Last modified: October 3, 1997 7:55 PM PDT
Gates: Why is Windows so cheap?
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With Steelhead and Ross, NT has had some interesting networking features added to it. We're curious, given the history of Microsoft on the desktop, how it's added more and more functionality there--PC server-side, a similar path for NT on the server side--adding more and more protocol support, etc., to allow a richer internetworking NT network experience?
Well, you look at Steelhead, [and] it's a pretty amazing product and certainly we have had a very good reaction to it. Our goal in doing communications software is to make NT a great end node, which sometimes in a branch, it might be the end node and you connect NT up to the network or a server in a corporate network. And so supporting...we have added a lot more protocols. And we'll keep adding things there. Our goal is not to be an intermediate node in the network, although some people actually license NT from us and use it in products like that. But that would be companies that are focused in that area.
Do you see a large market in that space? OEM the internetworking vendors?
We're certainly talking to everybody you can name, starting with Cisco and on down about do they see NT running in some of their products. And we're willing to do special versions and maybe we have to do special licensing for that. It's not a market NT has been in, [though] there's a little bit of it right now for some of the RAS dial-up servers that are NT-based. And we're seeing a reasonably high level of interest. As a percentage of the total NT volume, no, it won't be overwhelming. I mean desktops...that's where your numbers are is desktops and portable systems. So if it was a substantial deviation for the NT team, we wouldn't do it. But it turns out it's a general purpose operating system, and a lot of the rich features there are helpful as a platform. But all the value-added pieces that allow you to do intermediate communications-type products, it'll be other people who are building those on top.
Technology is evolving very quickly, especially on the Web. But with Java, among other ways to deliver content, how do you develop standards and not be taken for a bully? And who should own the standards?
Well, the word "standard" means that no one owns it. Well OK, let's differentiate two types of standards. There are standards in the official sense where no one company controls the brand, controls the evolution, anybody can participate or make suggestions. The IETF [Internet Engineering Task Force] and W3C [World Wide Web Consortium] are wonderful organizations that do an amazing job of making that process work. And we've put a lot of man-hours into it and we think those are great contributors to the industry. Those are open standards.
Don't you see W3C as too slow?
Actually compared to all other standards bodies, they are impressively fast, honestly. IETF and W3C are pretty fast. Now, when you're a company and you're doing a product, can you implement a cool product that's going to win and only stick to standards? We support all of those standards--every HTML thing--we've been very, very careful about all of that stuff. Sometimes companies do take things that they are proposing or other people are proposing and put those in the product. And there needs to be a word for that, that yes, we've made it available to the standards committee and we think there's a good chance that they'll adopt it, but it has not yet. Vs. something that you just do on your own and you're not submitting to a standards body. Now all of those are legitimate business strategies. It's just people have to be clear about what they're doing with those things.
We've certainly been a company that's given Sun a hard time about trying to have their cake and eat it too; that is, own the Java brand so they can tell me, "Don't ever say Java, don't label things that way." Only they can propose extensions, they're the only company that can do anything about the thing and still try to pretend that that's a classic standard that's really open to everybody's innovation and contribution and managing the test case or the rhetoric around the test case in a way that's neutral to all participants.