Cringley, MacTel, and nutty theories

Cringley, MacTel, and nutty theories

Summary: So far Cringley's track record on Apple hasn't been good, but this is one prediction that I think may have merit because what he's really talking about is using Apple's 1997 patent exchange agreement with Microsoft to allow Apple to update and use Sun's WABI code for the Windows/XP APIs - thereby enabling Windows applications to run without Windows licensing or Windows overheads.

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TOPICS: Apple
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When Apple first announced its MacTel decision Robert Cringley started to spend a lot of time looking for the long term smart in Apple's otherwise inexplicable decision. As a result he first used his PBS pulpit to announce what I thought was a fairly nutty conspiracy theory in which the whole thing was put up so Intel could cash out Steve Jobs and then go after Microsoft for world PC domination.

Later he dropped that idea to look for a Jobean second shoe in Apple's predicted purchase of Adobe:

 

Over the past three weeks, we've laid out in this column a sequence of clues and events that suggest Apple is planning to next year take on not only Microsoft's hardware OEMs, but also possibly Microsoft, itself, by leveraging a vestigial legal right to some portion of the Windows API -- in this case, literally the Windows XP API. This bold strategy is based on the high probability that -- if something called Windows Vista ships at all next January -- it will really be Windows XP SP4 with a new name. Microsoft is so bloated and paralyzed that this could happen, but what's missing is an Apple application strategy to go with this operating system strategy, because Microsoft's true power lies not in Windows, but in Microsoft Office. Fortunately for Apple, I believe there is an application plan in the works, and I will describe it here.

...

Office is how Microsoft makes most of its revenue, and Office is the bludgeon Microsoft uses to keep other software vendors in line. Without Office, Microsoft is just a company with an archaic and insecure OS. If Apple does go ahead to compete head-to-head with Microsoft for Microsoft's own Windows customers, Cupertino will have to be ready in case Mac Office is withdrawn and Windows Office mysteriously breaks on Apple hardware. There is a good likelihood this won't happen, especially if Microsoft can find a way to rev Mac Office for IntelMacs sorta running Windows -- a hybrid product that would look better than the Windows version while retaining 100 percent compatibility and generating an enormous new revenue stream for Redmond. This is the carrot Apple will use to keep Microsoft from doing something truly destructive

...

Steve wants Windows applications to run like crazy on his hybrid platform but to look like crap. In his heart of hearts, he'd still like to beat Microsoft on the merits, not just by leveraging some clever loophole. So he needs the top ISVs who are currently writing for OS X to continue writing for OS X, and that especially means Adobe.

There's only one way to make that happen for sure, and that's for Apple to buy Adobe

A bit later Cringley got into a mud slinging match with John Dvorak over the inner meaning of the bootcamp option allowing MacTel machines to boot and run Windows/XP. Here's part of one of his comments on this:

So Apple will at least offer the option for users to run a virtualised version of Windows Vista atop OS X, which brings with it two HUGE advantages. First, the bad guys and script kiddies will have to get through OS X security before they even have a chance at cracking Vista security. Second, by running a virtual version of Windows Vista loaded from a read-only partition, Microsoft's recommended method of dealing with malware (periodically wipe the OS and application from your disk and load them anew) can be done in seconds instead of hours and can be done daily instead of monthly or quarterly or yearly.

So far Cringley's track record on Apple hasn't been good, but this is one prediction that I think may have merit because what he's really talking about is using Apple's 1997 patent exchange agreement with Microsoft to allow Apple to update and use Sun's WABI code for the Windows/XP APIs - thereby enabling Windows applications to run without Windows licensing or Windows overheads.

WABI/XP is technically do-able, and the original WABI certainly ran Windows 3.11 applications faster on both HyperSPARC and PA-RISC than they ran on Intel, so this could happen.

But please notice two important ancillary issues here:

  1. the other technical strategy for making Windows on Darwin work well is now called virtualization but goes back to running CPM86 under Microsoft Xenix before Gates contracted for QDOS and got into his deal with IBM. Although Windows software bloat killed this in the late eighties, recent decreases in memory costs and the development of more capable memory controllers for x86 have brought it back at the OS level. Thus it's possible that Apple's product plan includes more of this, perhaps at the application plus libs level rather than the OS level.

     

  2. Sun currently has a patent cross licensing deal in place with Microsoft - and, unless the agreement has an explicit limitation on this, could therefore bring WABI/XP to market for its own desktops, whether workstation or Sun Ray.

Fundamentally, however, both of Cringley's more probable hypotheses to date: WABI/XP and an Adobe mediated Apple Office, have the same flaw as explanations for Apple's MacTel decision: both strategies would have been better supported by decisions to stay with the PowerPC or switch to SPARC than by a decision to use the same processor Microsoft programs for.

So what really happened? Personally I think Steve Jobs had grown increasingly unhappy with IBM's claimed inability to meet its performance promises for Apple while exceeding them for its own use, for Microsoft, and as part of the Cell partnership; saw IBM's control of Cell as a honey pot from which Apple wouldn't be able to escape; thought he had a good "Plan B" in place because his software people had kept the Intel option current since the original G5 decision; and therefore pulled the plug on the IBM relationship in response to some IBM action - possibly another production delay for the low power G5 - only to discover after the fact that the industry had long since left Plan B behind.

Tomorrow, however, I want to compete head to head with Cringley on the development of a better conspiracy theory aimed at rationalising Apple's decision - stay tuned, all bragging aside, my record on these things is a lot better than his.

 

Topic: Apple

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14 comments
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  • Question Murphy,

    "So far Cringley's track record on Apple hasn't been good, but this is one prediction that I think may have merit because what he's really talking about is using Apple's 1997 patent exchange agreement with Microsoft to allow Apple to update and use Sun's WABI code for the Windows/XP APIs - [u]thereby enabling Windows applications to run without Windows licensing or Windows overheads.[/u] "

    Why should Microsoft allow this to happen? Licensing is Microsoft's premier cashcow. If someone installs Microsoft Software without adequate licensing, he get's a warning about not using valid software and get punished for it. Even when you use it in a virtual environment and your basic system is valid.

    So using OS X and running Windows in a virtual environment without licensing doesn't make sense from a Microsoft point of view. Even if Apple has a patent agreement with Microsoft.
    Arnout Groen
    • Think about it

      Microsoft may not like it. If it happens we won't know whether they can do anything about it until and unless it happens. Redmond's hands are not clean in this, and they are certainly not clean with respect to Cupertino.

      As a thought exercise this is fun and persuasive. Until this goes out on the market (and the Iowa case is resolved) we won't know whether persuasive means that Apple can and will do it, let alone whether Microsoft (now) has effective recourse.
      jplatt39
    • If you knew WABI, like I knew WABI . . .

      When Windoze software is created, developers use system calls (APIs) to make everything work. WABI intercepts these system calls and translates them into *NIX system calls (SunOS in this case). It's a nice lightweight program, as it doesn't attempt to emulate the workings of the x86 (like VMWare, SoftWindoze...), it intercepts the system calls and does a direct translation.

      WABI worked fabulously on Win31 - SoftWindoze was a dog and a CPU hog but WABI worked great.

      AFAIK there was no licensing problems with WABI - you STILL need to buy a copy of Excel for example. Not only that, the 1997 murder and liming of the Newton (aka the deal with the devil) led to the agreement that Apple got licenses to M$ (secret?) APIs.
      Roger Ramjet
      • OK, but....

        "AFAIK there was no licensing problems with WABI - you STILL need to buy a copy of Excel for example. Not only that, the 1997 murder and liming of the Newton (aka the deal with the devil) led to the agreement that Apple got licenses to M$ (secret?) APIs. "

        Who guarantees Microsoft, that all OS X users are paying for their version of Microsoft Office and/or Windows, when OS X offers the opportunity to use it without a valid license. I won't see Apple do that.. They're paying already for the Microsoft API's. If they do pay for those Microsoft Office/Windows licences, they could as well slash up their throat(s).

        So this raises another question: Would you buy a piece of software for about $200,- if you have the option of downloading it somewhere for free and without a license?
        Arnout Groen
        • ????

          I may be confused, but...

          WABI is kind of like WINE. It's an implementation of MS APIs that was not developed by Microsoft. So whoever develops the implementation gets to license it however they choose, and their only risk is that MS will sue them over patents. Sun and Apple have agreements with MS so theoretically they are protected.

          That covers Windows.

          In order to run Excel, someone would obviously have to buy a license from MS, unless they want to pirate it. People don't need Apple or Sun to pirate MS software, so that's really an independent issue.
          Erik Engbrecht
        • No genuine (dis) advantage

          M$ products require a product code key for activation. If you download software, you will need a phony (or real) key to make it work. Since M$ Genuine (dis)Advantage doesn't run on OS/X, it won't check and confirm authenticity. This would allow for unlicensed (phony) software to work on OS/X.

          I'm not sure if Mac Office is any different - there's no MGA for that either.
          Roger Ramjet
  • Plan B

    > So what really happened? Personally I think Steve Jobs had
    > grown increasingly unhappy with IBM's claimed inability to meet
    > its performance promises for Apple...and therefore pulled the
    > plug on the IBM relationship in response to some IBM action...
    > only to discover after the fact that the industry had long
    > since left Plan B behind.

    One minor caveat and I'll buy that: I believe many things of Steve Jobs. That he's as ignorant of industry trends as he is apparently unconcerned with them is not one. It's tough for me to wrap my head around the Intel deal being anything but one more attempt to prove "received wisdom" in the Industry wrong.

    That fun conspiracy theory makes this article for me. Good job.
    jplatt39
    • It's not a conspiracy

      it's just Steve Jobs! ;)
      Roger Ramjet
      • I'm sorry to be a pedant

        It drives me up the wall when people ask if the Hokey Pokey is what it's all about. It's [u]doing[/u] the hokey pokey and turning yourself around. That's what it's all about.

        Now that I'm suitably dizzy, no it is not a conspiracy. It's a conspiracy theory. That it's based on Steve Jobs does not make it one whiff less entertaining as such. :-)
        jplatt39
  • Conspiracy vs. Conspiracy

    So, which conspiracy is kookier? That OS X plans to run Windows covertly, or that
    IBM's cell processor is actually a viable computer CPU instead of what it was intended
    to be: A gaming console CPU.

    Here's a third conspiracy. Both Cringly and Murphy are sharing the same crack pipe.
    frgough
    • Murph does *not* smoke crack.

      Murph only partakes in the "natural stuff", if you know what I mean, and he doesn't use the standard pipe that the unwashed masses use. Murph only uses pipes with Cool Heads(TM) technology.

      Instead of one large bowl, pipes with Cool Heads(TM) technology can have up to 128 tiny bowls attached to the stem. With Cool Heads(TM) technology, a smoker can enjoy the...err...[b]tobacco's[/b] full flavor because each bowl only holds a tiny fraction of a normal bowl.

      With the larger, single bowl models, the full flavor of the tobacco is tarnished as the tobacco burns down and ash accumulates. Cool Heads(TM) technology solves this making each bowl so small that the tobacco is burned before a sizable amount of taste tarnishing ash can accumulate.

      Proponents of Cool Heads(TM) technology say that through the proper use of Cool Heads(TM) enabled pipes, more flavor can be extracted from less tobacco, and less heat is generated in the stem as the heat is distributed between the multitude of tiny bowls.

      Cool Heads(TM) technology has also been met with plenty of criticism. The technology's detractors claim that while the benefits of Cool Heads(TM) enabled pipes sound appealing on paper, too much work is required to achieve those benefits. With Cool Heads(TM) pipes, the benefit gained depends on how many bowls you pack at once. Detractors say most early adopters of Cool Heads(TM) enabled pipes have frustrated at the effort it takes to use the pipes properly and ended up only loading a few of the bowls, and as a result have experienced extremely sub-par performance compared with the single of dual bowl models they had used previously.
      toadlife
  • What is Apple selling in the Mac?

    Not innovative hardware.
    The company has moved toward more standard hardware, and the Intel move was consistent.
    Building the operating system on an available base is analogous.

    Partly software functionality.

    But mostly the experience of using a Mac, from design to GUI.

    Rather than an elaborate theory, why not just consider what's important to Steve Jobs and Apple?
    Anton Philidor
    • innovative hardware

      1" thick laptops with optical drives. Backlit keyboards. Ambient light sensor, two-
      finger scrolling.

      Was someone saying something about hardware just like everyone else?
      frgough
      • Design features.

        Enjoyable, useful. But equivalents to many parts in a Mac can be obtained elsewhere.

        After preparation, food can have unique flavor. Even if everything in the meal comes from a grocery store.
        Anton Philidor