‘Make people use Explorer’ – Gates email

The latest email deluge shows Bill leveraging the OS again. Tsk...

More smoking emails poured out of the DoJ late last night, reopening the debate over when Microsoft decided to integrate IE, and why. And one of the most damaging is from Bill Gates himself. As late as February 1997 Gates was writing to Jim Allchin and Paul Maritz saying: "It seems clear that it will be very hard to increase browser market share on the merits of IE alone. It will be more important to leverage the OS to make people use IE instead of Navigator." It’s difficult to figure out what Gates might have meant by this without arriving at damaging conclusions. Microsoft last summer began claiming that it had been its intention to integrate IE in the OS from 1994 onwards, and in early 1997 development of Windows 98 was well under way. Microsoft had announced an integrationist strategy shortly after the launch of Windows 95, the plan being to achieve integration with IE 4.0. At the time Gates was writing Explorer 4.0 was due - it was originally planned for Q1 1997, but in fact slipped until October. So in February of that year Gates had made the statement of strategic direction, and if - as Microsoft says now - the integration plans had actually been signed, sealed and delivered for some years, what was he debating? And how could Microsoft "make people use IE instead of Navigator," if not on the merits of the product? The logical conclusion would seem to be that it could only do so by restricting Navigator’s distribution channels, and by making it harder for Navigator to work with Windows. Microsoft of course says it doesn’t do that, so we’re left still wondering what Gates is on about, aren’t we? Other emails suggest that the final decision to put IE and Windows 98 into the same product hadn’t yet been made in early 97. Writing in March of that year Kumar Mehta says: "If we take IE away from the OS most users [i.e. users of Navigator] will never switch to us." As Microsoft had already said it was going to put IE into the OS, this email and Gates’ make it pretty clear that there was a move within Microsoft to go with a less integrated strategy after all. Why would it be considering this? Pressure from OEMs might have been a factor, and note that other internal documentation that’s come up in the past reveals real fear on Microsoft’s part that there might be some form of Compaq or Intel led OEM revolt. So in 97, maybe some execs were worried about pushing to hard, too fast. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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