Dr. Stephen J. Krune III, President and CEO of Webscape Corp., has defiantly declared the Webscape internet browser "a significant threat to the computing world". Krune is an iconoclast who enjoys discussing his unique personal philosophy, which is a fusion of Gandhi and Heinrich Himmler. He can often be found at trade shows with his personal assistant and father, Rev. Stephen J. Krune, Jr., from whom he wrested control of the company three years ago. Dr. Krune recently invited PC Week to interview him at the Webscape headquarters in New York.
The following is an excerpt from the interview.
PC WEEK: While most eyes are focused on the battle between Netscape and Microsoft, Webscape has been on one of the longest software development projects in history. The question many industry leaders are asking is, "When will a Webscape product emerge from beta-testing?"
KRUNE: I'm glad you brought that up. The reason why our products stay in beta so long is that we are focused totally on quality. Our motto is "Quality is Job One"--one of our Senior VP's came up with that one. So that is why we choose to wait until we have a mature product before releasing the full version.
PC WEEK: Five years of development--some are asking, when if ever will the Webscape browser see the light of day?
KRUNE: I would swear to God right now that we are going to release [the Webscape browser] Q4 1998. I have assured stockholders of this. They are convinced. I can convince anyone of anything.
PC WEEK: Perhaps one of Webscape's more controversial practices has been marketing and actually selling copies of its software, while still in beta or pre-beta form. How do you address this?
KRUNE: We won't sell software that isn't rock-solid. The Webscape betas have stood the test of time. We still get calls into tech support on an early Webscape 2.0 beta. I think the last time anyone touched that code was early 1993. So it's still out there, and people are still trying--people are still getting it to work. And, when you consider the way the market has been moving, that is pretty amazing.
PC WEEK: PC/Computing recently featured one of the more recent betas. How do you react to their review, "Land of One Thousand Bugs"?
KRUNE: I think this means that Webscape is finally getting noticed by the big boys. We are grabbing marketshare fast, according to our own studies. Getting noticed by the popular trade journals helps a great deal.
PC WEEK: A few analysts have suggested that the Webscape browser project is a victim of its size--that having dozens of "lead programmers" on a single project is excessive, and is contributing to a schizophrenic piece of software burdened with millions of lines of spaghetti code that no one can decipher anymore.
KRUNE: I will take the heat for bringing diversity to our browser project. I want to hear voices outside of the computer industry. I want input and leadership from people who are totally ignorant about computers. With all those lead programmers, what we really have is a team. We have forged a great team. Why have one guy imposing his vision on the rest of us? We want several people to do that.
PC WEEK: A well-known reviewer has recently called for "the public resignation and suicide" of Webscape's design team for "flagrantly violating copyright, trademark, and piracy laws". Your response?
KRUNE: The people we have gotten to purchase our browsers don't seem to agree. And in light of [Lead Programmer] Doherty's recent violent suicide, I'd say it's in pretty poor taste.
PC WEEK: Would you agree or disagree with the assessment that Webscape is an embattled, directionless company, caught in a death-spiral with no hope of redeeming a history of missed deadlines, bug-ridden, unuseable programs, and questionable business practices?
KRUNE: Off the top of my head--I'd say disagree. Strongly disagree. The moment you said that, I thought, "I disagree strongly with that." I'm being totally honest here.
PC WEEK: Aside from the Webscape browser, are there any other products from your company that might make it out of beta testing in the next year?
KRUNE: Actually, we are on the verge of releasing a new 32-bit clock program for Windows. It's in final beta testing, and it has some pretty exciting features. Is there an easier way of telling what time it is? I don't think so.
We're also very close to releasing the Webscape Anti-Virus Seek and Destroy program. There was a huge demand for a product that could scan software, such as downloads from the Webscape site, for viruses. Our anti-virus solution has a new twist: it works silently, without bothering the user, and utterly destroys any virus it sees. And I personally guarantee that it will find viruses that no one else can find. It's version 1.0, and we've already got a team working on version 1.1. I see this product as being a big success for us.
PC WEEK: There is talk that the Webscape Screen Saver might make its revised ship date of Q3 1999.
KRUNE: Oh yes. This project is one that I am very proud of, and I think the wait will have been worth it. As the months stretched into years, many were hasty in condemning our commitment to the Webscape Screen Saver. But then none of them have seen it; neither have I, in fact. It uses its own proprietary database engine, which my nephew developed himself, and it basically replaces half the files on your computer. It is that revolutionary. And it goes well beyond the scope of a screen saver. I think the reviewers are going to be scratching their heads trying to accurately describe it. I can't even say for sure what it is.
PC WEEK: What is going to be the most important development in the computer industry at the turn of the century?
KRUNE: I see the screen saver as re-assuming its rightful place as King of the Applications. I think the Internet is clearly a fluke, and our browser development is going more in the direction of proprietary, document-orieted hyper-extensions as a result. Basically I see the Webscape browser, which we do hope to release this year, as more of an oddity. One secret I can let out of the bag now: the Mac will become the most important platform in the computing world. Why? Because we have started development on an operating system for it. Written completely in Java. That's where the battlefield is.
I think it was Gandhi, or maybe Himmler, who once said, "The greatest victory is borne of terrified panic." We at Webscape may seem to be panicking. It's a surprisingly common misunderstanding. I am crazy--like a fox.