General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division
American Bar Association
General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division
The Compleat Lawyer
Fall 1997
copyright American Bar Association. All rights reserved.

technology.law/J. Michael Jimmerson

J. Michael Jimmerson is a technology consultant and founder of Legal Counsel & Computing. He is the co-author of A Survival Guide for Road Warriors, a best-selling book on mobile computing for lawyers, published by the American Bar Association. His next book, Windows for Lawyers, will be released in the fall of 1997. He can be reached by phone (773/506-9870), e-mail (michael@legalcounsel.com) or the Web (www.legalcounsel.com).

"Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows".
The Tempest

, William Shakespeare

Until recently, beyond the common dictum about death and taxes, only two things were relatively certain in this world: The Cubs would never win the World Series in our lifetime, and Microsoft and Apple would remain locked in mortal combat till the bitter end. Now, Cubs fans must keep hoping, but Microsoft and Apple devotees have begun kissing cousins. Well, almost, anyway.

At Macworld Expo in Boston, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, announced a partnering arrangement wherein Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple. In return, Apple agreed to adopt MS Internet Explorer as its default browser. Of course, this cash was badly needed, considering the amount of money that Apple has been hemorrhaging of late.

Nevertheless, the faithful did not take this news well, and Mr. Jobs was booed by many in the audience. After all, Apple teaming up with Microsoft was heretofore completely unimaginable - something akin to St. Peter ushering Satan through the Pearly Gates. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and something drastic had to be done to turn things around.

Although it has a dedicated installed user base, Apple's market share has been dwindling in recent years. Currently, Apple only has 5 to 10 percent of the personal computer market. Delays in shipping their new operating system (just released), production delays, and costly recalls have badly eroded faith in Apple and their stock. Most observers questioned their long-term viability. Despite product line reductions and employee layoffs, several successive quarterly losses indicated that nothing short of a miracle would stop the bleeding. The board, now driven by Steve Jobs, Apple's prodigal son, forced out Dr. Gilbert Amelio, the CEO hired to reengineer Apple and get it back on track. The most prevalent rumor was that Jobs would once again ascend to the throne and become CEO. But no one imagined that Apple would go over to the Dark Side.

Microsoft has slowly whittled away at Apple's technical superiority in the graphical user interface (GUI). Two years ago, Mac users sneered that Windows 95 was just Mac 84. But through continued development, particularly involving the Internet (although a surprising number of Mac servers spin out Web pages), the Intel/Windows 95 platform has become king of the hill. New versions of the operating system and applications are cranked out with regularity, filling the coffers in Redmond. Microsoft stock has made 3,000 current or former employees into millionaires. The meteoric success of Microsoft, coupled with Apple's progressive decline, has only caused greater enmity between the two communities.

But Apple is not the only competitor to hurl arrows at Microsoft and its practices. Online providers, Novell, Netscape, and others have been badly hurt by Microsoft's leveraging of its position in the personal computer market. Perhaps the most amazing thing in the technology arena is the many fronts upon which Microsoft has waged war, and surprisingly, won!

In the browser market, Microsoft is locked in mortal combat with Netscape. All others have gone by the wayside. Internet Explorer has made great strides and is even threatening to overtake Netscape in the near future. The networking market is slowly being swallowed, largely because Novell, the one-time industry leader, has sat complacently while its overwhelming market share has steadily dropped. The other player, Artisoft LANtastic, a very popular networking product for small offices, has practically fallen off the face of the earth with the introduction of Windows 95. Corel continues to up the ante in the office suite and word processing arenas. In short, Microsoft has become everyone's darling to hate.

Sure, Microsoft is an easy target. After all, Bill Gates has more money than God. Even Windows users are a bit edgy about Microsoft taking over the entire personal computer landscape, fearing that they will be sucked into the Borg. Microsoft's dominance of the operating system and applications market has repeatedly made it the subject of Justice Department scrutiny, which may explain why Microsoft has made this extraordinary gesture. After all, if the only other viable operating system goes by the wayside, how can Microsoft claim that it does not hold a monopoly? Propping up Apple can only be regarded as a self-interested move by Gates and company. And, making inroads into the Apple browser market is a bonus for Microsoft and a blow to Netscape.

What does all this mean for lawyers? Particularly in the solo and small firm market, Apple has had a following. Legal specific software (for a comprehensive list, turn to the Law Office Software for Macintosh Web site at http://www.mother.com/~randy/index.html) and greater ease of use have provided the allure necessary to break the Microsoft spell.

This deal gives new hope to Mac users, at least for the time being. One of the benefits is that Microsoft has pledged to keep its MS Office product current for the Mac platform. In the past, development for the Mac OS always lagged behind. Perhaps this will provide other software developers with the incentive to develop for the Mac.

Like Camel smokers and Cubs fans, Mac users would probably rather fight than switch. Clearly, troubled times lie ahead for Apple, but a revitalized board, the new alliance, and innovative product introductions might turn the tide. Despite how you feel about the Microsoft versus Apple debate, you can either swim upstream or downstream. The choice is yours. Just make sure that you are not swept away when the dam breaks.

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