Internet offers developers more level playing field

According to Anthony B. Perkins, Microsoft Corp. will not fare as well in the new era ruled by the Internet.

Perkins, CEO and editor-in-chief of San Francisco-based Red Herring Communications Inc., said the difference with the Internet era over previous trends is that it is based on open standards.

“No one owns Internet protocols – unlike the PC era, where there was not this kind of spontaneous grass-roots effort to create standards,” he said in his keynote at Softworld ’99, held recently in Vancouver.

Netscape started free software, which started Microsoft “whining,” he said. “But free software will help keep Microsoft honest.”

Perkins challenged his audience to think of all the new innovations that have happened in the software world since the Department of Justice (DOJ) suit was levied against Microsoft two years ago.

“We’ve seen Java, combined with Unix, really prevent Windows NT from entering the larger scale corporate software environments. We’ve seen this new software trend called Linux,” he said.

“One of the top trends of the year is that open-source hackers are going to go pro. In other words, the community of developers out there that will work with Linux and other open source software are going to start getting paid, and you are going to see huge momentum in that market.”

In the mobile market, 3Com’s Palm Pilot owns 90 per cent of the operating systems in the handheld market, Perkins said. “So Microsoft, with their Windows CE platform, have not done much in creating a monopoly there.”

Perkins predicted that all the hardware vendors, including producers of mobile phones and televisions, are going to jump into the Internet browser market.

“As the Internet gets hooked into much more than a desktop, there are dozens of innovations that are outpacing Microsoft.”

At the same time that Microsoft was on trial for bundling its browser with its other products, Netscape “stumbled and didn’t keep up technologically and ended up selling out to AOL,” he said.

“And what does AOL do? It takes the Netscape browser and sends it out to its 19 million customers that it has established with its own proprietary on-line service. But is the government all over AOL? No, not at all.”

That doesn’t make any sense, Perkins said.

“The reality is, historically, in survey after survey, consumers have regularly, overwhelmingly stated that they love Microsoft, they love Microsoft’s products. Although, to be honest, as a consumer, I have never used Windows in my life,” Perkins added, as the audience applauded.

“So the government is very, very alone in its opinion (of Microsoft), except for a few whiners at AOL and Netscape, which I think is a personal problem. I mean, think about it: these guys are supposed to be entrepreneurs, but they are off giving testimony in Washington, D.C.? Go back to work.”

The reality is that Microsoft has, in fact, accelerated the growth of the Internet industry, Perkins admitted.

“By doing all of these things – some of them a little bit ruthless – they have driven the market and gotten more people converted to using the Internet, and relying on the Internet, than probably any other force in the market.”