back to article How did we all end up with Windows?

It's amazing how many people who have Microsoft Windows everywhere look flummoxed when asked whether Windows is their "standard" for desktop computing. The reason they are thrown by this question is typically because they haven't thought about it that way before. In all likelihood, they never actually made a proactive decision …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows & Sage as Default

    I must say, Windows is fine for what it dose. Yes, it isent quight as good as othere OS's in some areas, but so what?

    IT guys seem to lose sight sometimes. IT is not there to force the hottest OS on people. Unix may be easy to use now, but how many people in your buisness are ok with Windows? I know 90% of the people I work with arnt, and they have been using it for years at work and home. Its better to accept it and worry about stuff that realy matters, like what accounts program to use, where users will notice the diffrence. The only time it is worth worrying about is if the majority of your users are worryd about what OS they use.

    Sage on the other had is a diffrent matter. Its not very good (I find), but better than the big buisness apps, SAP and Orical. This matters, because the people using it are accountants and will see the diffrences in the programs.

    Ultmatly IT suport is a service Job. Yes, put forward your views when the time comes to look into changing OS, but dont push it, and accept when people dont want to change.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Microsoft Default Phenomenon

    Although Microsoft Windows, Office, SharePoint, Unified Communications, AntiGen, might not be the best in business, they are the most commonly known.

    It's most reliable for a company to pay top buck for a Windows XP/Vista System for the standard worked than to acquire a desktop with free Linux. And that reliability resumes on a thing a call "Informatics Common Sense".

    And for this kind of "Common Sense" I mean that almost anyone knows how to get around Windows and Office quite well without any training because, it's all around us. Everyone has interacted with windows and office outside the ofice, so, it's easy to get a new employee to start right away with windows as with linux, the most of new employees of a company running Linux on the desktops will need training and will not be very effective in the fist year because they are too used to work with windows.

  3. Andrew Moore

    My 2 cents...

    We ended up with MS Windows because Microsoft aggressively muscled itself into every niche. It goes all the way back to MSDOS. There where competitive products such as PCDOS and DRDOS but Microsoft leveraged its position to make sure that it came out on top. The same with GEM and how MS blind sided IBM over OS/2 Warp. When I started in the IT business your standard "office" products were DBase, Lotus 1-2-3 and Wordstar (with some preferring Word Perfect). Today it's Access, Excel and Word. And on top of that when each new release of Windows came out, it came with new applications designed to wipe out popular software. The biggest was IE, in a very late response to Netscape. Other casualities are MP3 players like WinAmp and compression agents like Winzip. And coming soon- AntiVirus products (yes, I remember well the last abortion of an anti-virus system that Microsoft foisted on us).

    At the end of the day it's up to people like me (an IT professional) to educate users to alternatives to Microsoft. I'm doing very well in persuading friends and family to upgrade to Firefox and I've now started turning people to OpenOffice. Now all we need is a polished front-end to hang them off of.

  4. Steve Browne


    The problem of defaulting lies in the amount of time and skill required to establish a proper requirements document. If what you have works for 'free' then why spend money searching for a means of improving it with no means of determining whether any improvement was achieved. It is the supremacy of mediocrity over real need.

    Few companies wish to spend anything on IT. They also go to the wrong places for 'advice'. Ask an accountant which software to use, answer:- Sage. Why? because it is what we use. MYOB is better value, it has lower purchase costs and includes additional functionality, Quickbooks is highly recommended too, but an accountant will still recommend Sage because it is what they are used to.

    They may have 'consultancy' divisions. But, why ask a vested interest what you should be doing. They seem to know, hmmm, and what do they seem to know ? All of the major frauds perpetrated by large corporations have been overseen by the major accountants. So, why would you trust someone who is looking after their own pockets and not yours. Corporate mangers do though.

    Reports of problems are sanitised because junior managers do not want to be the bearer of bad news. It it isnt upbeat and on message, then they dont want to hear it. Why do they look for something beyond their control to blame for their miserable performance. How many blame strikes for their poor performance. Perhaps if they didnt cause strikes in the first place life would be better for them (and their long suffering customers).

    Mediocrity rules, because no one has the balls to tell their boss his talking through his arse.

    I have seen charts displayed as THE defining fact. Yet, I was sitting next to the person who was inventing the figures to make the charts look good. They weren't a fact, they were fiction. But it was an impressive PowerPoint presentation, it looked good, shame about the content. The same company lost its CEO some time later for misleading shareholders, perhaps if they hadnt misled themselves first they woudl actually have done their jobs and made something for shareholders. (These two facts are not directly related, they are to assert that CEOs have no idea where the figures on which they base their judgment, orginate).

    Employees rarely care about their employer. Why should they, there is no job for life any more, the employer does not care (or pretend to care) about their employees. Now, a career is managed by job hopping. Is this really how you want your business run. So, sit tight, dont upset the staus quo, dont rock the boat, follow the herd and look to jump ship as soon as possible, hopefully onto a higher deck and follow the same prescriptive route.

    Follow this path, and you find mediocrity is entrenched. ther eis no thought abotu what is used, who cares, they arent going to be here for long anyway. Stick with the defaults

  5. Bob Hughes

    If Not Windows, what else?

    What would a group of even a household choose if it were not windows?

    Even though in my home I have windows on the 4 pc's that are used reqularly, I'm running 3 different versions of Windows. XP Pro on 2, Vista Home on a new laptop and XP Pro 64 on a new gaming machine.

    What would I run to replace Windows, and would it be more funtional and less devergant that 3 versions of windows?

  6. Kwac

    Microsoft have always been better at marketing than software.

    Add to that dubious business dealings, untrained showroom staff, locked-in contracts with suppliers, et al and it's clear why "we" all ended up with Windows.

  7. Landis McGauhey

    re: "How did we all end up with Windows?"

    As much as my gut hates monopoly (and in particular loves to hate Micro$oft!), my brain knows there are no easy explanations or answers. Whilst monopoly generally is bad for consumers, standardization is good for many consumers, especially business. An optimum standard, however, isn't guaranteed by monopoly. For example, few open-minded consumers would deny, all other things being equal, the Mac is more functional than the PC. On the other hand, through standardization, few get stuck with eight-track, RCA video disc, or betamax. The issue then, is not standardization, but how to get there. Industry consensus (often by way of working group or committee) theoretically is preferable to monopoly, but also can be plodding (witness the current finger-drumming wait for the next-generation DVD standard). Industry consensus also can have at least as many anti-competitive concerens as monopoly and is no guarantee of the best alternative. The best we can hope for is Abraham Lincoln's "you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time". Thus I look forward to a day when Mac, Solaris, Linux and operating systems as yet unknown equitably share the desktop with Windo$e.

    Best regards.

  8. Rich Bryant

    Piracy as a Business Tool

    Originally, of course, MS DOS, Windows and Office had no real form of copy protection with the result that millions of people took MS products home with them, installed them and used them at home. And when they moved jobs, the environment they already knew was....

    You could refer to it as self-training, i suppose. Also, let's not forget that Home packages and Small Business packages can be extremely attractive to those who want their year's free support (plus vast range of choice in Ms/Windows professionals) but don't have a great deal to spend.

    The piracy option is slowly dying (despite Steve Bulmer's recent comments) due to that copy protection but it's really too late for that to make a huge amount of difference at this stage.

    As for other "defaults", look no further than Google. "Do No Evil" has become more and more of a bad joke over the years culminating in Google profiting from the apparent destruction of the usable Web.

    ( explains it better than i can).

  9. Mark Land

    It is not everywhere

    Linux/Unix is still majority web server technology fact. I guess OS X is strong within design/publishing community. It is a big generalisation to say "we all" when that is obviously not true. But as for the abundance of Windows on the Desktop, that is probably due to Bill getting lucky with MS-DOS and Microsoft's anti-competitive nature locking us in to closed standards like Office, DirectX etc. (luckily not ActiceX). Then after a time we all got used to rebooting, applications locking up, viruses, malware, annoying wizards, unhelpful blaming error messages etc being the norm and forgot that 20 years ago secure, robust multi-user systems were widely used all be it in large organisations. It was called Unix.

  10. Martin Gregorie

    How Windows became the default

    I started using Word in the mid 80s when it was quite simply the best WP available. At the time DOS wasn't the best OS for small machines (MicroWare's OS9 had that distinction) but it was good enough.

    Why the PC? There were equally good small, computers around when it surfaced but all were from unknown startups. When IBM launched the PC the business world realised that this was something they should look at because they'd heard of IBM. Microsoft sort of went along for the ride. Word for DOS was available from an early stage and it creamed the opposition (Wordstar and WordPerfect) with sheer ease of use and speed.

    Windows was well behind first Xerox and then Apple and its first versions were unusable: it wasn't worth desk space before Windows 3, but once that was released those businesses using Word went along for the ride because migrating (and taking all those Word documents with you) was both easier than moving to the new-fangled Mac and cheaper because the existing PCs could be used as is or upgraded.

    The bottom line: IBM and MS Word made Windows the default together with a little help from Lotus 123.

  11. Kevin Hall

    Whole premise is wrong...

    Despite all the bullshit rhetoric about Microsoft and juvenile insults (Micro$oft...) the entire premise is crap. Hegemony is the default in every area of business from supermarkets to fast food. McDonald's is another hyper-monopoly but is anyone going to argue we pick their food because it's "the best." Microsoft is a natural conclusion to hyper-capitalism that's been growing for the past 30 years. The fact it's Microsoft is totally unimportant, there are no benevolent corporations, if it wasn't Microsoft someone else would have adopted the same position and the same tactics. In almost any field of business the days of real competition are in clear retreat as the current incumbents have such mass no one can shift them. Juggernauts like Tesco and Wal-Mart have profound implications on the way we live that go way beyond the petty arguments of what operating system we use. We ended up with Microsoft as our de facto software house because that is the absolute inevitability of the system of capitalism we have. Companies like Microsoft build up such a huge footprint that the technical successes or failings of their products are merely details, what matters is they have such momentum competitors might as well not bother. I can't even believe we are still having this debate with every Clueless Joe still thinking the problem is Microsoft when really Microsoft are just the symptom of how we choose to do business.

  12. Robert E A Harvey

    I blame Acorn

    When the IBM AT was still struggling under Dos 5 and xtree-gold, Acorn were selling the archimedes with the RISCos desktop. Up till then the only WYSIWYG word processors ran under X-windows on unix workstations (Wysiword, anyone?). A 5122 archimedes is still fast, certainly faster than a 1Ghz pc running XP.

    Had they even half a clue about marketing, instead of selling to hobbyists and schools, the entire world would have adopted RISCos instead of windows.

    And then there are the printer manufacturers, who abandoned page description languages and published printer codes in favour of doing the work under windows, and then discovering that they had no way to port to other operating systems. OF COURSE the printer is cheap - you have paid the extra for the PC.

    Harvey's fourth law of engineering: ubiquity is no indicator of excellence.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Training not required...?

    "Are there areas like desktop operating systems where a pervasive default is a good thing to drive consistency, economies with regard to skill sets, etc?"

    This is one of the most common statements in favour of standard software.

    However, the myth of "training not required" is insidious and misleading. I don't know anyone who has ever been trained to use MS Word. I know a few managers and accountants who've been trained in Excel. But we're all expected to know and use these applications in our day-to-day work. We find workarounds, hacks and the like, and very few people learn how much can be done quickly with simple keystrokes -- everyone falls back to using the mouse. Lack of training is an impediment to our operational efficiency.

    Unfortunately, efficiency is hard to measure or stick a price on. Training courses come packaged and priced and ready to go. We can't sell a training proposition to our masters on grounds of cost savings. We can only push it through where we can mark it as a necessity -- and that means new systems and tech refresh.

    Now, I do realise that this is not an inevitable side-effect of standardisation, but it is a side-effect of the interaction of standardisation and business thinking, which is what the article was really about.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Short term v. long term

    I've spent over 30 years doing IT in a very large multinational company, and it was with a growing alarm that I watched MS gradually becoming the default IT option. Yes, some of it was without any doubt the result of cynical MS ploys -- DRDOS and Netscape stories spring readily to mind. And yes, more generally there was the nefarious "embrace, extend and extinguish tactic". But all of that came later. Such games could be only played once MS got themselves into a position of dominance. Essentially what boosted them into orbit was the consistent failure to appreciate the risks of "convenience features" of their software -- certainly by their customers, and quite likely by MS themselves. While the rest of the IT industry were scratching their heads over the complex and seemingly intractable issues inherent in the increasingly interconnected world, the MS approach was simply to ignore such problems. I well recall warning my company that Word macros were heaven-sent for malware writers -- how did MS-heads laugh! And as we all know, within a few years Word viruses became the predominant form of malware in existence. Remember ActiveX? That was "dejavu all over again". But naturally enough, every time it took a while to for the inevitable trouble to materialise, and in the meantime IT users and managers embraced the short-term convenience of MS tools.

    Some argue that despite all of this, overall MS dominance has been a Good Thing, bringing in the (default) standardisation, which had eluded the IT industry before that. And yes, there is some truth in that. But it needs to be weighed against the costs. E.g. the cost of stagnation -- MS may portray themselves as a company of innovation, but their actual track record does not support this; just look at the way IE stagnated until Firefox came along. Or the cost inherent in the subversion of open protocols -- just ask people who have to construct browser-neutral dynamic websites! Plus the cost of defending oneself (and sometimes failing to defend oneself) against malware enabled by MS "innovations". And the there is, of course the simple, plain financial cost of the stuff -- does anybody seriously believe Vista would have been priced the way it is, except for the MS de facto monopoly position? Yeah, sure...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Level Playing Field for Linux

    All nations must mandate that any notebook offered with Windows pre-installed must also be offered with Linux pre-installed and supported. Unless consumers can choose their factory supported pre-install OS, the Windows monopoly will remain illegal.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Standardization of Defaults

    Defaulting only becomes a problem when some one claims ownership of it. Many countries are finally showing an awareness of this and demanding interoperability for file formats and network protocols. But the real hook that they need to address is the connection between the computer and the user. The 'look and feel' factor all the way down to the shortcut keys need to be defined as open standards through a regulatory group like ISO or POSIX. Until the user can switch between alternative applications without feeling completely lost, software companies will continue to 'lock in' customers and our options will remain to follow the crowd with the default option or risk isolating ourselves for trying something new.

    IBM gave us the 'IBM PC standard' and the hardware industry boomed because they knew their products would have a place as long as they conformed to the standards. Microsoft Windows provided a standard video and audio API to programmers and the software market flooded with new applications as a result.

    But the danger lies in who is allowed to control the standards. For example: Microsoft controls DirectX which is the default for most games on the market. Most users today do not feel the need to upgrade from 'XP to Vista. Microsoft can force users to upgrade to Vista by making DirectX 10 incompatible with 'XP. Now users are shelling out $$$ for an OS they don't want because Microsoft controls the defaults that we are all addicted to.

  17. Brian Murray

    Is it Windows .. or is it Office?

    I always follow these debates with great interest.

    In general, and this is showing no signs of being an exception, people are drawn (for good reasons, cultural reasons, orotherwise) to wanting to use Microsoft Office for complete and ongoing compatibility with other people and with employee experience.

    This then means they need to use Windows. I have rarely found more compelling reasons.

    I do wonder if Microsoft Office was a more open product - just how popular Windows would really be.

    But if we can't do without Windows, can we minimise the number of instances to support? - Absolutely!

    But do people exploit thin client, remote desktops, etc? .... Not really.

    Why not? ........ cost? (Certainly not, all studies show otherwise) ...Technical practicality? (Not that either, not for a long time now) ... The answer tends to be far simpler and more wide spread - Cultural interia!!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A big difference

    Cisco has gotten to be the "default" choice in networking, on merit. Their irons more-or-less ARE the cost-effective option, if you consider the time spent debugging an expense of selecting cheaper solutions.

    Microsoft has gotten their position more-or-less by getting OEM deals to make sure the user already has atleast something from Microsoft on their desktop. There's a difference right there: Cisco got to be the standard by having good products, and excellent service. Microsoft got their "default" status by being shrewd salesmen, and using strongarm monopolistic tactics towards any alternative.

    I'm not saying Microsoft is all wrong. Recently they have done a lot to clear away the quality problems with their products. For example: Vista is a definite step in the right direction, especially when all the functionality actually works as advertised (sometime around SP2), instead of pretending to do (UAC based on executable name, anyone?). Microsoft has had some pretty nifty ideas in the past aswell, only to have failed miserably during implementation of these.

    This is not saying that "Cisco is all good" aswell. There are a lot of products out there that seemingly only serves the purpose of ruining Cisco's reputation. the 600 and 700 series routers are among this, and I seriously think you can do better in the pricerange that Linksys is advertised. But you can do much worse aswell, even by getting more expensive boxen. However I'm maybe not the best to ask about the quality of cheap routers, when I insist on running nothing short of a 2621 for my private broadband, simply because A) I already had one spare, and B) Using a 3640 or 7505 would be TOO overkill.


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EC "fines" Microsoft for abusing monopoly..?

    It ended up with Windows as the "default" because Microsoft has always been able to abuse its relative monopoly without fear of any penalty whatsoever. The way Bill Gates gave his "evidence" to the US Dept of Justice anti-trust hearings was an excellent demonstration of how he, and his corporation, don't believe that they are actually subject to any laws at all, and that "regulation" is just an irritation to their market dominance.

    The EC rulings on Microsoft's monopoly abuse were welcome but the threatened "fines" have never actually been imposed, and now Microsoft is taking the p*ss by dragging out the proceedings, with no intention of ever paying a penny. And for all of its posturing on "piracy", Microsoft is without doubt the biggest pirate of all - just read some of the Register articles on their IP theft from companies they reckon are too small to do anything about it (the saga being a wonderfully refreshing exception - search for them on Google!).

    Although a couple of my machines are dual boot (Linux and Win2k), most use just Linux - I've never paid a penny for anti-virus software and don't intend starting now. But more importantly, I don't intend to subsidise an aggressive, predatory, convicted US monopolist intellectual property thief... one that might well be coming to a significant plateau in its quest for world dominance...

  20. Richard Kay

    Is Vista good enough ?

    In the case of my 87 year old father, having to spend 20 hours of his time and with Asian helpdesk personnel trying to get Vista to work on his new Dell computer wasn't good enough. The quickest way to get him online was to put Ubuntu on it. An hour later he was online, printing and sending emails with no problems.

  21. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Apps are the key

    Over the years Microsoft has resisted any product that competed with their two main product lines, Windows and Office.

    IBM's OS/2 was better than Windows 3.1, but it had to offer compatibility and the ability to run Windows applications. It almost worked but I'm sure Microsoft did all it could to ensure it failed.

    Applications are the key, most people choose their computer, games console and movie format around what they wish to use or view on it.

    One thing Microsoft can't easily stop is Open Source, there's no company to bankrupt. This is why Microsoft keeps on about patents and IP, mostly Ballmer hinting about IP and how Linux "stole our code".

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The reason why is because Windows is the most usable mass market OS. It's easy to use. Terms like KDE or Gnome on Red Hat or SuSE Linux against 'Microsoft Windows Vista'.

    Everyone hates this phrase, but for the vast majority of what end-users want to acomplish Windows just works. There's little need to download this and that and the other. Since Linux has been mainstream, the UI in Windows is pretty much rock solid. It's not seen as an application layer on a OS, but it's seen as the OS itself. Why? Because it just works.

    Yeah, there's malware and viruses and you need to pay for it and other products are locked out - but for the end user it just does the job. Hardware is nearly always compatible, as is software.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's also about help and support...

    I am a Mac fan who moved over to windows when my employer moved to Windows. I am not a luddite and a confident technically-minded PC user.

    I have no great love of windows and actually tried a Linux distro a few years back, attached to a massive instructional tome. I spent 48 hours just trying to change the display resolution, hunting through the book and the net before giving up and going back to Windows in disgust.

    I've just put a current version of Linux back on an otherwise obsolete PC and am trying to learn how to use it., albeit via a GUI. After a blind-alley of installing software, I now know about RPM files and it's far more user-friendly than last time, but again, to install a new program and be unable to find it afterwards in any of the in-built search tools, it is far from 100% intuitive.

    This time I have persevered and more help is available - I found it after some googling on where to look - and I love its speed and office-like apps. There is some way to go before I feel I could put Linux on, say, my grandfather's PC and expect him 'just to work it out'. I don't feel the same about XP, clunky and slow though it is.

  24. Andy Bright

    Good Marketing and Stupidity.

    The stupidity was not that of users.

    It was the stupidity of those many corporations that had significantly better computers than IBM compatibles (which was the 'default' name for PC back in the day), and significantly better operating systems than the various incarnations of MS-DOS.

    So at a time when many of these corporations held huge market shares outside of the mainframe world, for some reason they just rolled over and played dead when Microsoft and IBM said they had the only computer and operating system you should take seriously.

    Why should users shoulder the blame when almost no one they trusted argued that perhaps these other computers and operating systems weren't just "game computers" or "home computers", they were in fact more capable of running word processors, spreadsheets and databases than anything running MS-DOS or one of its many variants.

    They were more reliable - which doesn't mean they didn't have viruses, didn't crash and didn't lose all your data - they just did it a lot less.

    Computers capable of 3D rendering, fully capable of auto configuring hardware, had standardised video and sound chipsets, multi processors - capable of video editing, pre-emptive multitasking, and many of the things Windows only truly introduced in the last 5 years were available on computers in the 80s.. and cost no more than two colour, no sound, PCs.

    I'll bet Microsoft were in fits of laughter and disbelief when the only answer they had for that "Yes but you can't take a computer like that seriously, it's only for games and hobbies" was swallowed whole by more or less everyone.

    Then they had Intel - a company that managed to convince even people who should have known better, that megahertz was everything. Yes, yes I know they have multiple processors that share the load, operate more efficiently, produce the same result with half the required processing cycles of ours. But our processors are capable of running at 30% more processing cycles than theirs, so ours must be better.. Apparently we had a huge problem with math.

    If it takes twice as long to produce the same result on the equivalent processor, why does giving the lesser processor 30% extra make it better? Wouldn't it need to be 100% faster to produce the same thing in the same time? Possibly, but only if you don't take into account that these other computers then shared the load between multiples of their more efficient technology.

    Thus one computer could edit live video in real time, the other could update a database entry quite quickly.

    The truly odd thing was that only a tiny fraction of the population wondered just how fast such a computer would be if you tied all it's resources to more mundane tasks.

    But like I said, the problem was not the users - the problem was the corporations behind these computers decided to take all the bullshit lying down while they tried to figure out how to buy a corporate jet or whether their logo was big enough on the side of one of their buildings.

    You want to know what the really crazy thing is? Why I said Good Marketing and Stupidity?

    The same people that told us fancy graphics and all those processors where just for games and hobbies have managed to turn not only games and hobbies into the reason we buy computers - but that this is now more important than more mundane things, like reliability, security, efficiency.

    If it wasn't so sad, if it wasn't the reason technical innovation was effectively held back 10-20 years, you'd have to say it was brilliant.

  25. jubtastic1

    Pre-installed FTW

    Ultimately Linux, or more specifically the open source croud will win this war, because free and good enough always beats commercial software, MS knew this well enough when they dumped IE on the market.

    The battle though, is convincing consumers to dump 'valued' commercial software (Windows) pre-installed on computers for 'Free' OSS, in this instance it makes more sense in the current climate to take the windows, and it'll remain the better option until computers without windows are *considerably* cheaper.

    The last time Reg did a story on buying a Dell with Linux I seem to remember it cost more and had less hardware than the default, perhaps things have changed, any chance of an update on that Mr Reg?

  26. Chris Miller

    It's the apps, stupid!

    Nobody (OK, hardly anybody) buys a computer because of the OS, they want to run applications, be it games, financial software, document handling, ... Which OS offers the greatest choice of software? - M$.

    If you're a software developer, which OS are you going to target? Whether you're developing commercially or freeware just for bragging rights, you want to reach the largest audience, hence M$ again. We have a virtuous (or vicious if you prefer to think of it that way) circle.

    In simple terms, there's a strong tendency for one OS to dominate, and the current example of that is M$. There are other contributory factors (commercial operations will want to minimise the number of OSs in use, in order to reduce support costs), but IMHO it's the apps wot won it.

  27. Keith Doyle

    Windows is convoluted, but at least it's flexible...

    Disclosure: I prefer Unix/Linux but have plenty of Windows experience....

    Recently I had the opportunity to aid a friend of mine in setting up his new iMac. While I'm not a Mac guy, being an IT guy for 20+ years I can figure most things out. What I found interesting, is after the experience, it became clear to me-- that the reason the Mac is so "easy to use" is that it's not very flexible. Lots of assumptions are made about how you want to use things, that I found were often not how I would choose to do them.

    In the Mac world, you have to adapt to what the computer does-- you have to figure out what workflow it assumes and follow it. It's easy, sure, but that's because you have so few options, so few decisions to make. Those decisions have been made for you, like it or not in many cases. In the Windows world on the other hand, you can reconfigure things to match YOUR workflow. You make the computer adapt to you, not the other way around. Unfortunately, this makes it more complex as you *do* have decisions to make and have to figure out how to configure things to your needs. Configuring the computer to adapt to you is a more complex process than configuring your behaviour to adapt to the computer. But, it is what is necessary to succeed in business, as businesses will often not restructure their workflows to the extent necessary to adapt to whatever OS or software packages they may choose. They will adjust to some extent, sure, but many business models are ingrained into the corporate culture, and are integrated with fiefdoms and other power structures which often vigorously resist change.

    In the home environment, a user, especially an unsophisticated one, will adapt to the computer because they think they have to-- if that's what the computer does they will adjust in order to conform to the technology of the future. Thus, the Mac is pretty successful among less sophisticated users. Sure, it has a "unix" under the hood, but most users never go there, or even know why they might want to. The problem is though, unsophisticated users don't stay unsophisticated forever. While initial exposure to the Mac may keep them loyal (or at least tied) to the platform, that may not be enough when on the job they will likely be using PCs.

    Unfortunately, as much as I like Linux, it takes flexibility a step further to the point beyond the needs of businesses. A Linux desktop offers TOO many choices, too many decisions to make, and not enough control over the desktop in a business environment. Consequently, a Linux desktop is a power-hobbyist tool, and is confined in the server environment when used by business for the most part. While there are exceptions, and things could change in the future, it does not present a good desktop solution for most business environments at this time.

  28. Cyfaill

    How you ended up were you are.

    Well let's see about this,

    I would like to select the default set of Worms, Virus and Trojan exploits that will default to the selected de-facto operating system of no choices.

    Having done that I will be selecting the assortment of secondary company's who produce the de-facto default no choice anti virus suites that are needed to keep the first selection running with marginal acceptability.

    Since I am a wimp and did not study the options to make a wise choice in information technologies I will not be using the mind that I have and just go with the flow along with all of the other cows and lemmings into the slaughter house and over the cliffs of a world were most people just *are* statistically below average in intelligence by default.

    Actually I agree with your assessment of people with great sadness.

    But I think that you will also find that the really sharp ones out there actually plan to use the interfaces that are appropriate for the need of their company's and customers, sometimes it means the use of Windows and sometimes not.

    As an example; when I produce a letter (Debian GNU/Linux OS), it will be done in OpenOffice with the ISO standard in text documents (.odf) for archive grade use and just print that and mail it... Unless it is electronic in nature to be sent, in which case I will save a copy as a .doc and send it to the average computer user who is to receive it and is likely using windows, and has no choice in what their office application can see.

    Thinking about what is good for the use needed is why 100% of the top 500 supercomputers in the world run on some form of “nix” Linux and Unix and a dash of Mac... look it up if you can.

    Also the majority of the Internet runs on Apache server Applications running on some form of “Nix” as well.

    Did you actually do any research on this or did you just go with the flow with what you think would make Microsoft happy. Yes Microsoft products on the “desktop” environment is very dominant and then point out to you that half of the world is statistically average and below in intelligence and thus just go with the flow.


  29. Keith Langmead

    Various thoughts

    Various thoughts from other peoples responses...

    IMHO there are three main areas which have brought us to where we are today, time, small business growth and home use.

    First of all consider home use. Ignoring the current state of play, if you look back to the early days where there was still proper competition in the business computing market, what was available for home use? Other than games machines, you basically had the IBM PC and the Mac. In business as some have pointed out you had things like Sun and other platforms, who right from the start had much more power and processing speed than the PC, but they were purely business machines. I think the mistake Sun made was in not producing a home version of their machines. Perhaps if they had then more people would have been familiar with than from the start, and easily transitioned to the full blown business versions in industry.

    I think the big thing that many techies seem to forget is that in business the most critical thing is time. Arguments like "this is better" or "this software is cheaper" or "this has more functionality" mean nothing, if there isn't also saving in time. If someone is already used to using Windows and MS Office, putting them in front of a Linux machine with Open Office is only practicle if the user can get up to speed VERY quickly. The same is true for any software. Consider if I know one piece of software inside out, and then have to do the same job with a different application. If it takes me twice as much time to do the same work then in the course of just one week my company has lost around £1,000, since I can only produce half as much work. So the company has three choices, 1) use what ever I'm used to, 2) get me training which will cost time and money, or 3) wait while I learn the new application and increase my efficiency, which could potentially take weeks. Unless the cost of option 1 is extreamly high it's the one that most businesses will choose.

    If a piece of software costs £2,500 but saves me just 1 hour a week of work, then it financially makes sense for the company to buy it. It might be expensive at first sight, but after about a year it will have paid for itself! (assuming an hourly rate to clients of £50 per hour) If technical people want to change the systems which are used they first need to be able to sell it to their bosses in those terms.

    The biggest example of this is probably Sage. Almost every accountant knows the software inside out, know the short cuts, key combinations etc, after using the same software day in day out for years. It'll be the software that they invariably favour, and what company will risk invoices not being sent, payments being made, salaries paid etc, based on a relatively small software cost saving. To a certain extent I think the same is true of Cisco kit, if you've got a CCNA on staff, do you take the chance of getting alternate kit which they don't really know, or stick with what they can ensure will work, and repair when it breaks.

    For small businesses many will have started life with just one or two people needing a computer to do their work. Since Windows is generally know to everyone it's the easy choice. As the company grows it continues with Windows, since after all that's what they already have in place. And besides, any monkey can admin a Windows box inside and out, and Linux box tends to need a bit more skill, especially if you have to get your hands dirty. When they finally reach a size that warrants having a IT person on staff, even if that person is a Linux guru, it's unlikely to make financial sense to change to something else, due to the major disruption it would cause to the staff in terms of lost productivity and training, which it's unlikely would be truly offset by the savings in software costs. Besides, look at the job ads, it costs a lot less to employ a decent Windows admin than to employ a decent Linux admin!

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Has no one commented on the plethora of Microsoft deals with university's and schools, after all get em while their young.

    Using MS software at school means less training when the little uns get into the workplace, thus there are a number of grads and school leavers happy to use the latest MS productivity software with a minimum of training.

    Most educational software is targeted solely at Windows, its (as said) the biggest market share and offers excellent development tools. Bearing in mind the prevalence of windows on the desktop, its really the only choice for the education sector. I have 453 windows schools, 2 mac schools and no *nix schools in my area, what platform would you go for as an educational content developer?

    Educational discounts always sound good, £120 for the latest student version of office is a significant discount, but that's extortionate compared with the 'volume discount rate' that can be had in schools, £15-25 a licence anyone? Now that's what I call sound marketing, who is going to risk the initial support and training costs of Open Office when licences are so cheap, it's a big risk and school management (heads) aren't often around that long or that IT savey to make it pay off.

    There are other reasons for Microsoft's success such as aggressive sales and branding, (I've had the Sharepoint ticks all the VLE boxes talk) but the Educational market is a real loss leader for Microsoft and one they are trying very hard to keep as it generates significant inertia in the work force.


  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There's Windows as a common denominator, bringing efficiency to data, applications, and networks. Then there's Windows as a company with a monpoly stranglehold on a phenominally lucrative market.

    Windows successfully rode the PC networking wave and provided a common API for the GUI when hardware reached that point, essentially, MS won the market with Win95. It allowed commonality accross an environment, easing acceptance, the price was the same as their competitors. It was a no brainer and in many ways continues to be an easy choice.

    However, once on top, the squeeze began, OS pricing is the only major component of PCs which has risen without corresponding increases in technical functionality. Windows was used to leverage MS products into other markets and force hardware manufacturers into paths against thier own interests as well as the consumer. These are all classic tactics of a monopoly gone bad, these are what make the original question "How did we all end up with Windows?" have such a bitter taste.

    The common platform is becoming the Internet based on reasonably strong open standards, this is the new lowest common denominator. The PC OS is largely moot when most applications become internet services, compliant to browser technology rather than OS - this was what the Netscape war was all about. Free OS code of adequate quality has been the turtle to the Windows hare, it will combine with the browser to make the Windows bottleneck obsolete. As for Office, Gmail has spellcheck and spreadsheet tools already, Yahoo is developing a quality productivity suite for their users. These companies have businees models that can and should provide free attractive software suites to users. They have the deep pockets to handle file format barriers, corrupted standards, and whatever else MS wants to put in their way.

    We ended up with Windows simply because it was there when the technology converged, it outfoxed it's competitors, and stayed just good enough to satisfy consumers as a commodity. But the times are changing.

  32. Barry Lane

    Less sophosticated?

    "Thus, the Mac is pretty successful among less sophisticated users" Keith Doyle

    Firstly, and just to respond to Mr Doyle, who chooses above to dismiss Mac users as 'less sophisticated', to you, sir, I say pish and quite probably tish. I used to use Windows machines each and every day and I thought the faults, the hiccoughs, the hangs and crashes, were what computers did. I could fix most of the problems myself, way back in DOS 3 (I think) and Windows 3.1 days. My introduction to the Mac (then on System 7.1) was a revelation, and I have used Macs ever since. In my office there are four PCs (two on Vista, which is very funny and makes me laugh a lot, and two on XP Pro) and my two Macs. Pretty much every day is punctuated by the cries of frustrated Windows users - and I'm the one who ends up trying to make them work properly.

    My wife has two PCs; a laptop running XP Pro and the other, XP Home. She has so many problems with these wretched machines, in part because she has managed over the years not to learn a thing about computing in general and Windows in particular. Windows did not become the biggest because it was the best; they did the best deals, courted the right clients - corporate, government, education, etc - and grew like Topsy. If Steve Jobs had got his finger out and arranged for PC games to play better on Macs, Apple would have taken over the world by now.

    These days, even the IT professionals I bump into have limited success with the machines they are supposed to know so well. Nearly all of them say they would prefer a Mac but Windows is where the money is. All those unsophisticated PC people, see, with not a clue what to do, the lambs, but plenty of bucks to get their benighted Windows up and struggling again. Sure, one or two of you PC users out there know what to do, but most of you are, I suspect, happy to bumble along with your four-year-old OS and your ghastly beige boxes.

    In the words of the PC prophet: Eat poo. 12 billion flies can't be wrong.

  33. Jerry Dawson

    It really is the apps - and only that.

    In my case Access and Cubase, to name but 2. Not going Mac... that would signify being tied-in to an even greater extent. I don't use IM, IE, or Outlook, or Powerpoint, or Publisher... and I don't see why I am expected to pay for them. IMHO, when M$ released WinME you could see they were going off the rails.. it looked awful, was incredibly irritating, and worked very poorly.... and I guess it was around then that I decided that if M$ wanted any more of my money they'd have to come up with something I was happy to pay for at a price was willing to pay. After what we went through with Win98, WinME, Win2000, and WinXP, anybody who has bought Vista needs his head examined, quite frankly. Wait until someone has cracked it, cleaned out the bloatware, and got it to work.... would be my advice (and keep the cheapest copy you can find on the shelf, just in case, if you worry about that sort of thing)..

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure the author quite gets what Sametime is ...

    It runs on windoze, OS X, Linux and is an instant messaging client that exists independently of Lotus' Notes mail or any other application. The only thing strategic about IBM's move here is, to be able to sell it to anyone. It's not strategic to have it run on windoze anymore than GM building cars ... uh, do they still build cars?.... that run on rubber tires.

  35. adeypoop

    Another path to Windows: Doom -> PC -> Windows

    As is evident from the discussion here, there are many reasons we've ended up with windows as our default. I think there is another reason which hasn't been mentioned yet, the role of computer games and specifically the game, 'Doom' in my case, has been a huge factor in getting PC's and hence windows into our homes. Admittedly Doom was written for DOS not Windows, but Windows monopoly sprang from an existing DOS monopoly as I understand it.

    In my childhood, my interest in computers was mostly due to computer games, from the old 8-bit home computers through to 16-bit computers and eventually onto the PC. At that point when the PC was already taking off in offices, as people have mentioned here, MS Word has been a big driving force in this area, the PC was rarely seen in homes unless someone worked from home maybe. My perception of the PC at that time was that it was no use at all for games. In fact there was no sound even, unless you bought a sound card, also I assumed Windows was kind of built in OS like workbench on the amiga, or BBC Basic on the BBC micro. I realised of course you had to get a copy of Windows, but i certainly wasn't aware what alternatives there were.

    Of course through time PC's started becoming much more commonly seen in homes, the thing that blew me away was seeing Doom for the first time. This was when I realised that the commodore amiga had been left behind. Many others like me saw Doom as a reason to own a PC. By this time the PC was already fundamentally linked with Windows, at least from my own experience, I didn't even realise there were alternatives to Windows at that point as I already said.

    In the modern marketplace games are a huge industry. What platforms are they provided for today? Er windows and... nope just windows (not counting non-pc games such as Playstation obviously). I often read newsgroups where people say they will not upgrade to linux because they can't play games or people who do use Linux often keep a windows partition for playing games. If games companies started writing games to run under Linux I believe Windows would fizzle out in the home environment, if it isn't already on the way out. I have to ask why they don't provide for linux? is it too difficult because of all the types of distros?

    Today, I still use Windows, it is my default at work because it is my work's default. At home I now use Linux more than Windows, which I am very happy about. The learning curve can seem steep moving away from windows but is very worthwhile. To my eyes the innovation in open source software far surpasses the innovation seen from MS lately.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft owns because of embrace and extend tactics

    Several points:

    Microsoft buys companies which make good software purchasing the competition.

    Microsoft copies and adds "extra functionality" to rivals file formats, making their format incompatible with their rivals.

    Microsoft owns the desktop and adds applications into the operating system which automatically handle file extensions which are common to rivals software.

    Microsoft applications generally integrate well with each other.

    People are generally too lazy to look for better alternatives to Microsoft's "defaults".

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Copyability, I suspect...

    Until relatively recently it was a simple matter to make as many installs of Windows as you liked without paying a single cent if your conscience so led you. The fact that it was easy to copy and redistribute and that it worked reasonably well, and was reasonably easy to understand for those that eschew the arcane command-line environments of DOS et al, made it a sure-fire winner. The very fact that Microsoft have clamped-down on this aspect of things is the biggest filip to Linux and the various "free" operating systems out there. I have made numerous installs of various Linux distros with OpenOffice and, er, well it does exactly what very people want a Windows machine once you connect that to the Internet with a suitable browser. The very fact that Windows (now Vista) is becoming so very expensive for the unbroken versions and the wretched necessity to replace hardware every year or three will continue to propel people towards Linux, and I predict that in time to come Microsoft will have to have a serious re-think, or endure a pitiful decline. At the moment Microsoft are making hay while the sun shines, but autumn is coming - and the really clever thing for Microsoft to do would be to then make Windows (whatever it's called come that time) Open Source, and probably the same applies to Office as well. The thing that might stop Microsoft doing this is the embarassment that might follow close scrutiny of their code.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coercive Monopoly.

    Even the US Federal Government can tell you why Microsoft is the "default" in so many sad places.

    "when the business is screaming for new functionality to support the call centre, the supply chain, or to deal with the latest set of regulations to hit your industry, can you really justify taking time out to explore the merits of Desktop Linux over Windows, or OpenOffice over Microsoft Office, let alone undertaking a potentially costly and disruptive desktop migration?"

    If you are not using a Linux Desktop yourself, you will never know the answer to that question. All I can tell you is that it's easier to run so you will spend more of your time doing your job instead of putting out fires. Chances are that most of the features you want have already been implemented.

    A great example is Outlook. Yesterday, someone in a local computer club pointed to an article bragging about the new Outlook ability to drag and drop more than one file at a time to a manually created "archive" of folders. Asking the user to manually recreate and implement maildir is laughable.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows is useful :-)

    If you want a useful Desktop system; Windows is it !

    You can't use it to keep large amounts of data (i.e. accounts of money), or

    steer a house or car, or for that matter get it to do anything useful.

    BUT it's the only way to happily browse/watch porn, considering all the proprietary file

    formats {== $$}.

    And one must not forget: back in Windows 3.1 there was no real alternative. -> Amiga, Atari,Apple,Schneider did not have that "I'm important" 'Office' look and feel :-(

    Best regards to Simon :-)

  40. Stephen Jenner

    Lowest Common Denominator

    MS windows is ubiquitous, not because it is the best, or because it is the cheapest. It is in this position, because Bill Gates and company are the best marketeers. Their main product, which gets worse with every iteration, represents the lowest common denominator (if anyone remembers fractions).

    The unfortunate thing is that, despite everyone who has a Windows PC at hand, actually has a tremendously powerful collection of computer hardware, very few people seem to notice that their OS actually stifles ttheir ability to utilise this.

    I am not a particularly technical bloke, but I have been involved with computers since 1974, first as a computer operator, and later as a manager of an AS400 installation. All I know is that in 1974, my firm had 3 X IBM 370 155's, each had 1mb of memory and these and the various peripheral pieces of hardware, covered over a quarter of an acre of floorspace. However, this installation had no problem running anything from 15 - 20 software applications, so efficiently, that me and 15 other operators on each shift were kept in a state, where we had to run, to keep up with it. We were very productive!

    Now I have a PC with Windows, sitting under my desk at home, with 2000 times more memory and all of it's major peripherals either inside the box, or within a few feet, and I am lucky if I can run more than 2 or 3 applications at any kind of speed. I certainly do not get 2000 times more work done.

    I shouldn't (but I do) feel really sorry for the hardware manufacturers, they have to put up with having their pretty advanced designs, compromised, by this Windows c**p, and there does not seem to be much alternative, unux/linux may be reasonably good as a server, but it does not have much going for it on the desktop, the only version of unix, which is good on the desktop is MAC OS X and it is excellent, the problem is, it is too proprietry.

    It seems to me, that the problem with Windows, is that the API cripples the hardware, it discourages programmers from being innovative, and then the next generation of programmers to come along, do not have any idea about what it could be like, all they have known is Windows. The API in general is now the de-facto hardware that programmers deal with, a sort of abstraction layer, and frankly it is rubbish.

    If there is anyone out there, who is capable of innovating, and bringing us a better way to run PC hardware than using Windows, it is not going to be anyone who is under 40! They are going to have to be very lucky, and to succeed they are going to need to have a real killer application, to have any kind of success.

    Meanwhile, we shall all have to continue to drag our knuckles along the ground and carry on using Windows in LCD mode, not a particularly exciting vista, is it?

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What else?

    Well I've been using Linux for the last 11 years. My mum has used it for the last 6 years (on a dual boot with Windows, but prefers Linux). You really need to get out more. Of course the real reason is the Microsoft Tax imposed by the likes of Dell, IBM, etc imposing Windows on people and giving them no options.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's the Movies, of Course!

    The truth is that Apple is the Good Guy and Microsoft is the Bad Guy.

    Anyone with an ounce (28.349 grams) of sense knows that the world was saved from disaster by Jeff Goldblum wielding an Apple PowerBook!

    People, however, have a penchant for the Dark Side and so choose Windows because they can fight the 'deadly' aliens from their desktops (the REAL aliens having been killed by Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith and Apple). Also, in the film 'Fracture' Anthony Hopkins (a.k.a. Hannibal Lecter) would never have been found out were it not for Apple technology. The incompetent cops were using ... Windows! And we all know there are more cops than murderers.

    So there!

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not good for resilience

    One of the oft overlooked problems is resilience. Anyone who has seen the devastation by the Melissa virus should be aware that that still remains a ticking timebomb. For the same reason that you use two different firewalls between the Internet, the DMZ and your LAN it would be best if there was a degree of spread in deployed systems (especially in the systems handling the centralised control.

    But it ain't going to happen until it goes wrong again..

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft IP and Money

    Don't forget that MS is merely a money generating machine, to prop up the share price needs revenue, revenue comes from :

    1. selling new licences for new stuff

    2. reselling upgrade licences to fix the bugs in the last new stuff we sold

    3. selling licences to use software or access applications you never own (think X-box live, a licence to print new recurring money every month, from millions of people every month)

    4. selling software maintenance licences so that you can upgrade the old broken stuff to new shiny broken stuff

    use the revenue to buy or kill off the competition that has done things better / faster / cheaper

    repeat the cycle.

    Tell me, how many six year old machines will run Vista? probably ZERO

    How many six year old Macs will run OS X latest current version?, ALL

    That is called investment protection, a six year old Mac still has value to sell on eBay, a six year old PC has zero value to anybody but a recycler.

  45. GettinSadda

    Windows is just easier!

    I have yet to find something that is easier under Linux than Windows - which is a pity because I so want to jump ship from Microsoft!

    As an example I run a number of Virtual Machines for software debugging. Below are the steps to install the VMWare tools package on Windows and Ubuntu Linux (the most user friendly one I have found).


    Select Install VMTools, Hit Install, then Next and Finish. If the PC needs rebooting the installer will do it for you.


    [First check that you have a full build environment set up] Select Install VMTools, open the CD that now gets mounted, unzip the archive file onto the hard drive, open a terminal window, login as root, move to the unzipped directory, run the install perl script, select the default answer to all the questions, wait while the tools compile, when you are told the location of the new tools, open System>Preferences>Sessions and click Add, locate the tools, Manually restart your X-session. Every time you log in from now on, minimize DON'T close the tools window.

    Note: Also, when I recently update Ubuntu to version 7.04 the installer wiped the drive and installed from scratch with no option to perform an upgrade. The last time I remember Windows doing this was probably 3.1

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Any choice of colour as long as its blue

    Most employees have no choice of operating environment and most consumers spend more time examining different makes of toasters than examining different operating environments. In truth, I cannot answer your question because I dumped Windows for the far better OS/2. When OS/2 became moribund, I switched to SuSE (with Mac at home).

  47. Gyorgy Bano

    The other question you should ask yourself is: How we all end up with x86?

    The other thing is localisation which happened all over the world with MS softwares, when no other companies bothered to translate the apps to non english speaking users. Before localized version not many secretaries were capable to work with wordprocessor not even mentioning spreadsheets.

    As previously mentioned ignorance of the other OS developers let it happen, and marketing of MS and additionally good user experience helped a lot. When Windows 3.1 appeared PCs were already everywhere - doing accounting and wordprocessing - and that time Mac was really overpriced and to prorietary to be considered as an alternative. Even with lackluster performance and buggy drivers usefulness of WYSIWYG was enormous for the masses, and even secretaries with better-than-average DOS Word knowledge - I mean knowing shortcut keys to copy-paste - changed to slower GUI due to company requirement/printer compatibility or both.

    The other question you should ask yourself is: How we all end up with x86?

    Back in the Motorola 68000 days, intel was inferior in every aspects, smaller set of registers and all of the tied to a specific function, limited bus size, and probably a couple more, but still market penetration was higher due to the big names behind it. That times three companies - probably more, but not on worldwide scale - used Motorola successfully:

    Apple, Atari (ST), and Commodore, and only Apple survived the decline of 68000 and not w/o huge shrink, the other two died probably because everyone outside the actual users counted them as gaming only platforms.

    If you go back the times when ZX Spectrum fought with Commodore 64 then there was a level battlefield at least. Spectrum had a more powerful CPU, but C64 had video and sound advantage so both gathered followers as today the same goes with the consoles, and there was no need for interoperability.

    But today with corporates communicating around the world you need a common language and until web based applications starts to evolve into something really useful - from corporate standpoint - then monopoly of MS would stay, because even Linux apps has to mimick Office to be considered viable, instead of creating sometying revolutionary.

    So we got stuck with an inferior OS on an inferior platform because of marketing powerplay or common inertia or plain laziness or lack of confidence in upcoming companies but probably all together. Heritage of the original x86 is still architecture is still depressing, but thanks to clever engineering and compilers they overcome most of the limitations.(Probably if PowerPC CPU had had as much capital behind E&D as x86 then the performance crown should belonged to it rather than the Intel stuff, and even MS Windows would run on it - however they dropped Alpha but that is an other story)



  48. Dillon Pyron

    True, but only to a point

    Windows is the default for me, but only because I can't get a blank laptop (and it has to be an AMD, I own too much stock to go otherwise). So if I have to pay $200 for the OS, I may as well run it. But the white boxes are all Linux, and the Windows box has and other Open Source software running on it. I use photo995 to avoid blowing $1000 to buy CS when all I need to do is edit photos. I avoid paying for software when there are free alternatives around.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Catch a tiger by the tail.

    "Most employees have no choice of operating environment and most consumers spend more time examining different makes of toasters than examining different operating environments."

    As far as home computers go I find I agree.

    But what about businesses?

    Often it's the case that they started with Windows 3.1 and by a process of upgrading and buying new computers ended up with Windows XP. Sometimes this is by design (if the company gets large enough to employ an IT department), often it's by default.

    Unfortunately this is the way it is with any system: once you have a system where outputs can be fed into inputs (like the supply & demand chain) there's always a possibility you'll get a loop that destroys the system (negative), or causes it to run out of control (positive).

    The Windows phenomenon is one such (positive) loop.

    The way out of such loops - as any car mechanic can point out in relation to engines - is control. Without control the system runs amok either wrecking itself and anyone near it in the process, or consuming all and any possible resources to feed the loop.

    The question then becomes: so who's actually in control - who decides what to buy?

    And the answer often isn't "The IT department" but "Senior management".

    And what are senior management often not?

    Technical staff.

    So - it's all very well bleating about Linux being better but if the senior management ain't listening then unfortunately you've already lost the argument because they control the purse strings. Linux may be more stable, provide better reliability, but the senior management often don't care - what they want is what they have at home because that's what they're familiar with and (bless 'em) they probably can't cope with using more than one OS.

    So what do they have at home?



    Probably because they saw those idiotic blue men "onna telly" and thought "Yes! I want a piece of /that/ action!". Because they're managers, not teccies. Which is not to try and belittle them (well alright it is, but not too much), but to try and make the rest of you realise that although IT is deperately important to us because its how we earn enough money to feed ourselves, the rest of the world just doesn't care.

    To draw an analogy: Think of the IT industry like you would the music industry. Everyone buys Maria Carey and Britney Spears albums. The fact that they peddle dreary and completely uninventive shite written by moronic advertising executives for whom a creative thought is anathema doesn't cross their minds: they listen, they switch off, they bop, they enjoy. (I retch in repulsion, but there ya go).

    Webern might have been one of the most important 20th century composers, but really - who the hell listens to Webern? (Well me, actually, but I'm happy to acknowledge I'm in the minority, and - before you offer your condolences - I prefer the solitude, thanks).

    As far as the demonic Microsoft goes they're not so bad - or at least they're only as bad as all other corporate multi-nationals. Bill ain't the devil - he just got lucky - he created a positive feedback loop, some of it by design, some by good luck and some by mistake.

    Silly fella gone caught a tiger by the tail.


  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Explanation & my three cents

    Good explaning, simon.


    Plus, Greatest thing that happened to me was installing good ol' Kubuntu, which is based off Ubuntu, top distrowatch Linux distro. All of my hardware is fully detected, as well as the ability to auto-install any major software package I want (and more).

    That turned out to be well enough for me not to use M$ any longer, for as long as I have hoped! (will have to keep my upgrade CDs away for a while ;)


    I see the 'one for all and all for one' Winblows usage scenario is as follows:

    for home, it is a matter of preference.

    For work, it is a matter of management.

    For school, it could be a matter of money/convenienance.

    First, on home. I say it is a matter of preference mainly because what OS you use on a system at home is really up to the owner, if you have more than one computer at home. Or maybe it's up to the dad/mom in the family, if there is only one.

    For work, it depends on the management of workplace. The boss might determine "Hey, we need Windoze cause our servers will work with that with few/no problems."

    For school, it also depends on money, or how conveniant the OS is to the school. For example, it's a heck of a lot more cost-saving and convienant to drag some old original allinone PowerMacs (the yellowed-out-by-now kind) into there and assume it as the library computer, rather than throwing an AMD Opteron 5-ton weight server for each computer in the library.

    So the essence of what I'm saying is: everyone's different. Especially for their OS installs.

    Case closed.

  51. Nathan Meyer

    IBM Made Microsoft The Standard

    Everyone forgets that up until 1995, Microsoft was a creature of IBM. Windows95 was the official announcement of the break-up; as the implementation of the registry was designed to cold-cock OS/2. ( Which it did rather well; though at the expense of any possibility of ever building a secure and durable OS). Up until then, all the Big Iron guys bought IBM "PC Compatibles". Between 1985 through 1998, I worked at 3 different very large organizations; all of whom had "experts" who purchased IBM labeled PC's so that they could "guarantee compatibility with the mainframe." That's why Windows became the standard. Without IBM promoting DOS and Windows 3.11; MSFT would never have become dominat.

  52. walterbyrd

    It's all about the apps the drivers

    Microsoft became *the * standard a long time. How msft did that is a long story, and open to much debate. I think that, early on, it had to do with IBM's enormous credibility and influence. Later, there were a lot of stupid mistakes make by apple, and ibm, and others.

    But now, HW & SW makers develop for the standard first. Users need an OS that works with their HW & SW.

    It doesn't matter how "good" an OS may be. If that OS doesn't run your apps and/or work with your hardware, then that OS is useless to you.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cringely covered Microsoft's monopoly most accurately: the IBM BIOS did it

    No startup (short of Kildall's) looks a gift horse in the mouth, while Microsoft was nothing more than a compiler company when IBM wanted to use their wares, they quickly stepped in with Seattle Scientific's QDOS (it was "Quick and Dirty", Bill decided to drop the "quick" part) when Kildall balked at supplying his 16-bit OS for IBM.

    IBM's strategy was simple. Given their bureaucracy, it would take a year to ship an empty box, so they needed a jump into the PC market using others hardware and software. The strategy allowed IBM to hold all the cards by keeping the BIOS proprietary; the IBM "standard" PC could use all sorts of components from many vendors, but only IBM could package it with their BIOS.

    The strategy worked for a few years. Back then, everybody trusted IBM. It quickly became the business standard for PC's. The saying was (for all you kiddies) "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM".

    But, eventually the strategy backfired: Compaq was the first to successfully clean-room write a BIOS compliant with IBM's. Quickly, others followed suit. While the IBM PC was firmly positioned as the standard, now anybody could make it, and everybody could make it cheaper than IBM.

    IBM quickly coughed-up the golden ring quickly to Microsoft.

    At that point, the monopoly stays with Microsoft because users fear learning anything new. Watch a typical user change from the software they know to software with the same functionality. They immediately call the new software inferior... unless they can stick w/ it for a few months and realize the same functionality exists. There are few adults brave enough to learn new software without being forced.

  54. James Cleveland


    If I had to choose many windows products over their alternatives I'd stick with the windows ones - Microsoft Office, for example.

  55. James Cleveland

    The other thing I don't get is

    Why on earth do people want linux to be installed on consumer laptops?

    If you are someone who has the guts and knowledge to use linux, it isn't an issue to put it on there yourself, and most people would complain about crappy distros anyway.

    People that think linux is remotely ready to be used by the average joe for anything other than limited office tasks is having a laugh - until normal programs don't require you to go into the console, compile them, sudo in and change the access to folders, get confused about which instruction set your pc is or what package you need, linux is not ready to be used by the average joe. I've used computers for 10 years ish now (most of my life) and sometimes even something that would appear simple can take hours to do on linux due to dependancy loops, source code that just wont compile, distros that don't have the right things and whatever else.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a few words about winblows...

    Microsoft made it easy to choose it's product. Hardware has been built around the Microsoft

    operating systems and along with that applications that most Users/Student/Businesses

    just kept the ease of use along with the flexibility.

    If you want to unseat the beast, come up with a better alternative. Or an antivirus for the virus!

    You have to give users a choice as well, we need to learn that Microsoft made it cheaper than

    *nix when they bought the computer systems. I remember when hardware reviews talked about

    *nix systems and today, there is hardly a choice to compete with Microsoft. It was more

    expensive in the late 80s/90s for good *nix systems and there wasn't GUI's, no point and click.

    But with the prices now from Microsoft, bending the market is possible! :-p

    And the other fact is, we have to market a Open Source OS effectivily as Microsoft.

    Applications, Games, Internet have all made Winblows what it is people.


    A Tandy 1000SX user from 1986.

  57. b shubin

    differentiation done right enhances competitiveness

    if you do what everyone else does, you get what everyone else has.

    if you have an IT department that's good at finding truly great solutions before your competitors do, and willing to risk its credibility by not playing it safe (let's not say "CYA"), you can gain a very real (and sometimes overwhelming) competitive advantage by using technology more effectively than others do.

    if you follow the crowd ("no one gets fired for buying IBM/Microsoft/Oracle/insert-dominant-player-here"), you get short-to-medium-term job security and thoroughly ordinary results.

    as a network manager, i decided to not use Cisco equipment in the last datacenter created under my management. we used Dell switches (quite good, Intel generic hardware, very good support), ImageStream router/firewall/VPN/DSU (T1/T3) embedded Linux boxes (very affordable, no licensing fees, amazing support), and Airespace wireless (again embedded Linux, great service and tech, but later bought out by Cisco, much to my chagrin).

    we saved 90% on deployment and administration costs, and got better service.

    if i could convince the management to switch to thin clients, we would have gotten even better value from IT.

    i risked my job to recommend what i thought was the best solution. the result was clear competitive advantage: improvements in speed, accuracy, efficiency, transparency, and timeliness, and excellent uptime.

    if you follow the crowd, you get outsourced, as outsource providers can recommmend conventional solutions as easily as you can.

    if you don't deliver compelling value through differentiation (or unless you're on very good terms with some top-level executive who can guarantee your job security), be prepared to transition out of this profession.

This topic is closed for new posts.