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Embrace and smother – how the MS strategy works

Maritz nearly admits he said that, and we look at the mechanisms that underlie the approach

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Reports so far of Paul Maritz's testimony so far this week have largely been confined to repeating his denials - he didn't threaten to cut off Netscape's air supply, and Microsoft didn't force Apple to ship Internet Explorer. But he did, apparently, tell Intel Microsoft would "embrace and smother" Netscape. Yesterday in court two Intel sworn depositions claiming this were produced, and Martiz was thrown back on the defensive - he couldn't remember, and as the meeting wasn't taped, he couldn't prove he didn't say it. But The Register has as usual been doing its homework, and as always will be attempting to put matters into context. First, the air supplies and smothering. The air supply allegation was made by Intel's Steve McGeady, who testified for the prosecution. McGeady seems to have been a down-the-line Netscape and Java supporter who nevertheless had frequent contact with Maritz. Maritz was actually impressed by him, in an antagonistic sort of way. He tells Bill in April 1996: "I explained our strategy of 'optimising' Java for ActiveX and Windows [to 25 Intel executive staff], and how we should be working together on this, but I fear that McGeady will try to obviate this (unfortunately he has more IQ than most there)." McGeady may even have been smart enough to hear those inverted commas around 'optimising'. Yes, they are there in Maritz's original email, and if he's not using them to give Bill a playful dig in the ribs and point out that what we really mean is pollute, we'd like to hear alternative suggestions. The 'pollute' interpretation of course makes it another instance of "embrace and smother," only for Java this time. Maritz regretfully observes that he'd been told "McGeady is to be seconded to MIT and taken out of line management, but this doesn't seem to have happened." McGeady had probably had his card marked in November of the previous year, at an MS-Intel summit where Maritz headed the MS team. Intel had explained things to him (according to McGeady's report of the meeting). "We told MS that we are using non-MS products (except for NT) in the initial version of our server. Reasons: 1) Our OEMs are asking for the products we are using; 2) MS does not have a complete product set, specifically with respect to integrated HTML authoring and document management; and 3) MS has not treated us as a customer." So there's plenty scope for friction between McGeady and Maritz, but unless others come forward, the "cut off Netscape's air supply" crack McGeady claims Maritz made can't be proved. But we'll look at what Maritz has been saying about Netscape. Today, he says: "I'm not aware of any action we took specifically to restrict Netscape's browser." In 1997 however he was saying: "To combat Nscp, [does the Redmond spellcheck reject the N-word full out?] we have to have position the browser as 'going away' and do deeper integration on Windows. The stronger way to communicate this is to have a 'new release' of Windows and make a big deal out of it… IE integration will be the most compelling feature of Memphis [Windows 98]." So when he says "specifically restrict" he may be taking a somewhat restrictive view of the meaning of the expression. In a May 1995 memo, integration of the browser isn't obviously what he's talking about, but he is talking about integration: "Priority #1 is to not lose controls of key interfaces and protocols that applications/titles use. O'Hare needs to evolve into an extensible client that encourages 'online applications' to take full advantage of Windows and other MS assets. It needs to extend to allow this exploitation to occur both in the dimension of extensions to HTTP & HTML per se, and in the dimension of allowing application specific protocols & formats (e.g. via DocObj). As part of keeping control of the client, we should distribute our client pieces (both basic framework and extensions) as widely as possible, and we should encourage other vendors of browsers (e.g. Netscape) to use these extensions." Here Maritz is clearly talking about extending Microsoft protocols across the Web, thus locking users into the Windows platform. As relations with Netscape haven't broken down into hot war yet, Netscape gets its full name, and is viewed as being co-optable to the strategy. Yesterday under heavy questioning he finally conceded that the deal Microsoft offered Netscape was highly unusual, but he didn't go as far as saying that the proposal was for a carve-up, as Netscape claims. We'll just take a little run through the 'embrace and smother' line of thinking before we call it a day. Bill Gates you'll remember announced Microsoft's Internet turnaround strategy in December 1995, but in that very month, after he's made the presentation, he's raging to Maritz and Silverberg about plans to charge for what was to be the Windows 98 shell. "It is a complete change for me to hear you think IE 3.0 is separate from the shell," he raves. As well he might. But although he's just announced Microsoft's new 'embrace the Web' strategy, he's still ploughing along on the same furrows we saw Maritz at just now. "I am the one who thinks sharing Win32 applications over the Internet is important. I am still dealing with the myth that HTML somehow is far better for sharing than serialised Windows calls and that Windows calls are obsolete." Then he pulls it back to the shell: "Given how little backing Win32 sharing has inside Microsoft I feel it has to be available for free so Win32 has a chance of being a popular API that people understand can allow for sharing of visual displays." So with Windows 98 Bill didn't intend the integrated shell to bring the Web to Windows - he meant it to extend Windows across the Web, embrace and smother - and there, he just said it. ® ter.co.uk/content/archive/10095.html">Complete Register trial coverage

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