Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! The year is 1995. In January, a pro football legend goes on trial for murder. In February, the Dow closes above 4000 for the first time ever, and a man makes the first-ever solo flight across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon. In April, a tragedy in Oklahoma City. In June, the busiest hurricane season in 62 years begins, and the unity of the UN Security Council begins to fray, as a few countries, particularly France and Russia, are starting to become increasingly more interested in making financial deals with Iraq than disarming the country. In August, Netscape, the most dominant web browser with an 80 percent market share, launches its IPO. Two weeks later, Microsoft releases Windows 95.
On December 7th, 1995, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates delivered an address opening Microsoft’s “Internet Strategy Day”. Here’s an excerpt from his remarks: “…I was realizing this morning that December 7th is kind of a famous day. Fifty-four years ago or something. And I was trying to think if there were any parallels to what was going on here. And I really couldn't come up with any. The only connection I could think of at all was that probably the most intelligent comment that was made on that day wasn't made on Wall Street, or even by any type of that analyst; it was actually Admiral Yamamoto, who observed that he feared they had awakened a sleeping giant.”
“Forty-four years ago or something” later, the Redmond giant surely awakened to the promise of the Internet. Starting that day, Microsoft used every bit of its wealth, influence with PC makers, and Windows operating system monopoly to overwhelm Netscape. Their browser, Internet Explorer, became essentially an extension of the operating system, and got them in hot water with federal antitrust laws.
So here we are ten years later. Sadly, more buildings have come down. Two people have flown around the world non-stop in an airplane. A man has reached out and touched the edge of space in a private space ship. And there’s still Iraq.
Internet Explorer is the dominant browser now. Windows is still the dominant operating system, although it is sorely in need of an upgrade and Microsoft’s been busy patching patches and putting out security fires. Plus, some of Microsoft’s Internet Strategy is showing signs of unraveling. Mozilla’s Firefox web browser has eaten into Internet Explorer’s market share. Google, due to their immensely popular search engine, has actually become a verb in the pop lexicon. Yahoo is the stepping-off-point for millions of web surfers.
So, on November 1st 2005, Chairman Gates called another meeting to unveil his vision for the future. Eerily, he even referred back to the 1995 event, calling it “a big event, equivalent to this one.” This year he proclaimed the dawning of the era of “Live” software. No, it’s not the Hal 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey” fame.
Gates’ vision is to create three families of web services “Windows Live” for consumers, “Office Live” for small businesses, and “Xbox Live” for entertainment and games. Traditionally, computer users have purchased their software, either within the operating system or from third parties like Quicken and Adobe. In the “Live” model, users can access applications through web browsers (Internet Explorer, of course). Imagine pointing your browser to “Word Live” to write a letter. When you’re finished, you can save it to your computer, or email it through MSN.
Is this really new? Can you live without Windows Live? We’ll explore more features and faults next time.
© 2005 Peter F. Zimowski