Microsoft As Internet King?

(This column first appeared in the February 26, 1996 issue of PC Graphics Report)

A press release from Microsoft regarding their Professional Developers Conference in San Francisco, March 12-14, drew my attention this week, as it was touting itself as “One of the Biggest Internet Events of the Year”. According to the release, Microsoft plans to unveil technologies and tools for Internet development at the IPDC, and Bill Gates himself will be featured as a speaker, to share his vision for the Internet.

Now, last I knew, Microsoft was still scrambling to catch up to the rest of the Internet market. They killed Blackbird, their authoring tool for Microsoft Network in favor of an Internet specific version, thereby killing that product’s schedule (due in the summer now). In terms of other Internet technology, they have a Web browser which they are trying to give away (it is a pretty reasonable one). The same goes for a Web server. Their Web site this last week has had the response time of overloaded mainframes in the late ’70s. According to some pundits, the Web links contained in Bill Gates new book don’t work. Microsoft’s ActiveVRML specification, submitted to the VRML Architecture Group as a candidate for VRML 2.0, has been lambasted by participants in the open VRML debates on-line. Finally, Microsoft found itself so blindsided by the rapid pace of Internet market development that this week they finally went and created a focus division to address the Internet. And this company is promoting the IPDC as a must-see event? To add insult to injury, they’re charging attendees over $1000 to hear Microsoft spout off on their vision of the future of the Internet. I find this ironic, but also very typical of Microsoft. Then again, it’s typical of most companies and individuals: If one says something often enough (i.e. “We are Internet experts and innovators and people want us to lead them boldly into the future because they know that we know what’s best for them…”), they start to believe it themselves, and sometimes it comes true.

Certainly, Microsoft is no 98-pound weakling, but it has lost the first several battles in the Internet war, and needs to do some serious work to regain the upper hand. I question,however, whether Microsoft has finally met its match in the Internet.

By the way, if you have $1,045 you’d like to donate to Microsoft, and would like to attend the IPDC, call 800.545.8240 or sent e-mail to msevent@cci.cmgt.carlson.com.

Digital Watermark Revisited
I received some comments back about my column last week regarding the digital watermark. One reader wondered whether or not I had been mistaken in the following phrase: “Unlike previous methods, NEC’s method places a watermark in perceptually significant components of a signal.”

The “significant” is correct. A broader explanation is that while the watermark is placed in a perceptually significant part of a signal, the watermark itself is just a noise signature that is itself unperceived. It has to be placed in a perceptually significant part of an image, for example, so that any attempt to modify the image to extract the watermark will also damage the image. I hope that clears things up.