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JB: The software war du jour.

SIMONYI: Out of this debacle came Excel later on. I think that competition is very important. It obviously creates again, comes from biology much better results. If you look at evolution, much of evolution is not in response to the environment, it's response to other flora and fauna in the environment. So we need that, and it's sad when the opponent doesn't put up a good fight.

You want to have competitors who really put up a really great fight, and who have incredibly great ideas, and then you improve your ideas. It's like when somebody runs the four minute mile. Once people see that it can be done, then they will be able to do the same thing. And so the four minute mile run isn't copied by the next competitor, he achieves it through competition.

But every once in a while our competitors do completely crazy things and they collapse by their own craziness and due to lack of hardcore and disciplined technical evaluation of what they are doing. I mean, hype is one thing, but believing your own hype is unforgivable.

JB: What are you referring to?

SIMONYI: The NC, for example. I think that the people around the NC started with some valid concerns. There is a price concern, which is not that great, but it is there. Obviously, if something is $900 it's better than if it's $1200. Certainly there are valid concerns in terms of cost of ownership, the problem of administration, and the issue of updating of software in a network. The boot time is a valid concern. But these concerns can be solved within the existing framework relatively easily. I mean it's not rocket science, it's a matter of attention, it's a matter of time; they will be solved.

The NC attempts create a whole new paradigm, where the user will be faced with a whole new set of tradeoffs but where these problems are allegedly solved. Of course who knows, because it does not exist yet, but it's plausible that the start-up time will be solved, or if there's no local state, that the administration problem is solved. It's plausible. It's not a hundred percent, because even then there have to be multiple servers, and when you update something it has to go to multiple servers.

So it's not like there will be one server machine in the world and all you have to do is change that machine and all the networked computers are suddenly up-to-date. No. In some organization there will be 20 servers, and so the updates have to go to all the 20 servers, and so on so forth. And when you are talking about computers there is no real difference between 20 servers or 200 work stations, both of them involve communications, both of them involve synchronization, both of them involve data distribution yeah, one of them involves a few more cycles, but cycles are the cheapest things in the world, they are like dirt, they cost ten to the minus ten cents per. You can't pretend that the problems will be only solved by creating this new architecture, and that the other tradeoffs (things like you don't have privacy or flexibility to run the program you need or that you can't exchange media or can't take a diskette home or can't install the nice new voice card) will be accepted without a word by the customer.

And then there are the speeches by Scott McNealy, where he says that the office computers, by golly, really belong to the companies so they should be able to do whatever they want. This is strictly speaking true, but doesn't he see how irrelevant it is, or how annoying it might be to the person who's working with that computer. And I guess they could get into a shouting match, and the office worker would say well, in that case I'm not going to take any work home, or in that case why don't we have a punch clock and punch in and out, and lose all the flexibility and all the innovation that people have offered in the past. It's crazy to try to make such a radical investment on the basis of such dubious tradeoffs. I'm sorry, but the claimed benefits are perfectly obtainable within the existing Windows framework and will be available in the existing framework, at which point the NC companies will be left with nothing. Zero. Zip. Which will be very sad. And meanwhile they will have made a considerable investment. And then we'll be blamed for wiping them out or something.

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