Ripping PR Yarns: Microsoft and Netscape

  • Merrill R. Chapman


The high-tech industry has never grasped the dichotomy that exists between its vision of Microsoft and the public’s. To industry insiders, Microsoft and Bill Gates are tough, ruthless, and predatory foes. To the public, they’re something else entirely. This difference in perception is no accident. It’s the result of almost 20 years of an unrelenting and masterly PR campaign. To comprehend and understand this campaign is to begin to grasp the Zen of Marketing.


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    GEM developed a fair amount of international support, particularly in Germany. However, the Windows wave eventually swept over Europe and GEM sank out of sight.Google Scholar
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    Gary Rivlin, The Plot to Get Bill Gates ( New York: Times Books/Random House, 1999 ).Google Scholar
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    In April 1994, I had a lively discussion panel exchange with several IBMers at the OS/2 Technical Interchange in San Francisco during which I predicted the government wouldn’t press its case against Microsoft.Google Scholar
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    The product was sold commercially by a company called Softech and later Pecan Software.Google Scholar
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    Gary Norris of IBM testified during the Microsoft/DOJ trial that IBM, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard feared loss of their Windows licenses if they considered offering OS/2 on their systems.Google Scholar
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    Transcript of the videotaped deposition of Bill Gates, 1998, pp. 32–35.Google Scholar
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    Rivlin, op. cit., pp. 198–199. This announcement was made in 1997 and involved KPMG pulling out 1,800 Navigator seats in favor of IE.Google Scholar
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    Ibid, p. 198.Google Scholar
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    Of all the companies baying after Microsoft, Be was perhaps the best example of a firm baking its own croissant but being unwilling to eat it. Be was the brainchild of Jean-Louis Gassee, who had spent much of the 1980s at Apple as vice president of engineering fighting any and all attempts to license the Mac OS to third parties. Gassee’s efforts to keep the Mac OS proprietary were successful, ensuring Apple’s descent from industry leader to niche player. After leaving Apple, Gassee founded Be, which briefly tried to replicate Apple’s integrated hardware/software strategy before becoming a software-only firm. After failing to sell the Be OS back to proprietary Apple at the mind-boggling price of $300 million, Gassee underwent something of a conversion and attempted to position Be as an “open” OS. Not many people ever bought the company’s products despite their considerable capabilities, and Be was eventually sold to Palm in 2001 for $11 million in stock, the high-tech equivalent of a handful of baguettes.Google Scholar
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© Merrill R. Chapman 2003

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  • Merrill R. Chapman

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