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It Ain't an App. It's a "Development Environment."
Nov 06, 1995 :: Michael Sippey

The PC industry started as a hobbyist's club. The mythical "fire in the valley" was the sound of geek boys and girls soldering chips to motherboards and wiring up the abundant 64k of RAM (who would ever need any more than that?). The Apple II's "operating system" (if you could call it that) was a version of BASIC. From the beginning, the PC has not been just a personal productivity tool. It's been a development tool.

Did you know that more than half of the code in Excel doesn't support the spreadsheet, but rather Excel's development environment? Or that an outrageous number of small companies live and die by the development environment inside Microsoft Office? In fact most of the more popular HTML editors are built on top of Microsoft Word. And this says nothing of Visual Basic or Delphi -- supposedly easy-to-use tools to build professional visual applications.

So what, right? Who cares, right? Well, you should. These "development environments" aren't your father's macro language. If you develop in Excel, use a product that sits on top of Word, or just write macros to automate document creation, you're gonna get hooked. The deeper you get into these products, the more beholden you are to their creator. Why is Microsoft so committed to the languages within Excel, Word, Access, etc.? Because once you use 'em, you can't go anywhere else. They entice you with the functionality, but addict you with the development environment.

And don't think that this has been lost on Netscape. Why do you think they hijacked the HTML standards, and pre-empted the community with tables, background images and now frames? And Java's a whole other story...

Dave Winer (...I know, him again...) maintains that value in today's stock market is not reflective of a company's products, past performance or even expectations of future performance. Rather, a high tech company's value in the market is reflective of its ability to set the standards by which everyone else plays.

Gates gets it, because Gates is a developer. Developers build things. Developers tweak things. Developers build and tweak things so that other developers can build and tweak their own things. Andreesen gets it too. Which is gonna make all this web stuff sooooo much fun.



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