Last modified: October 3, 1997 7:55 PM PDT
Gates: Why is Windows so cheap?
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It was reported that Sun is going to examine IE 4 code and if there are inconsistencies, they might look into taking this to court?
When we did the beta of IE 4, they had a certain set of test cases and when we do the beta we said "OK," and this is what we have agreed, is when we did the beta, there were a certain set of test cases--we passed all those test cases. Now they added test cases have nothing to do with running Java applications subsequently. And I know that [Microsoft group vice president of applications and platforms Paul] Maritz is talking to them about that. We passed the test better than anybody. I mean, just go look out there, run the test cases. And ask yourself why are they raising some that doesn't really have anything to do with compatibility with Java applications. By every objective measure we've done a very good job on Java and if they're going to attack us, fine. I think that's what they seem to do on Monday through Friday and on weekends, if they're working. So we'll put up with that. We're not attacking back.
What do your customers say? Are they confused? Are they sitting on the fence saying "Geez, here we go again!"?
What fence would they be sitting on?
Do they say "Geez, let me just see where and how this thing plays out before I devote 20 programmers to do just Java-only applications?"
Well, most people are buying packaged applications and modifying those or working on applications they already have. So what's the most popular corporate development language? VB by a factor of three over the next, which is C, which is a primary tool that is far more popular than the next, which is COBOL.
So there are a lot of different things people do in development, most of which is incremental improvement. If what you're saying is that Sun is screwing themselves, that to the degree they make these complaints, it makes people concerned about using Java, then you should mention that to Sun. We're not making any complaints. So if they want to scare the people, I guess they must enjoy doing it. It certainly gets their names in the paper.
Oracle has often said that SQL Server doesn't represent a huge threat to them. I'm wondering about your view as Sphinx [the next version of SQL Server] gets ready to roll out, and how that might play out in terms of Oracle 8?
I think they underestimated, so don't tell them. If they think it's not a threat, they should take the rest of the day off and the rest of the month too.
How do you close the gap?
Well, there's a general approach. This [Sphinx] started about three years [ago]. You start hiring very good people. You say "Hmm, who should we hire?" Look at our database team and look at the amount we've put into database R&D and look at Sphinx betas. It's an objective world and maybe Oracle is right--we don't know how to write software. I'm not going to clue them in. But there are people who are working long hours building an amazing database product.
Do you think enterprise customers want to buy a package of BackOffice-bundled applications that includes a database? Or do you think they may still want sort of a best-of-breed approach with an Oracle style?
Look at Microsoft Office. How did we win? Well, we won every spreadsheet review with Excel. We won every word processing review with Word. We won most presentation reviews--not all--with PowerPoint. We did best-of-breed products, then we integrated them together and created the Office suite. But we won in each standalone category, we won before the integration gave us further customer benefit. And likewise in BackOffice today, SNA Server competes against ComServer from IBM. That product wins all the reviews. Exchange competes with Notes. That product wins some of the reviews. We're doing great work, we're very serious there.
SQL Server: Depending on what people use it for, it does very well in terms of simplicity of setup and the admin and the programming model. It is best-of-breed in terms of some of the very high-end benchmarks. We've said Sphinx is where we have a chance to match or perhaps even lead in those areas that we don't today. See, we're pretty realistic. And the thing about Microsoft is we hire other more-smart people. When we get into a field, we're pretty good about finding out who the best people are, whether it's [Microsoft Senior Researcher] Jim Gray or on down through the team.
I feel we did what we always do very well. It takes time. As I say, this thing started three years ago. Over the next few years we'll just get better and better and better. Sphinx, which is the code name for SQL 7.0, is a milestone. It's not the end of the journey. The day we ship SQL 7.0, Oracle will dominate the database business. A year after we ship SQL 7.0, Oracle will have the majority share in the database business. That's easy to say. Do they have any competitors? Well, Larry [Ellison] has decided that he can ridicule Informix and scare customers to not buy them. He's good at ridiculing IBM. He just doesn't think he has any competition. That's very different from my attitude. And I wake up every day and say, "What are our weaknesses?" I see competition everywhere; he sees it nowhere. It's just a different personality.
Would you consider buying Informix? Do you think their technology is good enough to put you at par with Oracle 8.0 today?
Well, we've made our decision on how to do databases; and that's hiring the team; and we actually started with a Sybase code base. But we've hired our team, we picked our code base--that is our database strategy. So it wouldn't make sense for us to buy another database company. Informix has very good database technology as a company, but our strategy is exactly what we've done. It is focused on exploiting NT in the right way and built around the programming models that we're putting forward.