Network Magic: Safe in Microsoft's Shadow


Writing a piece of software that makes Windows work better can be a dangerous career. Microsoft has been known in the past to "absorb" some of the better ideas out there, putting third-party developers out of business. The most notorious was linking the Web browser to Windows, which led to Netscape's demise. Other companies now sit in Microsoft's cross hairs. One is VMWare, which makes sophisticated software aimed at corporate users and says Microsoft is trying to steal its business.

So why does Jeff Erwin purport to feel safe at Pure Networks, which makes a slick piece of software called Network Magic? The utility makes it easier for Windows users to manage a simple network, something you might think Microsoft would already do for its millions of home users.

But Microsoft cares much less about consumers than it does about business users, says Erwin, Pure Network's CEO and a former Microsoft exec. As an example, he points to options in Windows to restrict file sharing to certain peopleĀ–that's important on corporate networks but confusing at home, where frustrated users just want their computers to link up. Network Magic does away with those user-specific restrictions, putting a simpler face on hooking together PCs.

Microsoft focuses on businesses because they fork over the lion's share of the software giant's sales and profits. Erwin is counting on consumers remaining an afterthought at the software giant: "That will leave plenty of room for products like ours."