The Cult of the Dear Leader proceeds apace at Microsoft, as yesterday's stage-managed piece of source-mongering by Craig Mundie amply testifies. In his preamble to his Shared Source presentation, Craig tips the hat to His Billness, who seems now to all intents and purposes the inventor of the Internet:
"as early as 1995, Bill Gates wrote in his book The Road Ahead about what he called the 'Internet gold rush' and predicted both enormous long-term advances and substantial short-term setbacks, saying 'Gold rushes tend to encourage impetuous investments. A few will pay off, but when the frenzy is behind us, we will look back incredulously at the wreckage of failed ventures and wonder, Who funded these companies? What was going on in their minds? Was that just mania at work?'"
Regrettably, The Register does not have a copy of the first edition of The Road Ahead, even though we did once walk by a stack of them reduced to $2.95 in Barnes & Noble or similar. But we're not entirely convinced that this is even approximately what Bill said about the Internet back in the 1995 edition. A swift turn through Google nets us a couple of random hits on second edition reviews.
Here, for instance, we're told that "a second edition rushed out a year later with all its extra material focussed on the Internet. (This coincided with a major shift in Microsoft's corporate strategy.)" Quite. Or In TheStreet.com Jim Seymour says the book "did lay out a plausible digital future. (Minus, pretty much, the Web, which received only back-of-the-hand notice. Which says a lot...)"
And of course The Register itself covered the strange and ever-changing timeline of Microsoft's discovery of the web extensively, one of our favourites being that in 1998 Bill Gates "remembered" when he'd first had the idea of putting the browser into the OS, and claimed this had been in April 1994. As we've pointed out before, at that time we interviewed Brad Silberberg, who was heading Win95 development, but he didn't mention the Internet once. Plug and play was his major focus. And in the spring of 95 Microsoft when The Road Aheadwas first published Microsoft was still talking to journalists about the Microsoft Network being an online system that was different from/an alternative to the Internet. Win95 itself came out at retail without IE, and the IE Microsoft shipped (which wasn't integrated) was cobbled together from technology bought-in at the last minute.
So in 94 when he shouted, "Hey, let's put the browser in the OS!" he must have also thought: "But let's not tell any of the developers or the execs this, and let's not put it in the book I'm having written for me right now. Wonder why? ®
Text of Mundie's speech
Orlowski goes mad on Mundie
MS filing claims browser plans started in 1992
MS claims plans for browser integration predate Gates' birth
(Sorry about dud formatting in the last two - site porting issue)