be done.

Your letter raised several good points: Today's platforms need to be improved to support our vision; technically, it's going to be difficult; and, finally, Microsoft can't do it alone. We agree on all counts.

In 1975, Bill Gates said he wanted to put a PC on every desk and in every home. By 1990, he had not succeeded - but 55 million PCs constitutes a very good start. Our vision for Information at Your Fingertips should be viewed the same way. Even if we don't accomplish everything, we do believe the industry will make enough advances in five years to transform the face of computing - as PCs have done once before.

Paul Maritz
Vice President
Advanced Operating Systems
Microsoft Corp.
Redmond, Wash.

Copyright 1991 CMP Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.