Innovation since the ‘70s
“The other thing we’ve seen is an end to CPU innovation. We used to see a lot of really radical new designs happening all the time, but we don’t see that happening anymore. Basically we’ve got three architectures that we use for most of our stuff: virtually all the computers are on Intel, most of the game platforms are on Power PCs, most of the mobile devices are on ARM, and that’s it. Nobody’s making new stuff, nothing radical, it’s just refinements of stuff that’s been happening for several decades.
“We’re doing even worse in operating systems. It used to be that every model of every machine had its own operating system, and that came with a lot of obvious inefficiency, so we’ve pushed that down and now we have just two: we’ve got Unix which was developed in the ‘70s, and we’ve got Windows that was developed in the ’80s. Of the two, Unix is obviously the better one, but there’s no innovation happening in operating systems. Basically we’ve been rewriting the same systems for 40 years. That’s just not where we do innovation. Where we do innovation is in programming languages, and that’s been going on for quite a long time.” (link)
“Software development comes in leaps, and our leaps are much farther apart than the hardware experiences. Moore’s Law lets the hardware leap every two years; we leap more like every twenty years. Again, basically we need a generation to retire before we can get the good new ideas going, so despite the fact that we’re always talking about innovation and how we love innovation and we’re always innovating, we tend to be extremely conservative in the way we adopt new technology.” (Link)
“Basically, [Brendan Eich] took these components: he took the syntax of Java, he took the function model of Scheme—which was brilliant, one of the best ideas in the history of programming languages—and he took the prototype objects from Self. He put them together in a really interesting way, really fast; he completed the whole thing in a couple of weeks. It’s a shame that he wasn’t given the freedom that Xerox had to spend a decade to get this right. Instead of ten years it was more like ten days, and that was it. I challenge any language designer to come up with a brand new design from scratch in ten days and then release it to the world and call it done and see what happens with that.
“One of the consequences of it was that there are parts of it that are just awful. If they’d had more time they probably would have recognized that and fixed it, but they didn’t. Netscape was not a company that had time to get it right, which is why there’s no longer a Netscape.
A great time to be a programmer
Mythology of innovation
“It was very clear at the time that there was a lot of excitement about Java and the Netscape browser, and Sun and Netscape decided they needed to work together against Microsoft because if they didn’t join forces Microsoft would play them off against each other and they’d both lose. The biggest point of contention in that arrangement was what to do with LiveScript. Sun’s position was: “Well, we’ll put Java into the Netscape browser, we’ll kill LiveScript, and that’ll be that.” And Netscape said no, that they really believed in the HyperCard-like functionality, and they wanted a simpler programming model in order to capture a much larger group of programmers.
The destruction of Microsoft
“At Microsoft they’d been watching this with some alarm, particularly when folks at Netscape were saying that Netscape Navigator was going destroy Microsoft. Microsoft said ‘oh, we don’t want to be destroyed’. It turned out Netscape Navigator didn’t destroy Microsoft. In fact, the software that is going to destroy Microsoft is Windows Mobile.” (Link)