De beruchte uitgelekte memo van Bill Gates

Voor het geval de memo ooit verloren zo gaan staat hij hieronder compleet.

Er zijn mogelijk meer memo's in omloop, de uitspraak "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today...A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. (That price might be high: Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.)" wordt geciteerd (zonder het deel tussen haken) op en het volgende citaat heb ik (wiebe) persoonlijk vertaald maar kan de bron niet meer vinden: "De oplossing bestaat uit zoveel octrooieren als we kunnen. Een toekomstige starter die zelf geen octrooien heeft zal gedwongen worden iedere prijs te betalen die de reuzen hem opleggen... Gevestigde bedrijven hebben een belang in het uitsluiten van toekomstige concurrenten."

Desalniettemin spreekt onderstaande memo boekdelen en komt in mildere bewoordingen op hetzelfde neer.

Het deel over octrooien

PATENTS: If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. I feel certain that some large company will patent some obvious thing related to interface, object orientation, algorithm, application extension or other crucial technique. If we assume this company has no need of any of our patents then the have a 17-year right to take as much of our profits as they want. The solution to this is patent exchanges with large companies and patenting as much as we can. Amazingly we havn't done any patent exchanges tha I am aware of. Amazingly we havn't found a way to use our licensing position to avoid having our own customers cause patent problems for us. I know these aren't simply problems but they deserve more effort by both Legal and other groups. For example we need to do a patent exchange with HP as part of our new relationship. In many application categories straighforward thinking ahead allows you to come up with patentable ideas. A recent paper from the League for Programming Freedom (available from the Legal department) explains some problems with the way patents are applied to software.

De complete memo

From Wed Jul  3 12:09:05 1991
Return-Path: <>
From: (Mike Godwin)
Subject: Bill Gates memo of 5-16
To: (
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 91 12:27:38 EDT
Challenges and Strategy
Bill Gates
May 16, 1991
* Microsoft Confidential

Prologue:  The Reason for this Memo
Every year I set aside at least one "think week" to get away and update
myself on the latest technical developments -- reading PhD theses, using
competitive products, reading books, newsletters and anything I can get
my hands on.  Several valuable thoughts have come out of these retreats
(tables for Word, outlining in Excel, treating DOS as more of an asset),
however the complexity of the industry and its techology means that a lot
of my time is spent just trying to keep up rather than coming up with new
product ideas.  It is no longer possible for any person, even our "architects",
to understand everything that is going on.  Networking, processors, linguistics,
multimedia, development tools, and user interfaces are just a subset of the
technologies that will affect Microsoft.  My role is to understand enough
to set direction.  I enjoy these weeks a great deal -- not because I get
away from the issues of running Microsoft but rather because I get to think
more clearly about how to best lead the company away from problems and
toward opportunities.  A lot of people choose things for me to read.  By
the end of the week I make an effort to synthesize the best ideas and make
our technical strategy clear.
This year I decided to write a memo about overall strategy to the executive
staff.  As we have grown and faced new challenges my opportunities to speak
to each of you directly has been greatly reduced.  Even the aspects of our
strategy that remain unchanged are worth reinforcing.
In the same way that DEC's strategy for the 80's was VAX -- one architecture,
one operating system -- our strategy for the 90's is Windows -- one
evolving architecture, a couple of implementations.  Everything we do should
focus on making Windows more successful.
A source of inspiration to me is a memo by John Walker of Autodesk called
"Autodesk:  The Final Days" (copies available from JulieG).  It's brilliantly
written and incredibly insightful.  John hasn't been part of Autodesk
management for three years and hasn't attended any management meetings for
over two years, so he writes as an outsider questioning whether Autodesk is
doing the right things.  By talking about how a large company slows down,
fails to invest enough and loses sight of what is important, and by using
Microsoft as an example of how to do some things correctly he manages to
touch on a lot of what's right and wrong with Microsoft today. Amazingly
his nightmare scenario to get people to consider what's really important
is Microsoft deciding to enter the CAD market -- something we have no
present thoughts of doing because it would stretch us too thin.  Our
nightmare -- IBM "attacking" us in systems software, Novell "defeating" us
in networking and more agile, lower cost structure, customer-oriented
applications, competitors getting their Windows to act together is not
a scenario, but a reality.
Recently a long time employee mentioned that we seem to have more challenges
facing us now than ever before.  Although I agree that it feels that way
I can say with confidence that it has felt that way every year for the
last 15.  We decided to pursue a broad product strategy from the very
beginning of the company and that means we have a lot of competitors.
Our success is incredible, not just within the software industry or computer
industry but within the history of business, and the combination of this
with the incredibly competitive nature of our business breeds challenges to
our position.  I think it is critical to divide these challenges into different categories.
Category 1
This category containes issues of great importance but which I judge should
have little effect on how you do your job or our future.
APPLE LAW SUIT:  This is a very serious lawsuit.  If the judge rules against
us, without making it clear what we have to change or asks us to eliminate
something fundamental to all windowing systems (like overlapping windows)
it would be disastrous.  At the very start of this lawsuit we decided that
Bill Neukom and I would give it very high priority and that the rest of the
executive staff could focus on their jobs without learning about the complex
twists and turns of the lawsuit.  Microsoft is spending millions to defend
features contained every popular windows system on the market and to help
set the boundaries of where copyrights should and should not be applied.  I
think it is absurd that the lawsuit is taking so long and that we are
educating the third federal judge on the case.  I am pleased with our
work on this case.  Our view that we will almost certainly prevail remains
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION:  It must be surprising that our two most visible
problems are in this category.  Certainly I take the FTC inquiry seriously
and I am sure it will use up even more executive staff time than the Apple
lawsuit has.  However I know we don't get unfair advantages in any of the
markets we are in.  As Ruthann Quindlen stated recently in InfoWorld
(supported by many other editorials like Businessweek's) our combination
of products is similar to that of every other high technology company and our
success is based on having great products.  I hope we can quickly educate
the FTC on our business.
RETIREMENT OF KEY EXECUTIVES: The retirement of Jon Shirley and Jeremy
Butler -- absolutely two of the finest executives anywhere -- are significant
losses for Microsoft.  Last year's "think week" was my worst, because Mike
Hallman called me to say Jeremy was planning to retire.  I had Jeremy fly
out and meet with me for hours to try and change his mind.  I am sure more
people will be retiring in the future.  However, I am confident that we are
developing a lot of great people internally and that we are hiring the
best people from outside the company.  Just look at some of the recent
additions to our executive staff -- people like Brad Silverberg, Jeff
Raikes and Gary Gidot.  Consider the talent pool right below the executive
staff level -- Jim Alichin, Pete Higgins, Patty Stonesifer, Rob Glaser,
Mike Murray, Mike Brown, and so many others.  I love working with people
of this caliber -- not only do they do a good job but they keep me doing
my best.  I certainly have no plans to back off from my dedication to the
PRINTER BUSINESS UNIT:  Generally when we enter a product category, we
innovate.  Even if our first version is not a winner we establish a position
>from which we can make further improvements.  Our entry into the printer
software business has not succeeded.  Steve is considering what strategy
we shoud pursue to make the best of our errors.  Our problems have educated
us to consider carefully the importanance and synergy of doing new things.
Offering cheap Postscript turned out to not only be very hard but completely
irrelevent to helping our other products.  We overestimated the threat of
Adobe as a competitor and ended up making them an "enemy", while we hurt
our relationship with Hewlett-Packard and focused on non-Windows specific
issues.  Selecting TrueType as a our font solution and building it into
the system was an excellent design decision despite the immense resources that
has cost us.  TrueType -- our font format -- is separate from TrueImage
-- our Postscript clone.  Printing is critical and we will be involved in
printing software, but in a a different way than we have to date.  The caution
we have shown in making acquisitions is reinforced by this experience.
Category 2
These are problems that are serious but solving them correctly will
provide growth so they can be thought of as opportunities.
DISLIKE OF MICROSOFT/OPENESS:  Our applications have always succeeded
based on their own merit rather than on some benefit of unfair knowledge
of system software.  We need to explain our hardware neutral approach and
the benefits that has generated for end users.  We need to have visible events
on a regular basis where we solicit the input of anyone who wants to influence
our future direction.  If we can institutionalize a process that the world
feels comfortable with, we will strengthen our position incredibly.  This is
going to require a lot more creativity than even the "Open Forums" we are
discussing.  UNIX has OSF and X/Open -- we also need clear ways for
organizations of all types (hardware, ISV, IHV, corporation, universities) to
feel like they have something invested in our approach and can affect our
IBM:  IBM is proposing to take over the definition of PC desktop operating
systems.  This would be a new role for them -- their previous attempts:
Topview and the 3270 control program, did not succeed.  The barriers to thier
success are not only technical but structural.  Why are they willing to lose
so much money on systems software?  The answer is that they have a plan to
design the operating system so that their hardware (MCA) and applications
are tied in.  Our disagreements with IBM over OS/2 were that we wanted to
push 2.0 and they wanted to push 1.3.  Now they have switched to the
strategy that we proposed -- even using our marketing slogan "better windows
than Windows".  We will not attack IBM as a company and even our public
"attacks" on OS/2 will be very professional.  Our strategy is make sure
that we evolve the Windows API and get developers to take advantage of the
new features rapidly, while IBM has a poor product with poor Windows
functionality.  Amazingly they are not cooperating with us on our
compatibility approach called WLO, but are trying the approach we did not
choose of using Windows code itself.  Their lack of cooperation limits WLO
effectiveness and the Windows approach has contractual and technical problems
for them.  We will do almost no work specific to OS/2 2.0 -- we will rely
on their 1.3 compatibility to run our applications and most of our networking
software. Our focus is on OS/2 3.0.  If a cusotmer buys OS/2 2.0, the problem
for us is that they expect to get Extended Edition and perhpas some PM16
applications that may not be on 3.0 so we may have "lost" that customer.
Other than usability, making sure Windows is the winning OS is our highest
priority.  Eventually we need to have at least a neutral relationship with
IBM.  For the next 24 months it may be fairly cold.  If we do succeed, then we
will be done forever with the poor code, poor design, poor process, and other
overhead that doing our best to do what IBM has led us to (for the past five
years).  We can emerge as a better and stronger company where people won't
just say we are the standard because IBM chose us.  In the large accounts
IBM will retain a some of its influence -- this is where our risk is
USABILITY/SUPPORT:  If there is any area we have not paid enough attention
to it is usability/support.  It is really embarrassing that people have to
wait so long on the phone to talk to us about problems in our products.  The
number of customers who get bad impression because of this must number in
the millions worldwide.  Why weren't we hiring at full speed and picking a new
site every day for the last three years?  Why did people keep talking about
support as a profit center?  The creation of support as a channel hid its costs
>from the product groups.  As CEO I take full responsiblity for these mistakes.
Our products can be far more usable and the product groups are focusing on
this opportunity -- particularly the Windows and Windows applications groups.
We will spend what it takes to have the best support (without an 800 number).
I think we can cut the number of phone calls generated by our products to
less than half of what it is today and use training and technology to cut the
length of the phone calls.  However, we shouldn't assume this in our plans to
solve the problem.  Excel 3, Win Word 2 and our BBU products have started to
move us in the right direction.  Hopefully Windows 3.1 will generate a lot less
calls.  The bandwidth of communications between the product groups and PSS
is going up dramatically, but there is still lots of room for creativity.  I
insist that we are able to use our quality of support as a sales tool.
Surveys like the J.D. Powers survey done on cars will become important --
asking people:  How many times were you confused?  How many times did you
have to call?  How good was the service you received?  Fixing this problem
will cost us a lot of profits and we should make that clear to analysis.
With this problem fixed we can really start building some lifetime customers.
Only really usable software can be used by the "rest of the people who have
not bought PCs", so making software more usable expands the market.  Likewise
it is the usability of software that will determine how many people decide to
use only a WORKS-like product or move up to a larger package and it will
determine how many large packages they can easily work with.  Usability is
incredible stuff -- once it is designed it is easy to implement, saves money,
wins market share, makes customers happy and lets them buy more expensive
NETWORKING:  We knew it wasn't going to be easy but it has been even harder
than we expected to build a position in networking.  You will see us
backing off on some of the spending level but don't doubt that we are
totally committed to the business.  Our strategy is to build networking
into the operatin system.  Some of the services will not be in the same box
but they will have been designed, evangelized, implemented and tested as
part of each system release.  What this means is that we will define operations
on and attributes of entities like files, users, machines, mail, printer or
services that users or applications can have access to directly inside the
system software.  Although we will allow connections to different systems we
will make ours the easiest to use by bundling some of them and making all
of them seamless.  Architecting the extensions for these entities including
our evolution of the file system and how we tie in with standards like Novell
and DCE will be Jim Allchins's responsibility even though the implementation
of several of these will be in other parts of the company (for example OS
kernels or Mail).  We are in a race to define these extensions because
Novells' dominance and DCE's popularity could allow them to usurp our role
unless we get a strong message, good tools and great implementations done
fairly quickly.  We will embrace DCE as a weapon agaisnt Novell although
we don't know exactly how to relate to DCE quite yet.  Our strength will
come from Windows, including the advanced implementation based on NT.
TECHNOLOGY:  Technical change is always a challenge for the current
companies in a field.  Even if they recognize that a change is taking place,
they are tied to the past.  New companies will move to exploit the
opportunity.  Our gain in applications is in no small part due to the failure
of existing leaders to listen to what we and other people were saying about
GUI.  Technical change can be a new hardware platform like NeXT, a new type
of machine like Pen or Multimedia, a new software platform like Patriot
Partners, a new category, a redefinition of a category or a much faster
development methodology.  Many of the changes that will take place in PCs
can be anticipated (peformance, memory, screens, motion video), however,
understanding when and how is still quite complex.  Other changes like
linguistics, reasoning, voice recognition or learning are harder to anticipate.
We will reduce our technical risk by strenthening our reltationship with the
research community and having some projects of our own in areas of greatest
importance (development enviroments and linguistics, for example).  Nathan
(and Kay Nishi before him) has pointed out that the transition of consumer
electronics to digital form will create platforms with systems software --
whether it's a touch screen organizer or an intelligent TV.  The need to
work closely with Sony, Philips, Matsushita, Thompson and other Japanese
consumer electronics companies will require people in both Tokyo and Redmond
working with both the research and product groups in these companies.  We
should have an annual exchange of research thinking with most of these
companies similar to what we want to do with MIT or Stanford.  We have the
opportunity to do the best job ever in combining research with development
in the computer field largely because no one has ever done it very well
(although Sun and Apple are also working hard on this).  Nathan's kickoff memo
talks about having the research group use our tools and including program
managment inside the research team.
Our proposition is that all of the exciting new features can be accomodated
as extentions to the existing PC standard.  Others propose that start-from-
scratch approaches are clearer and therefore better.  This is the essence
of the debate with Go, NeXT and Patriot.  To win in this we have to get
there early before significant development momentum builds up behind the
incompatible approach.  The key to our Macintosh strategy was recognizing
that the graphics and process of the PC would not allow us to catch up soon
enought to prevent Mac from acheiving critical mass so we supported it.  Sun
presents a particular challenge to us because they have significant
development backing and high end features to go with their RISC performance.
ARC is the most evolutionary way to get to RISC and it will require a lot of
good execution by us and others for the strategy to succeed.
Our evolutionary proposition should be quite marketable to users -- combined
with hardware neutrality the nessage is "Our software runs today's software
on all (almost) hardware and both today's and tomorrow's software on all
(almost) of tomorrow's hardware".
Category 3
This is a category of challenges we face that I don't feel are widely
PATENTS:  If people had understood how patents would be granted when most
of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry
would be at a complete standstill today.  I feel certain that some large
company will patent some obvious thing related to interface, object orientation,
algorithm, application extension or other crucial technique.  If we assume this
company has no need of any of our patents then the have a 17-year right to take
as much of our profits as they want.  The solution to this is patent exchanges
with large companies and patenting as much as we can.  Amazingly we havn't
done any patent exchanges tha I am aware of.  Amazingly we havn't found a
way to use our licensing position to avoid having our own customers cause
patent problems for us.  I know these aren't simply problems but they deserve
more effort by both Legal and other groups.  For example we need to do  a
patent exchange with HP as part of our new relationship.  In many application
categories straighforward thinking ahead allows you to come up with
patentable ideas.  A recent paper from the League for Programming Freedom
(available from the Legal department) explains some problems with the
way patents are applied to software.
RIGIDITY/PRICING:  In the Autodesk memo, Walker talks about the short term
thinking that high profitability can generate.  He cites specific examples
such as a very conservative approach to giving out free software or a desire
to maintain fixed percentages for the wrong reasons.  Microsoft priced DOS
even lower than we do today to help it get established.  I wonder if we would
be as aggressive today.  This is not a simplistic advocacy for just lowering
our prices -- our prices in the US are about where they should be.  However
the price of success is that people fail to allow the kind of investments
that will lead to incredible profits in the future.  For example we have
gotten away without funding any internal or external research.  Nathan is
working with me to put together a lan that will end up costing $10M
per year about two years from now.  I have no plan to reduce our spending
in some other category by $10M.  Microsoft is good at investing in new
subsidaries and even at investing in new products (database, mail, BBU,
networking).  Most of our rigidity comes when we have a very profitable
product and when the market changes.  In these circumstances we should
spend more or charge less, but our systems locks us into staying the same and
losing share.
My largest concern about price comes from Borland.  Organizations smaller than
Borland will not have enough presence or credibility to use low price against
us broadly  I think 90% of the significant competition we will face in
productivity applications will come from Lotus, WordPerfect, Borland, Claris
and IBM barring technical innovations by small companies.  It is amazing how
similar the applications strategies of Microsoft, Lotus, Borland and Claris
are.  Philippe has a much lower cost structure than Lotus, IBM or Microsoft,
so he can afford to do things we would consider wild.  For example Borland
is considering not offering their Windows word processor separately but
integrating it with Quattro for free -- the technical opportunity and value
would be very strong.  This is very different than Lotus temporarily offering
Ami for free.  Oly immense loyalty to a product at the end user level prevents
corporations from using their buying power to force a cheap site license.
When the US Goverment DOD moves software procurement to a separate contract,
the price per user of software will end up around 0.  Why shouldn't some small
organization price their product at say $1M for the entire US Government for
all time?  We would if we were small and hungry.  Fortunately most organizations
don't force cheap software on their end users.
Another price concern that I have is that companies will eventually equip
all the employees that need software with a full complement of packages,
and our only revenue opportunity will be upgrades or ephermeral information.
although this problem is over five years away, I think it is important to
keep in mind.
Readers of this memo may feel that I have give applications too little air
time.  I don't mean to downplay their importance at all.  Applications have
been the primary engine of growth (especially in International) over the past
two years.  Although Windows' success is necessary for Microsoft applications
to succeed is not sufficient.  Other ISVs will be there early with good
applications fully exploiting the environment (Notes, Ami, Designer), so
exploitation is only half of the job.  The need to "reinvent" categories and
the way they relate to each other is crucial for all of our applications. I
will be writing up some of my ideas for big changes in applications.
The simplest summary is to repeat our strategy in its simplest form --
"Windows -- one evolving architecture, a couple of implementations and a
immense number of great applications from Microsoft and others."  The
evolution refers to the additon of pen, audio, multimedia, networking,
macro language, 32-bit, advanced graphics, setup, a better file system,
and a lot of usability.  The "a couple of implementations" is a somewhat
humorous reference to the fact that our NT based versions and our non-NT
versions have a different code in a number of areas to allow us to have both
the advanced features we want and be fairly small on the Intel architecture.
Eventually we will get back t one implementation but it will take four years
before we use NT for everything.  I would not use this simple summary for
outside consumption -- there it would be more like "Windows -- one evolving
architecture with hardware freedom for all users and freedom to chose amongst
the largest set of applications."
Although the challenges should make us quite humble about the years to come
I think our position (best sofware company setting many desktop
"standards") is an enviable one and our people are the best.  The opportunity
for us if we execute this strategy is incredible.

Raikes, and Gar Gigot.  consider

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