back to article Why Microsoft vs Mankind still matters

For all but three of the past 17 years, Microsoft has been involved in antitrust litigation with government agencies. That's enough to wear anyone down. But as Europe's highest appeals court delivered its judgement on Monday, I did notice some ennui - not from dogged old hacks, but from a new generation of pundits. Take this …


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  1. Don Mitchell

    Good Article

    A good article.

    I've been a computer science researcher for a couple decades now, and over all I have to say I've seen amazing progress since the days when I submitted programs on punch cards.

    But I still feel frustrated with a lack of progress at times. In the mid 1980s, I got annoyed with UNIX, which seemed to just stop evolving after BSD 4. Windows 95 was an exciting point, and certainly revolutionized the internet by dumping hundreds of millions of uses onto it. Windows NT was also a vast improvement over UNIX in 1989, offering a wide range of important new functions (threads, concurrency control, asynchronous I/O, events, completion ports, etc).

    But now we are at Vista, and I'm not excited. I'm also tired of the preaching from the Linux crowd, who have done nothing but kluge Windows NT features into UNIX for the last ten years, while all the time heaping scorn on "Micro$oft".

    One thing that UNIX taught us is that hackes and academics are not the source of innovation. We need to create an incentive for professionals and entrepreneurs to write a new operating system. It's a huge task. The actually technology of operating systems is not that advanced, but very few people understand the problem of "requirements" and systems mangement. Where is hardwrae going, what to customers need, what to independant software vendors want to do? This is partly why Microsoft has stayed on top, because those problems are beyond the scope of college professors and open-source fanboys.

    Of course the other big problem is simply that the market converges on a single platform. More people buy Windows, therefore more people write software for Windows, therefore more people buy Windows. If you blow up Microsoft, you just get a new monopoly a few years alter. Or worse yet, you lose any openly-programmable platform and end up with consoles and thin clients -- and then its game over for the independant software industry.

  2. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Microsoft isn't innovative

    I hate it when people talk about Microsoft innovation, it doesn't exist.

    They are famous for waiting for the competition to release a product, analysising it's failure, fixing the problems and releasing their own. Even Apple does this, they weren't the first to market with an MP3 plater.

  3. lucmars

    Split it

    There's a long time ago the US anti-trust body had broken in parts some big entities (Schotch, AT&T). This was not the case for Microsoft, but may be just that would have be enough.

    The real question is, did the regulators take the best measure against the Microsoft's monopoly?

    Sure, if nobody want to compete, regulators can't do anything, but if they don't take the best option, the monopoly goes on and consequently nobody want to compete because in this case, nobody can't.

  4. Damon Anderson

    Linux? or Gnome/KDE?

    Good article. I especially like the point that after 16 years Linux still fails to compete against MS. I recently relived this whole experience when, 10 years on from my last attempt, I loaded Linux with Gnome and couldn't tell if it had changed at all.

    To clarify, I hate Windows. Hate, hate, hate. The best computer I ever bought? Mac LC. Lasted me 7 years without OS upgrades. It was a dream. Now? I hate Macintosh. As noted in the article, they don't even seem to want to compete. (Please note that was 2 less hates then Microsoft).

    But both Macintosh and Windows show significant changes and, in some cases, improvements over the last 10 years. Gnome? Nothing had changed. In fact right after reading this article I read an article about the major improvements in Gnome 2.2. 2.2? It has been 10 years and it is still only version 2.2?

    This has led me to a whole new thought. The problem is not Linux, per se. The problem is the desktop environments available for Linux. Gnome... I'm sorry, 10 years, version 2.2, still completely inflexible and non-intuitive: sucks. KDE... slightly better, still doesn't have basic functionality required for running alternate keyboard drivers (UniKey for Vietnamese for example), or a simple and easy way to mount a network share without resorting to a command line: sucks.

    You're absolutely right. 16 years and still can't compete. Everyday I hate computers more. Where or where is the next real desktop environment?

  5. elder norm

    Boy what tired crock

    One moment this article complains about how Micro$oft never does anything but sit there until there is a thread. Then it burps and upchucks until it buries the threat and goes back to sleep.

    Then it comments that "More people buy Windows, therefore more people write software for Windows," so bigger is always better, even if it does not work, is crap, and has tons of holes. I guess as long as everyone else has to live with this crap, its OK for me to have to live thru it. I must be happy. They all tell me so. :-)

    I remember a "lemmings" commercial from Apple long ago. I am sure its still on Youtube. :-) Yep, walk off the cliff cause everyone else is doing it. OR Think different, and enjoy the rewards. Zero virsuses, it just works, and now it runs windows if you just have to punish yourself. but when it locks up, you can reboot and run Mac OS while you are trying to figure out hot to fix the windows side. :-)

    LMAO. :-)


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: 'Microsoft Isn't Innovation'

    I think you're confusing innovation with invention.

    Microsoft (and Apple for that matter) have been innovative in their approach to certain areas and have become successful because noone has stepped up and offered a better solution (or a financially viable one). Innovation is a measure of how to create an iconic product, to which all succeeding products are measured by.

    Think Google, which is more or less a verb in modern English - there were search engines before Google.

    iPod has become a synonym for digital music players.

    Windows PC is the same for desktop computing.

    Given time, i'm sure other innovative (if not inventive) products will transcend the physical packaging.

  7. Allan Rutland

    Apple needs Microsoft, and Microsoft needs Apple.

    Apple is a weird one. You do mention they should license out their kit...but remember what happened the last time they did this. The competition ripped them to shreds. The Power Computing machines and Motorola Mac’s where better, spec’d, better built, and much lower cost. And in the end Apple in it’s usual mood swings killed them by it’s usual underhand method of withholding parts and licensing.

    Could they do the same again today? Quiet possibly and easily with OS X. But would it actually be economically a good idea for Apple to sell off a few licenses to Dell or someone, which results in the a massive loss of revenue from Mac hardware sales. From anyone who has taken apart a Mac knows, the components are usually pretty lousy., wrapped in a nice fashionable glossy shell. Which has proved a good revenue maker for them. Now is that really something Apple wants to sacrifice?

    Another issue with Apples ever declining market share (globally) is how much do they really want to annoy Microsoft? The biggest software developer on the Mac is Microsoft after Apple themselves. They produce the software which no matter what the fanboi’s say is used and needed by them. Why does Microsoft support them, when they could be simply all “evil” and remove all support, and in the process really go after the Mac market share? Quite simply it is handy to have them there. A small element, which keeps the market not falling fully into a monopoly, it gives that little thing to assist Microsoft in keeping governments off their back. Quite simply, Apple needs Microsoft, and Microsoft need Apple.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing in Unix

    Over the years we have heard of the holy grail of OS. A Standardized Unix platform. It never happened. And, to be honest, I do not think it needs to happen. What made MS Windows a hit wasn't the OS but the easy to use UI shell. What made it a hit with programmers early on was the standardized application installer and application libraries. Both of these things Unix has lacked until recently. (A third issue was hardware drivers but that seems to have gotten better in recent years.)

    Interface UI's have come a long way and you can pick and chose which you want to run on your Linux OS. MAC has a good one. SUSE's default isn't too bad either. As for the standardized installer, only MAC seems to have come up with one.

    The largest complaint I hear from home users that try to use Linux is that it is too complicated. It can be difficult to install and most users do not want to go through the hassle of compiling the applications for their version of Linux before they can use them.

    I truly believe that if a good UI and easy to use application installer were created and marketed as a package, the Unix/Linux OS flavors would take off. MS won the market using automation - proving once again that humans are lazy. :) MAC seems to have followed suit in OSX. Maybe it's time the UNIX world started looking at it the same way.

  9. Craig Edwards

    @ Damon Anderson

    I believe the latest release of gnome is 2.20 not 2.2 (this is eighteen revisions later, not '2.2.0'). There are many ways to access removable media from the commandline the most notable being hald which works just like windows in that you insert the media and it becomes available immediately.

    Gnome has changed a lot, it looks a lot nicer, its more user friendly, and its cleaner in terms of finding what you want. In theory i could run my system without resorting to the terminal but i would find this a hassle, after all i am a programmer and guis sometimes just slow me down, as they do most technically minded people.

    As for KDE, i havent used it in many years.

    As for wether or not gnome is actually ready for desktop use by every man and his dog in place of windows, i would have to say 'not yet'. However, I don't mind the fact that linux is still somewhat a minority operating system because while it remains in the shadow of more popular OSes, it will draw less attention from idiots who write viruses, malware, and exploits, keeping it the more secure alternative.

  10. Chad H.

    Microsoft IS innovative!

    How can you say microsofts not innovative, I mean there especial Innovative when it comes to terms like "innovation", they've innovatively redefined it as "write a quick and dirty knock off and throw it in for free" or words like "monoploy" to mean "not us, definatley not us, I mean, we're not the electric company, or the water works, heck we arent even free parking!".

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux *is* ready for the desktop

    And Dell and others are about to prove it.


    You say there is no easy way to mount an NFS share in KDE ? Seems pretty easy to me: right click on the desktop, select "Create New..." from the menu that pops up, select "Link to Device" and then "NFS".

    Please stop spreading misinformation through your ignorance.

    BTW, I read the Ubuntu article linked to, the author is really only complaining about two things: a small selection of default fonts, and icons appearing too small on hish hi-res monitor, both of which can be fixed relatively easily.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I must be in a parallel universe

    Linux has just suffered from four years of FUD litigation, now it's coming out of that unblemished, we see that three major manufacturers are starting to offer LOTD.

    There there's the tired rhetoric (with corrected spelling)

    "I'm also tired of the preaching from the Linux crowd, who have done nothing but kluge Windows NT features into UNIX for the last ten years, while all the time heaping scorn on "Micro$oft" "

    Kluge is ad hominem. There is no UNIX in Linux, it was built from scratch (remember that litigation?) Operating systems need to do stuff, if they don't do it and it's needed - I think the idea is that you add it. How is Windows journaling file system coming along BTW? and for graphics (yeah, yeah, not Linux) what is the Windows equivalent of Beryl or Compiz?

    "Where is hardware going, what do customers need, what do independent software vendors want to do? This is partly why Microsoft has stayed on top, because those problems are beyond the scope of college professors and open-source fanboys."

    I have no idea what this means. Linux runs on everything from a wristwatch to a supercomputer. Customers need virus and keylogger free software. ISVs want to sell you minor upgrades to software you've bought already. And, unless I'm mistaken, the reason that Microsoft has stayed on top has been largely to do with its (often illegal) anti-competitive practices.

    "game over for the [ISV]"

    Even if it's true this would be nothing more than Schumpeter's creative destruction. We don't have that much use for wheelwrights and saddlemakers anymore either.

    "I read an article about the major improvements in Gnome 2.2. 2.2? It has been 10 years and it is still only version 2.2"

    (The one I don't use) Assuming you read it yesterday and not five years ago, that will be version 2.20, (or nine iterations since 2.2)

    "KDE still doesn't have basic functionality required for running alternate keyboard drivers (UniKey for Vietnamese for example), or a simple and easy way to mount a network share without resorting to a command line"

    (The one I do use) Why would KDE possess those features? they are not a feature of a GUI

    Oh and BTW let me help you out, try here:

    I think you'll find the file you are looking for is called via Yast or at installation when you tell opensuse (ergo: all the other distros too) you're Vietnamese

    and network share is part of samba

    here's a tutorial on using YaST -which unless I've been using the command line by accident for the past 10 years, is a graphical installer

  13. Alex Jackson

    Open standards and forget the OS

    A very thought provoking article. I've been scratching my head for years trying to work out how Microsoft have pulled this monopolisation trick off, and what can be done about it.

    I believe the EU, or indeed any political organisation needs to look to the how the Internet has developed over the years to see a way forward here. It doesn't matter whether the server you connect to is xNIX, Windows, Mac or Linux, the end result for the user is the same: Webpage displayed.

    Now, it is true and correct to say that the recent ruling is less than relevant as a method of ensuring the market stays open, as any efforts spent in making MS remove its own software from the OS install is pointless. It doesn't work, and I think MS are right that it stifles their innovation. If fact, how dare a court dictate how much 'free' software is given away with a PC. Imagine Apple not being able to offer Quicktime or iLife with their machines because Adobe can't get a foot in the door.

    For a long time now, PCs makers, and consumers and the majority of commercial organisations, have only had one choice when installing an OS and for many obvious reasons, and MS's size, universal acceptance, support and familiarity will continue to provide MS with a natural advantage for years to come.

    Instead of looking to tinker at the edges to stimulate competition, the EU, China and Indian governments ought to be taking a 100 year view of IT services, in much the same way that archivists in libraries are being forced to. There has been a deal of coverage in recent months regarding the problems of superceded document formats. Who could open a Locoscript file from an Amstrad PCW with anything they have in the house today?

    Well, the point of IT is to enable information to be shared between people and displayed in a format that is useable by them, and I'm sure there are documents out there in Locoscript that someone would love to be able to read again.

    By moving to open and universal standards for documents, the platform on which the information is displayed becomes less relevant, people can read the document, and most importantly, suppliers of IT software and hardware will have less power to monopolise the industry. Certainly, in the future, I would expect a raft of platforms to enable access to information in much the same way that mobile phones or the iPod Touch are now able to display web pages. But this will only happen in the commercial world if open standards are adhered to in the same way the HTML standards are.

    A parallel here would be CDs, cassettes, DVDs and the like. There are many companies making digital camcorders, CD players and so on, but each device is using an open set of standards so no one company dominates. There is real choice and competition. Also, I notice that just because JVC's VHS standard won the battle against Betamax, Sony didn't go out of business.

    I'm sure that if Microsoft had been created the VHS standard, it would have continually developed the format to ensure that rival players wouldn't be able to play the latest releases.

    As regards Microsoft's lack of innovation, well they do innovate occasionally, but I can't help thinking that the during the days of the USSR, the Trabant was a product of a 95% market share. Not exactly cutting edge was it . .

    It seems to me that if any progress in avoiding natural monopolies such as Microsoft's is to be made, then a way must be found to force all companies to adopt open document standards in much the same way as the IETF collaboratively guides development of the Internet. And if the format is universal, then other companies would have a fighting chance to create applications to create and edit them.

    All political organisations around the world should dictate to all IT suppliers that any document to be used in government adheres to global open standards and should be readable in a hundred years time, be they text, image, presentation or spreadsheet. And its immensely important that they do, or not only will it keep the monopolies in place, it will also mean that vast swathes of historical information will be unreadable for future generations.

  14. Don Mitchell

    @ Alan

    I agree, the competiation and synergy between Apple and Microsoft is a good thing. Both Linux and the Mac put pressure on Microsoft, but Linux only copies commercial concepts and therefore only pressures people's market share. Apple on the other hand actually invents things, and that is a form of competition that is much more beneficial to the consumer.

    Giles: "Microsoft doesn't innovate" is a cliche, not an axiom. The problem is that Microsoft doesn't do good design. On a software level they are sometimes very innovative. The Windows NT kernel (kernel32.dll) is a gem, better than anything UNIX has ever done in its aging kernel API.

    I don't think the success of Windows is just about having a good UI. It's about looking closely at consumer requirements and software-developer requirements (e.g., the creation of DirectX). Microsoft works hard to increase the value of their platform in a multitude of different ways. Take for example the extensibility of MS Office via OLE Automation. There's a whole industry that just builds 3rd party specializations and plugins for Office.

    They are good at business, good at software engineering (well at least everyone else is worse) and they really suck at doing design.

  15. Robert Hollis

    Natural Monopoly

    Nice article. The concept of a “natural monopoly” is new to me, but it does seem to fit in this case. Linux and Mac fans love to point out their favorite platforms perceived superiority, but they ignore the market realities.

    Mac dictates the hardware. With a PC you can build a $300 web surfer or a $3000 gaming machine. The custom options are literally endless. Fact is, computer people often like to tinker with the hardware as much as the software, and PC lets their inner inventor free. This isn't a niche group either - even main stream (read -”unskilled”) users feel comfortable swapping cards, ram or even motherboards. Mac doesn't even try to compete in this market – because writing code that will work on any possible combination of hardware is DIFICULT. Much easier for them to spec the hardware and then crow about their OS's stability on their hand picked machines.

    Linux et all require skill to use. My 80yr old grandmother uses a PC, with no problems. She doesn't even know what a command line is – and she doesn't have too. With Linux, you have to have a fundamental understanding of what the OS does and how it works. That way, when unexpected things happen, you know where to start. As for Linux's lack of viruses, it's simple statistics. Why write a virus that only affects 3% of all machines on the web – knowing that the users of those 3% of machines are some of the most sophisticated users today? Frankly, Linux will never compete with Windows, because building an excellent, intuitive interface is harder than building a stable OS. It takes too much money and time, and if someone did create a company to do it, they will discover that the very process of making it more accessible also destroys the features they loved the most.

    Like it or not, Windows is here to stay. It will never be 'everything to everybody'. Instead, it will continue to be a natural monopoly by being 'everything needed for the majority'.

  16. Maty


    Such is the way of computing it appears. With a few notable exceptions the world seems to settle on one or two standards, be it the PC, Intel, the MS operating system, or websites such as ebay and amazon. Apparently given a universe of choice, humanity prefers to collectively make just one or two. You could almost make it a rule - if an aspect of computing does not have its own 900lb gorilla, it hasn't matured yet.

  17. crashIO

    Get over it

    So MS is the big kid on the block with the nicest toys...and still everyone hates him because he is the big kid on the block with the nicest toys.

    There is nothing holding anyone back from creating a new OS except that Windows (for all its faults) really does work.

    UNIX is not a centrally managed OS, neither is Apple or OSX. Central management is what drives the Windows market in the business world.

    Fedora, while great for a free OS, is no replacement for Windows. Sorry Linux can tell me all day long how superior it is. That don't make it so.

    Seems to me that everyone here who is b1tching about MS thinks there is something better out there. Prove it! I bet if I look at everyone who read this columns system it is either a MS platform or a Mac platform (running MS Office) so that pretty much says it all doesn't it?

    If Linux is so damn superior then why is SCO going toes up? Why is Fedora free? Trust me... if the community could charge for it, they would. Not every Linux person is as altruistic as they claim.

    So stop with this "monopoly" bullsh1t. If there was a truly better product out there people would flock to it, just like they have in the past. MS is not stifling the software market anymore than Starbucks is the coffee market. You all, as consumers, have a choice.

    Stop your whining and make it already. You don't want Windows and all its trappings...fine...go with Linux...go with UNIX...go back to DOS even...but don't act like you were forced into Windows at gun point. It is not the only game in town.

    So stop acting like douchebags and put your OS where your mouth is.

  18. SpitefulGOD

    What's the problem.

    Microsoft works, business sits there doing what it does and it doesn't have to matter about IT because it's taken care of by Microsoft, Yeah everyone moans about microsoft, but these are usually people with pirated copies of everything, business wants to carry on and forget about it and that's were the money is. Not some fraggle who has an Ipod and thinks spinning some photo's around is great, some student who hates the man. Microsoft rocks and rules the world, linux is great but can't measure up, tries and fails. Apple may get bigger but being apple they'll end up in bed with microsoft. Horay for the modern age,

  19. Leo Maxwell

    Strange how windows people seem to think that they're linux experts

    Sorry, comments like "you can't browse a network share in KDE without the command line" just irritate me, not just because they are wrong (-and they are), not just because they show real ignorance (and they do), but because a windows junkie fires up another OS, can't find the right buttons to click in the first ten minutes, and assumes that it is rubbish because it isn't Windoze.

    HELLO? THE WHOLE POINT IS THAT IT ISN'T WINDOZE, if it were, it would be JUST as cr*p. MS doesn't innovate unless it is forced to.

    I use Linux all the time, despite my main job being windows support.

    I can browse my domain by clicking on the "network browsing" icon on my KDE desktop. I can connect to my Exchange server with my Evolution mail client, view shared calendars, etc. I can spin my 4 sided desktop cube around ( so Gnome hasn't changed? -yeah right).

    Going from 2.1 to 2.2 in some Opensource apps is a bigger step than 2000 to Vista, where the main thing is improvement in stability and security, not just pointless eye candy.

    I do occasionally use the command line- on my external FTP server, or my database server, but I can't remember the last time I did so on my Suse KDE desktop at work, in fact I need to use the command line in Windows more frequently, mainly for testing network connections..

  20. Brian Donohue

    Send in the Clones

    Agreed: for a long time I've been calling on Apple to partner with a top-flight PC manufacturer with a strong retail presence (now it could be Acer/Gateway) to produce Mac clones that run Tiger/Leopard. If they really want to take a bite out of XP/Vista's market share, that would be the way to go.

  21. Steven Hewittt


    The thing is, Paul Allen and Bill Gates are very, very good businessmen.

    Windows works. Sorry guys, it really goes. Win95/98/Me sucked and were flakey as anything. It's a rarity you'll see a BSOD on a NT based system - and if so it's 99.9% of the time down to hardware failures. NT as a platform is reliable - and the virus thing is normally due to stupid users and people running as admin when they shouldn't.

    Yeah, Linux rocks - it's awesome and I wouldn't be without it for some stuff. But example of mapping a network drive... In Vista, you automatically know where your drives are - in 'Computer'. So you go there and click the button that says 'Map Network Drive'.

    In Linux you "Create New..." from the menu that pops up, select "Link to Device" and then "NFS".

    "Map Network Drive" or "Create New, Link to Device, NFS". What non-techy user knows what NFS is?!?!

    Linux and WinNT kernel are great, and people really don't give the WinNT kernel it's due - it really is superb. Problem is that Linux has a shit UI for your average man in the street. Windows is more user friendly - simple as that.

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  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux and Windows

    "In Vista, you automatically know where your drives are - in 'Computer'. So you go there and click the button that says 'Map Network Drive'."

    That`s the last place I would think of looking for a network drive - in Computer ? It`s a device on the network, why would it be in my Computer ?

    You see, it works both ways, just that you happen to be more used to Windows. At this time there is really very little difference in usability between Windows and Linux. And given that Linux is free, whereas a Microsoft OS costs an increasingly larger part of the overall cost of a machine (in a market where margins are razor thin), it`s easy to see why OEMS are starting to move more towards Linux.

  24. Gordon Fecyk

    Could've dropped the "same security holes" jab

    I ask the same old question when someone equates Windows with Insecurity: Why don't my own friends, family, clients and employers don't have security problems?

    Can't someone write an insightful article about the M$ monopoly without poking the same old security non-issues?

  25. Gareth Irwin

    The main issue with Linux etc is..

    .. all the weird names of stuff that mean nothing what so ever. 'All you have to do is download ranto.forks.ammo.arg and install it an and you have yourself a canon printer.


    Sadly those that are 'into it' are into it, for those of us (I will take a stab and say 99%) who are not 'into it' the crap you talk makes no sense what so ever.

    Dumb down a bit, give things nice names that mean something and see how it pans out, simple really.

  26. Bob Barker

    Apple + Linux = Microsoft?

    Great article, brought a lot of thoughts together from around the industry.

    And like most people have said here already, Microsoft is where it is at right now because it just works. People can open up a PC bos, fire it up and know exactly that Internet Explorere = Internet, My Documents = personal documents, etc etc. Its manufactured and packaged for any little goof to pick it up and use it. More people use computers now than ever before and I think we have Microsoft to thank for it.

    However, do I beleive that we should'nt charge MS for being a monopoly and hence, not break it upp because theres no other competitors out there? HECK NO! Competition and open market never hurt anyone. The profit margins on MS softwares are huge which means that even they themselves know that they can afford to milk the idustry and consumers for all their worth. This sort of attitude just leads to greedy business and lazy programming. We can all look at the automotive industry in North America for comparison. The big 3 were in a joint monopoly, much like MS and Apple are now, and it was extremely tough for any outside company to compete effectively. This was known by all companies involved and hence their products were sub-par quality. Where outside manufacturers(Honda, Toyota etc) were producing cars that were designed by closely studying and analyzing the customer's interest (Fuel efficiancy, cheap etc) the Big 3 kept re-using their old products time and time again. The industry shook up when the prices of gas sky-rocketed and caused the big 3 to become unfavorable with the consumers due to their absurd fuel efficiency in their products. Smaller companies came in and the industry had to innovate. Faster, more fuel efficient products were made by all out of sheer necessity. Those who didnt, are now suffering (Chrysler anyone?).

    This same analogy can be brought to the world of computers. Unlike automotives, however, the computer world doesnt have a complimentary industry that it is dependant on. Hence, the government has to do the part of just that. But even then, theres the question of a viable competitor. Unless someone studies the market and sees what customers like and prefer and what are their likes/dislikes, no one but MS is going to come out on top. The Linux crowd needs to understand that not everyone is ready to devote time and energy to learn their product so as to effectively use it to the same level that Windows can. The simplicity and GUI just isnt there. At the same time, Apple must also understand that consumers like choice, and that theyve been surviving so long just because no one has really tried making viriis and malware for OSX until recently due to its only recent wide-spread exposure to the market.

    A perfect competitor would emerge once Linux's level of user control is added to the GUI of OSX along with hardware customization.

    But its already here, its name is Microsoft.

    PS: Reading about the same format for file types across OSs seems to be a wonderful idea that I had never thought of before. Hats off to whoever came up with that.

  27. crashIO

    Monopoly my foot!

    So does that mean Sun has a monopoly on the Thin Client hardware and software market since they are the biggest players?


    Does that mean Toyota has a monopoly on the hybrid market because they sold more than anyone else in the last several years?


    Does that, in any way, shape or form mean those markets are closed off to competitors?


    The short answer is 'no'. The reason certain software companies were overtaken by MS (Corel, Novell and IBM all come to mind) is because they priced themselves into oblivion. Had they stayed competitive then maybe MS wouldn't be the top dog.

    The simple truth is at some point, whether it is near or distant future, MS will go the way of the dinosaur because, like its predecessors something new, better, shinier and faster will come along and usurp the top spot. And when that happens all you people will still be whining about how such and such is better than the current market leader.

    Some people just hate a winner. Most of us just hate WHINERS!

  28. Rick Stockton

    Everyone buys WINDOZE....

    Because the Bush/Ashcroft "judgement" terms have allowed Microsoft Inc. to maintain nearly unlimited monopoly pricing power. Can I buy or even see a Linux box at CompUSA, or BestBuy, or CIrcuitCity, or Sears? NO. The so-called "remedy" said that Microsoft cannot charge different OEM's different prices for Windows (OEMs of approximately the same size), but did nothing to control Microsoft's ability to reward "partners" with vast amounts of "co-marketing" money. These Rebates/Kickbacks are totally unlimited and uncontrolled. Microsoft gets to financially reward and punish it's OEMs and retailers however it pleases-- the "remedy" really did nothing.

    Your article TOTALLY DOESN'T GET IT, pretending that Windows 100% domination of retail x86 is due to deficiencies in the only viable non-Apple competitor. This is why HP, Acer, Lenovo, and all the big box stores continue to be TERRIFIED of Microsoft's monopoly power-- if they offer Linux boxes, Microsoft has the power to severely reduce or totally eliminate their "co-marketing" kickbacks. They __are not__ free to sell competing systems, except as Microsoft chooses to allow. And try to find Dell's Linux products on their website-- it's awfully hard, and saves no money at all.

    Margins in the PC business are tight, and these kickbacks maintain a Windows stranglehold in all the retail stores where people actually buy the vast majority of PCs.

    BTW, I think Mr. Hewittt hasn't seen a modern Linux desktop-- not Beryl, not Compiz, not Metisse. "Shit UI" ??? If a retail customer actually had a chance to see Compiz Fusion in action at the store, Vista's primitive (and expensive hardware-eating) 3d features would be laughed at, sort of like trying to sell a Commodore-64 in 2008.

    - - - - -

    "Live" Distro Linux versions can run really great on a lot of systems, changing NOTHING on the hard disk, and it "costs" nothing to burn as many of them as any store chain would like. If only people had a chance to try them, they might like to buy a "naked" or Linux box at an appropriately reduced price. And Samba does a pretty good job of file sharing with Windows machines. And NTFS-3G does a pretty good job of reading/writing Windows drives within the same computer. (The reverse direction, writing to Linux filesystems from Windows, is EASY because Linux actually documents their filesystems and lets you look at, or even change, the code.)

    To the extent that Linux machines have problems accessing data and applications on Windows machines within "Microsoft" networks, these problems are CREATED by Microsoft. Microsoft has been ordered by Courts in both the USA and EU to document their APIs and wire protocols YEARS AGO, but the convicted criminal monopolist company hasn't complied. In the USA, they are above the law, and that is why there isn't competition.

  29. crashIO

    @ Rick Stockton

    So who is at fault then? Sears, CompUSA or Microsoft? Who is really at fault? The person selling (MS) or the people buying (CompUSA)?

    You know why most stores don't sell Linux (besides the big kickbacks MS offers these resellers) is that Linux has NO SUPPORT beyond the community.

    Like my Grandma is gonna get online and look for a solution as to why her printer doesn't work.

    Open source cannot compete with commercial apps because the philosophy is completely different.

    You fanboys should know that.

  30. Will Hill

    Not Natural

    You need to read your own news before you conclude there's anything natural about any software monopoly, especially the second rate one in Redmond. The ease with which free software is ported across hardware and software platforms proves that there's no inherent technical difficulty making computers and hardware works and can work better than M$ can ever dream. They are not smarter and hardware makers don't really want to keep secrets. When you read your own stories about forbiding music players from working with OGG, intentionally breaking ACPI power management, sabotaging competing software and other dirty tricks, you know that M$ is a monopoly of the old fashioned kind: "Do as I say of face my wrath". If that's not good enough for you, go dig through the court documents from the US anti-trust case. M$ is so blatant, even the US federal government noticed. M$ spends close to a billion dollars a month in advertising, PR and other BS to snow you under, but they need to be paying attention to their software. Vista does not work and people are not buying it, so the monopoly is failing, and that is final proof that nothing was natural about the Windoze monopoly.

  31. Alan Donaly

    Yes we beat them long ago

    "Linux has failed to compete on the desktop because it isn't up to the task of being a consumer operating system."

    It is competing it isn't dominating mostly because there is little in the way of hype for it the fact you even address it all is more from it's merits than any commercial product you get hammered with night and day in all media and on the internet mostly because of it's user base if no one used it you wouldn't be saying anything about it as for MS and Apple let them stop all the customer abuse and shoddy practices and I wouldn't have any trouble with them either but they don't seem to be able to exist without trying to manipulate the market in some way.

  32. Martin Owens

    Windows from Microsoft anyone?

    Wow this thread has gone really Microsoft fanatical for some reason; Microsoft ARE a monopoly, that isn't an opinion. Microsoft are damaging both their own interests and the markets, industries and governments of others by _doing_ what they do, not from being winners, I'll be the first one to give you a pat on the back for winning, but I'll be the first to punch your lights out for cheating.

    As for Gnu/Linux well, I know there are loads of comments saying it's crap and not really ready, I don't believe any of the people have tried a real linux distro recently. And besides Linux is more about principle over practical. Do you not think it would make my life so much _easier_ to get a windows machine? but the fact is that I can't because it would violate my principles and I'm not willing to sell out for something so unimportant as operating system functionality.

    Half the time I despair at the human race when it buys Microsoft. No heart or soul, not even any morals. such a pitty. I mean it was never any good but now I just pitty it.

  33. This post has been deleted by its author

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a nutshell...

    Excellent article, and one that I can relate to.

    I've been looking for something "better" than windows for years. I'm a non-technical user, with a decent base understanding of how things are done. Like many people here I spend a lot of my spare time supporting and fixing family and friends Windows machines, and I can pretty much sort them out.

    I don't though, particularly enjoy the Windows experience, it's just too arbitary in the way it operates, with spurious errors and conflicts getting in my way.

    Over the past 5 years, I've tried pretty much every upcoming Linux flavour, and found every one of them lacking in one way or another, be it printer support, wireless support, graphics resolution or whatever.

    Quite simply Linux still doesn't cut the mustard out of the box for Joe Average, it doesn't. And that's probably not a criticism of it, it's something that's really a fact of life, it's free, therefore you can't really expect it to deliver to the same extent that a paid for OS should. Or can you?

    When FOSS gets it's act together it really can deliver (think firefox) but the lack of truly compelling *business* driver in the Linux world means that it will forever be plagued by pointless Gnome v. KDE debates, needless dupication of effort just to service engrained dogma and prejudice. Quite simply if Linux really is for the desktop, it needs to be disciplined, uniform and above all simpler. It's the difference between having a pure OS, and a genuinely real world useful one for anything beyond infrastructure.

    In essence that's what Apple have done with OSX, taken a core strong OS and tailored it to their market. Linux has the capability to be the OSX for the rest of us and as far as I can see with Vista continuing to receive bad press there's never been a better opportunity.

    But, and this genuinely isn't meant as a flame, until the community starts to think more about what needs to happen than what it wants to happen, it's not going to happen.

    I'll climb off my soapbox now... ;-)

  35. mario


    I’m running a larger computer net and I don’t have a problem with the fact that many of my users prefer a Windows desktop. At the end of the day it’s all about productivity and so if I’m a happy bunny with OpenOffice and our secretary hums along with Word, that’s fine by me.

    But I have a problem with the fact that each time a major security update is rolled out on the windows boxes I have to brace myself for network troubles with my samba servers.

    Someone in Redmond likes to give me a frequent remainder that we’re supposed to run a windows server and pay in addition to the desktop licenses the server licenses and a per connection toll on top of that and pay basically for each litte maintenance apps that I get bundled with linux or solaris for free. And right, where was that M$ journaling file system again (?), my ext3 for a full 100% off is doing quite fine, thank you.

    I’m not an evangelist for or against M$ at all, but I’m really getting dog tired of being cattle prodded around by someone fiddeling with active directory not to improve but to break existing work environments and to provoke a switchover ...

    And that’s where the EU-ruling is spot on: Time to ensure that the interface protocols of the infrastructure cornerstones become clearly documented (and not that smokescreen crap of providing thousands of unusable pages of bloatwash that M$ did try to deliver).

    The infrastructure of modern societies, and that goes far beyond informatics, have to be accessable to any competitor that desires to enter the market.

    Otherwise the free market is dead and innovation goes down the same tube, too, because you can lock-out or bog down any competitor at your whim. Imagine just a split second what (actually: if) the internet would be if a company like M$ would have control over TCP/IP...

    The next step will hopefully be, that more and more european govermental institutions adopt only software that adheres to these open standards. And since the writing is actually on the wall, Microsoft is VERY worried. Just observing the frantic efforts to fast track their open document format through the ISO adoption process in Europe is telling ...

  36. D. M

    @ crashIO

    Since when you get any support for windows?

    Anyway, the biggest problems for linux:

    1. software installer. It gets better now, but it is still hard to install software package for linux. Windows software installation is a no brainer.

    2. Hardware support. Try to install new hardware driver is a huge problem for less-than-linux-expert users; finding the right driver for your hardware can be impossible.

  37. Mark

    Ha ha! you all miss the point, surely?

    First off, I'm no IT professional, I'm a research scientist. I know little about what *makes* an operating system. Like many of you I am sure, I learned BASIC on a ZX and a Speccy, then a 386 then did some C stuff at night school, so not a total dimmock, just an educated amateur. I use Mac's sometimes at conferences as they are reliable and don't crash half-way through a talk. I installed Linux once, but it didn't do much, and as I had no particular interest in half-finished home-written software to run on it, or hacking servers, and I am not a particularly skilled software developer, I uninstalled it.

    What REALLY drives micro$oft's monopoly? Simple, 2 things, GAMES and MICROSOFT OFFICE.

    Office is the global standard for business and it is a slow, difficult and expensive thing for a business to change. The only thing that would even begin a global change in business OS use would be to implement cross compatibility across all file types (which would surely restrict competitiveness and the development of new business software innovation), or a drastic reduction in the cost of a Mac (I can buy a Dell workstation for a couple of hundred quid VAT free through the University where I work).

    For the common home user, (almost everybody) even those who primarily bought their box to edit photographs, or home movies and not to play games, many of them have kids (or husbands) who want games or easily available educational software. Not many contemporary games are available for the Mac (although this is changing a little), and I can't see kids getting much cred from bringing their mates home to play "Snake" on the family Linux system.

    Yes, I am a gamer, but I also use Windows PCs to drive confocal microscopes and qPCR machines as well as for DTP, molecular biology and office apps in my office, so I am hardly an ignorant fanboy. Until the price of Macs comes down and general availability of Mac software increases, I'll have to stick to Windows PCs for my work and gaming, Linux remains a platform for the niche enthusiast or simple and cheap legacy user. Like me, the vast majority of users are not IT professionals, and until you all develop the ability to see past your own front yard, you'll never realize the big picture.

  38. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Of course, Windows can Work, IT is not AIDummy

    "but they need to be paying attention to their software." ....... and they need a Beta PR AIgent. ............ Selling Virtualised Dreams which Boldly Go into the Immaculate Embrace of the Red Zone ...... Hard Core, Heavy Rock Underground Servering to Venus Feeds and Needs amidst Pandoran Beautiful Confusion......... BetaTesting Lovers Drive for Passion and a Passionate Drive in Lovers Testing Beta Models.

    A Colossus of AI Task which Grows in Intensity XXXXPonentially and Always Best 42 Share Fully....... for More and More to Share Fully.

    cc; Steve, Bill and Paul re. Scarlett Pimpernels and Rooie Vrouwen..... One for All and All for One.

  39. Joe Cooper

    Average Joe

    I couldn't really give a rat's ass about what Average Joe wants. Why do we care? Obviously Windows works for people.

    Remember when Open Source was about scratching your own itch? Since when did it mean being everyone else's bitch? Nobody in the open source world is obligated to develop software for anyone else for free. That's just plain stupid.

    Howabout this: Linux is, for people like us, perfectly usable. You can go online, go to all the websites, do what you want to do, you have software, it is compatible. Back in the old days Linux was unusable on the net cause all we had some Netscape 4, but those days are dead and gone.

    Regardless of how "non-techies" think of Linux, Linux is perfectly usable for us. That means you DO have a choice.

    Basically, the choice is there for those who care. For someone who couldn't give a rat's ass, why prod them for any reason other than spite towards Microsoft? That's just greedy.

  40. Brian Miller

    Linux and Apple aren't popular? Well, duh!

    Why isn't it obvious that Linux and Apple aren't popular?

    Apple never pursued the business market. They went after the artistic/educator market. The Mac-clone market was shut down. Apple really doesn't want to be in the computer business. If Apple was serious about the computer business, then it would be serious about software. Unfortunately, Apple just doesn't care. I have no idea why Apple bothers to sell computers. They should just dump that business and let someone else do it right.

    Linux is a toy. It was made to be a toy. It is amazing how far this toy has gone, but its still a toy, and the development model is still haphazard. After all this time, what do we have to show for all of this? Is this something that is as reliable for the incompetent user as Windows? No.

    Is Solaris 10 ready for the incompetent user? No. I just installed some recommended patches, and my system won't boot now. I have to boot in single-user mode and sort things out. If installing recommended patches kills a machine, then it definitely isn't ready for the messy masses. The Solaris updater should be able to figure out that a package shouldn't be loaded on a machine.

    Do any of you realize what commercial Unix software costs? A heck of a lot!! Like an order of magnitude (at least) more than the equivalent Windows software.

    Windows is the only OS out there which usually doesn't take a highly trained and/or motivated user to use it. Programmers write for it because its either all they know, or else because there isn't a market for other platforms. There's lots of market share, so the software is cheap. No wonder its a natural monopoly!

  41. V.Srikrishnan

    GNOME non intuitive?!!!

    i started on linux 5 years ago when i was 23, i had used MS Windows till then(for 2 years, i really began late). Now, i did not find the transition at all confusing. GNU/Linux needs a BIT of commonsense to be made use of; mad and mindless clicking will not help.

    of course, once one gets used to the Terminal, nothing else is needed, mostly. Thats why it is favoured in the academia more, perhaps.

    So, the users who gripe about poor user interface are better off where they are, simply buying foodstuffs and shoving it into the microwave doesn't make good food; similarly simply expecting the computer/SW to perform miracles by monkey clicking will not produce the desired result.

    No offence intended.

  42. Andrew Abbass

    MS is needs to become just plumbing for Mediasoft


    MS created a great p2p publishing system for independentl music and movies with the Weedshare network.

    Then they closed it down arbitrarily by rolling out software updates just because they might want to eventually incorporate it into the Zune.

    Not cool.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is so much FUD on here it stinks

    Well, Linux names for things are bad.

    Oh, so win32xx.dll is obvious, right?

    Last week I spent 4 hours installing an application on a fully patched windows server, including several dips into the windows command line,and several trips to the windows download site to update .dll files that didn't work, reinstall broken support frameworks. (note these are Windows support files, not the application.)

    I use Linux because it works- and keeps on working.

    The only reason for a home user to use Windows these days is to play games, and the consoles do that better anyway.

    I maintain a mixed Windows, Mac and Linux network.

    The main problem with Windows is that you can install all sorts of rubbish far too easily.(strangely enough, a lot of people see that as an advantage).

    Yes installing rubbish is far harder with Linux - and this is actually why it is more stable and secure.

    I choose to use Linux at home, because it gives me the best desktop experience.

    I don't generally waste my time with games, but there are a lot better than "snake" available, as my grandson will testify.

    As for hardware, most things "just work" without having to download a driver.

    There are exceptions, of course, but they are increasingly confined to the cheap and nasty, or those deliberately designed only to work with windows(see cheap and nasty). There are probably more pieces of hardware that work with the present Linux Kernel than work with Vista. ( the comment about a canon printer was just stupid ).

    The general comments on usability, apps, games, etc on Linux in this thread seem about 2 years out of date. It may take MS 7 years to upgrade their OS, but 6 months is a long time in the Linux community.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why Microsoft has a Monopoly

    1. They are affordable. Compare the prices between a PC and a Mac.

    2. They are everywhere. Walk into any store that sells computers and walk away with a Windows PC. Can you do the same with a Mac? or iMac?

    3. They can be fiddled with. I haven't opened up a Mac, but I understand what a bitch it is... I'm going for an MA in CIT, and I built my own PC. So when someone who knows says something is a bitch to repair, I believe them.

    4. The effort required to change over software.... anyone who has done it is having nightmares.

    5. Available software. Software? For an Apple? Really?

    I don't think I need to continue. But lately I think I've been sensing a change in the wind... more and more people have expressed disgust with Windows and with Microsoft, especially after Vista's release. I work at a help desk, so believe me, I get to hear it. Anyone who remembers XP's release, will know what I mean. Vista is the reason Apple's computer sales have been up since the beginning of the year; and God Bless them, why Dell is steadfastly refusing to budge in the face of the storm of Microsoft's displeasure that they are still installing XP on some systems per customer request (on Alienware systems, as well). You have to pay more for it (they need the money to pay for M$ coming lawsuit?) but you can still get it. It is still a Microsoft product, but it is not the Microsoft product they want to sell, it is not the product they want the vendors to sell.

    The defiance is growing, if not fast enough to suit the M$ haters...

  45. Jack Moxley

    Apple Licenses its OS

    I'm sure they've done this twice before, and as soon as they saw their hardware sales drop; because someone had produced a clone that was cheaper, they quickly reversed their license. Even if they wanted to go through with it and risk the lucrative hardware sales. No one in their right mind will risk their business on licensing apple's OS.

    I think the only major difference between apple and microsoft is that apple want money to produce innovation and microsoft want innovation to produce money. When it comes to developers or customers, both give with one hand and take with another; and (choose deity if you got 'em) help you if you step on their toes.

  46. Glenn Gilbert

    Tools drive Microsoft's monopoly

    One has to look at how people use their computers to see why Windows is so popular. It's a given that MS Office is essential to most people, but it's the general availability of software that really drives their monopoly.

    Why is there so much software available? It's push and pull. Pull as in there's a massive market out there so anyone with a good software idea would want to sell their idea to as many people as possible. Developing for Windows exposes a product to the maximum number of customers. The Mac and Linux markets are minuscule in comparison.

    However there's the push aspect; decent tools for developing software. There's just no doubt about it, Microsoft's development tools are the best there are anywhere. Sure, they're lacking in some aspects, but their compilers, frameworks and IDEs are just light years ahead of the competition. A comparison of Visual Studio and Eclipse would be useful here. Visual Studio is fast, reliable, full of features, and is easy to use and configure. My experience with Eclipse has been the opposite (I'll put on my tin hat now).

    The point is that the old sweaty armpit video of Bulmer's "developers developers developers" is one major reason why Windows is so popular ( - it's worth a watch!).

    What's available for the Mac and Linux? Sure, loads of different languages, etc. But nothing remotely like the .Net environment (the two el-reg Mac development articles look horridly complex -

    Most corporates and large organisations don't want to employ hyper-intelligent-mega-beings to do their development. Just average programmers - they're cheaper. That's precisely why VB, VBA, and Visual Studio is so popular.

    So whilst the Linux mob are redesigning the UI, could you please also redesign the developer tools?


    PS; I dumped Windows and switched to a Mac a year ago. I just couldn't take listening to ever-youthful Microsoft "evangelists" spouting complete bollocks about Vista. I've heard it all before - every time Microsoft launches a new Windows OS.

    I'm very happy with OSX. With Parallels, I've got the fastest XP development machine I've ever had as I don't need all the Office and anti-virus treacleware to slow it down.

    Why not Linux? Just how can I run all the applications I need? For example Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Visual Studio, Internet Exploder, Safari, iTunes (for the iPod), and an office suite. Sure bits are available, but not everything.

  47. Martin Maloney

    It's the piracy, stupid

    Question: What was the most-pirated computer program of the 1980s?

    Answer: MS-DOS.

    Question: What was the most pirated computer program of the early 1990s?

    Answer: Windows 3.1x.

    And it continues today. The dirty little secret is that the computer software market is piracy driven. It is the piracy of Windows itself and of Windows apps that has made Microsoft the dominant force in the personal computer field.

    Piracy established the Microsoft platform as the PC standard.


  48. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    So many opinions, so wide of the mark ...

    Why is it that no-one has yet commented on how hard it is to install Windoze ? Linux is hard to install seems to be a complaint, whilst neatly ignoring the fact that few people actually ever install Windoze. Those that do find all the same problems that Linux is criticised for - the only difference is that because of it's market share, there are few hardware vendors that don't provide device drivers for Windows while there are plenty of devices that don't have vendor supplied drivers for Linux.

    How about, download drivers, install floppy drive in machine, boot system installer, read the small print to find oout how to tell it to read the driver off the floppy so it can actually recognise the hard drives, finally install OS ? No I'm not talking about Linux, this is what I've actually observed at work with Windows - and yes, the installer would not use anything but the A: drive (floppy) for the raid controller driver, no CD, no USB stick, only a floppy !

    Someone mentioned that he always knows where to look for his shares and WTF is NFS ? Well bully for you - so you only know how to (and can only connect to) other Windoze machines then ! That's part of the problem, you only know how to use Microsoft stuff and are ignorant that there are other things in the world besides (and SMB isn't the best protocol for everything).

    No, what the EU case was about is the way Microsoft made it so that you COULD NOT use a non-Microsoft server with your Windows desktop without seeing problems (hence destroying competition in the server market). In the same way, once you have Microsoft servers then you can't use non-Microsoft clients without seeing problems (thus re-inforcing their dominant position on the desktop). This situation requires a near monopoly on the desktop which was NOT arrived at by fair competition - it was arrived at by obviously unfair and illegal practices such as making contract terms that mean the manufacturers can't effectively offer alternatives.

    Other tricks include changing the APIs if anyone gets too close to a good competing product, putting bits in the OS to support your own apps while confusing the opposition by 'accidentally' leaving bugs in the APIs that you've documented, and of course lets not overlook the outright THEFT of other peoples ideas and the abuse of the legal system by simply dragging out any case until the complainant simply runs out of cash and disappears.

    And don't even get me started on their attempt to get OSI approval for something that is anything but open !

  49. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    @Glenn Gilbert

    "Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Visual Studio, Internet Exploder, Safari, iTunes"

    Dreamweaver and Photoshop work remarkably well under wine, as does IE (got all versions from 5.5 to 7 running on my computer for testing. Check out IEs4linux). Safari is just Konqueror with a nice skin. Itunes? There are several media players that have I-tunes style integration with the ipod and numerous other players. Amarok does it very well. Of course they don't let you buy from the itunes store, but that's never bothered me. Overpriced low quality tat. I just rip CDs.

    Why doesn't apple support ogg? Actually I know the reasons why they don't, but I don't particularly agree with them.

  50. D. M

    windows does NOT work, but FUD does

    I'm not developer, but I've always been in either directly IT support, or closely related areas. And I also have worked for both small and big "places". I'm now over 3 years in this huge gov department.

    Windows never worked, never works, chance are, never will.

    Why we still have "all" windows environment? Stupid management (please keep in mind that IT person does NOT make IT decision) + FUD. From my experience, small business/company would be the same.

    For personal market, regardless what Linux can do or capable to do. The environment is against Linux.

    1. Software availability and the matter of installation keep a lot of people who are willing to switch OS away. Let's just face it, without the right software, some people cannot do their job. And the installation process for Linux software is still beyond what average people will cope. On personal market, many people are scared about false information on Linux. Give you a real example, after I gave a ubuntu CD to my co-worker, she was so pissed because she was driven away from Linux (which she wished she could knew the truth much earlier) by so called "expert opinions".

    2. Hardware support. I know it is getting better, but getting Linux drive is still a pain. Install the driver can be nightmare, it just drives average users away.

    3. Games. Yes, many (should I dare to say majority) PC today are mainly for Porn/Games. I'm not expert on the former, but games on Linux = not happening for majority of games that count.

  51. Benjamin Cohen

    A little mean

    I wasn't busy playing on Facebook when I wrote that article on the Microsoft judgement. I was having to juggle the European court case and the Northern Rock Story.

    In the end I did manage to explain the court case on News at Noon before analysing the impact of the Northern Rock crisis on the housing market for the evening news.

    Thanks for the links though

    Ben- btw my nickname is spelt Benjie!

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Average Joe.. @Joe Cooper

    If Linux isn't for Joe Average, why the heck do so many of "the community" keep telling everyone that it is?

    If it ain't suitable, it ain't suitable, so let it lie as a niche thing rather then keep banging on about security issues, greed and generally how much better things would be if we'd all just see the light and abandon Windows...

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe we need to all agree on the meaning of "works"

    I think the problem is, some of us have high standards and others have low standards, and this makes even starting out on a discussion about Windows difficult.

    For example... the opinion of most people is that Windows isn't perfect but "it works." Now by working they mean, boots up, only occasionally blue screens, or crashes in a way that causes loss of data.

    To me, an OS doesn't work unless it is really reliable. On my latest top of the line Dell laptop with the latest Windows XP and all updates, explorer.exe often takes 99% of my CPU essentially hanging my system. This happens about 40% of the time after to cold boot. Now you can force a restart, or if you can get task manager to appear, can kill explorer.exe, and most Windows users seem to think this is ok and that Windows "works." In my world, however, if something like this happens, it is not working.

    So maybe the real question should be, why do people have such low standards and expectations about how an OS "works" and how come people think Windows "works" when by my standards, it simply doesn't?

  54. Andrew Tyler


    Which brings us to another point...

    Since for a lot of thieving people all software is free anyways, you have to look at it from a their perspective. To invoke the popular car analogy: if your average person is going to be stealing a car anyways, wouldn't they steal the most expensive one they can get away with?

    The dependable, efficient, highly functional cheap car (say, a Toyota) or the ridiculously expensive, impractical exotic car that's all flash and with no door-locks (say, a Lamborghini)?

    Oooh.. that'll piss some people off. I'll let you decide which is which.

  55. Steven Hewittt

    It's just not got the UI

    And yes, I mean the whole UI - NOT pretty special effects and transparent windows - the whole lot. That's the location of stuff, preview panes, intelligence within the GUI so it's like the UI is there to help, not to hinder.

    You expect the 'Map network drive' to be in Network - yes, it is in Vista (as it is within computer too). It's not on the distro of Linux that I was refering to (Create New, Link to, NFS - users can't guess WTF NFS can they?!?!?!).

    Try getting Grandma to run a Java app on a Linux distro without the JRE installed. It's a fucking nightmare!!!

    Yeah, cause Grandma wants to have to drop to bash to open a conf file to type in some environmental variables.

    Linux is great, server side, for non-intergrated stuff - I love it. (web, ftp, firewall, maybe DNS etc. Rather use MS for mail, ldap directory, file/print, portal/collab) The core of Linux is rock solid and is awesome. Is the UI anywhere near as good as Windows? Nope - not by a mile.

    It'll get there, but until KDE or Gnome become tighter with their intergration onto the platform it's just not gonna kick off - remove any tech reference to the UI and USERS SHOULD NOT NEED TO USE A CLI!!!

  56. Sampler

    Apple fanboys

    Haven't read all the posts up there - but I'm sick to the back teeth of the "Apple zero virus's" comments - do these guys pay no heed to history - what was the first computer virus? Elk Cloner - and the OS - Apple.

    I've recently installed Ubuntu on my computer after looking at Vista and being completely underwhelmed only to find both my graphics card and sound card aren't supported so I'm stuck with an ugly resolution on my primary screen, a duplicate screen on my secondary monitor (instead of my preferred span) and can't hear nothing.

    Now this really is manufacturers fault not providing drivers you may argue - but to me it means I can't use the OS.

    Least Vista did all these out of the box - though it soon went back in it.

  57. Liam Smit

    @ Don Mitchell

    The first version of Windows NT (3.1) was only released in 1993. That makes it rather easy to surpass the capabilities of Unix back in 1989...

    There are many more features in Windows that come from Unix and other OS's than vice versa. E.g. proper multi-user functionality.

    Perhaps you'd care to provide some specific examples of ideas that originated at Microsoft rather than somewhere else first. Your list will either be horribly short, contain dubious innovations or be ignoring prior art.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have to agree..

    'Piracy established the Microsoft platform as the PC standard.'

    Im breaking my my personal rule and posting anonomously for this one.

    I wouldnt put the 'piracy' argument as the major factor with regards to MS domination but I would say that it eased its path.

    A company decides to roll out Office, how soon after that are its employees looking for a copy so they can get up to speed at home ?

    The UK has pushed the ECDL for a few years now as a demonstration of a certain level of IT competence for white collar workers, this qualification has a heavy Office bias, students feel they need to practice away from the classroom and are reluctant to pay the the exhorbitant price MS ask .

    So they do the obvious, find a dodgy alternative to the PC World shrink wrapped copies, if they are lucky they get it from a clean source and dont get infected by viruses.

    On a personal note, the last time I donated to MS's coffers was Windows 3 ( not the poncy 3.11 :) ) and that was because it was bundled with a PC. In the meantime I have used every version of the OS and Office for free ( along with VB and a few other apps).

    My point is that its this free availability of the OS that in turn grows the user base to the point that other software houses will develop simply because of the huge installed base.

  59. Toby

    "highest appeals court"

    The Court of First Instance isn't the highest appeals court in the EU. Hence its name: it's actually the FIRST court you appeal to.

    The system is:

    1) The European Commission issues a decision.

    2) If you don't like the decision, you can appeal to the Court of First Instance.

    3) If you don't like their judgement, there is a narrow range of options for further appeal to the European Court of Justice. The ECJ is the highest court (other than the European court of human rights, which doesn't seem relevant in this case!).

  60. Anonymous

    Viruses, and Apple, and the like

    Yeah, "Elk Cloner" was the first. Well, actually, it wasn't, Creeper was, which ran on Tanex. But that's as may be.

    Elk Cloner ran on Apple DOS, the operating system for the Apple II. No, not OSX. Not the operating system for the older Macs, either, that was Macintosh OS, and before that, System. Nor for the Lisa, the Mac's forerunner. No, the Apple II was a 6502 based machine, much like the Commodore 64 and all those other 8-bit greats. It was actually a very good and capable business machine for its time. But its OS bears about the same resemblance to OSX as CP/M running on an 8080 does to Windows.

    In the 80s and 90s, there were a fair number of viruses for System/MacOS. But again, this OS bears little to no resemblance to current-day OSX. You simply can't run those viruses under OSX except under an emulator, and all they could hurt would be the emulated machine.

    The first DOS virus, more or less, was "Brain", written for MS-DOS running on an 8086. It can still infect Windows today.

    Zero virus is referring to OSX (which, although being released as OSX in 2001, goes back to NeXTStep, of 1991 vintage). It is susceptible to *zero* viruses. None. Nada. Zilch.

    This doesn't mean it's immune to viruses, I'm sure that eventually it will be susceptible, it doesn't mean it's super-secure (it has its own litany of security flaws) or bug-free. But, for the moment, it's virus-free.

    Makes a big difference, that does.

  61. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    The usual morons

    Thank you Andrew for another thought provoking article that produced the usual amount of thoughtless invective with people talking technology rather than business.

    Microsoft maintains its dominant position by shrewd business practices, not least of which are the massive rebates offered to OEMs if they purchase a licence for MS Windows for *every* machine they sell. This virtually guarantees that the majority of computers sold are sold with MS Windows preinstalled. If PCs could not be sold with an OS preinstalled the market would be much more open.

    Apple won't go after more market share. They now seem to have a position similar to IBM's when Windows 95 was announced. IBM did the figures and decided it wasn't economically sensible to go after the desktop OS market, as most of its income was from server applications. For a while IBM was definitely making a lot more money from sales of Notes, et al. for Windows NT than Microsoft was with its clones. Apple is making money from hardward, although the switch to x86 was something they didn't want and cost a lot of money, but the real growth for Apple is in it's closed source and extremely anti-competitive digital media devices. Licensing Mac OS X to other manufacturers would increase software sales but the impact on margins would be considerable. It might come to that if hardware sales fall and the offer is good enough, but who's going to want to jeopardise their relationship with MS (worth $100 for each machine sold) to preinstall Mac OS X? Apart from Microsoft few companies have made a real go of selling a "platform" and the recent delays in the next version of Mac OS X are indicative that Apple is doing "just enough" to stay in the desktop game while most of its development resources are devoted to the iToy range.

    So the status quo is likely to stay for a while until the underlying market changes: people stop buying PCs in large numbers. Or regulators do get bold and enforce unbundling.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Joe Cooper, the problem is *you*

    Joe Cooper:

    > I couldn't really give a rat's ass about what Average Joe wants. Why do we care? Obviously Windows works for people.

    > Remember when Open Source was about scratching your own itch? Since when did it mean being everyone else's bitch?

    The Linux crowd appear to be 50% people like Joe, and 50% people who think Linux *is* (or *almost is*) for the mass market desktop. The article itself of course is asking about mass-market OSes. But for as long as there are all these Joe Coopers around, you don't have a prayer.

    You're *this close* to doing something wonderful for humanity, but the Joe Coopers are in your way.

  63. Simon Greenwood

    It's all about the paradigm.

    The average person who buys their first £400 laptop from Curry's doesn't know what Windows is. They believe that Internet Explorer is 'the Internet'. That is Microsoft's victory in 2007. If that first computer was a Macbook, OS X would be the computer and Safari would be the Internet. As for Linux... well, you can get so far with Ubuntu and there's no reason why an OEMed Ubuntu wouldn't be mostly transparent because it could be made to work on a known range of hardware, which is what Dell *should* have done.

    Andrew also ignores a major consideration in the development of Linux on the desktop: for a lot of professionals OS X has superseded it as a desktop Unix that Just Works, which moved the focus away from getting Linux (and indeed Solaris) to prime time. I don't think it's any mystery as to why Ubuntu looks and feels like OS X because that is the inspiration that the developers are drawing on.

    As Apple moves away from the computer to the appliance it may well be yet that Steve stands up in a month or so's time, introduces Leopard, and then as that one last thing, announces that for another $50 (and inevitably £50 in the UK) it will be available for all x86 machines. Microsoft would hate that, Google wouldn't care, those that are ideologically bound to 'freedom' would decry the move and Apple's desktop share would probably reach all of 30%, because the people who want it will have it, but to those who are new, Windows is the computer and IE is the Internet.

  64. D. M

    About what average Jo thinks, and why the standard is so low

    You will be wrong that average Jo thinks Windows = computer and IE = Internet. Many people do think that way, but many also are scared to try anything else because years of FUD + false information given by many so call IT expert who knows nothing about IT.

    It is shock for me to learn that many people been told and believe that buy a new PC without buy Vista is illegal. No kidding, even "asking new PC with WINDOWS XP instead of Vista" will be illegal and "get you into serious trouble".

    For people who has an idea, this is nothing but laughing bullshit. But think for those people who don't, and have no intention to get into trouble.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "I bet if I look at everyone who read this columns system it is either a MS platform or a Mac platform (running MS Office) so that pretty much says it all doesn't it?"

    You lose.

    Reading (and replying to this) in Firefox on a Gentoo Linux box running KDE desktop.

    Been using Linux on the desktop (and for all my servers) at home and work for years.

    Never hangs, never crashes, never gets a virus, never costs a penny.

    I do use Windows for the important things like playing games or testing how Internet Explorer's bugs and quirks affect display of my standards compliant web sites.

  66. Torben Mogensen

    Why does everyone think Windows is good for Joe Average?

    All these criticising Linux for not being suitable for Joe Average fails to realise that neither is Windows. My parents have a Windows PC and every time I visit, I have to fix some problem that they can't solve. And often I (in spite of having used Windows for over a decade and having a Ph.D. in CS) have to give up too because of the arcane ways things work (or not) in Windows. Most recently, they can't use their two-year old printer because they "upgraded" to Vista, which doesn't have a driver pre-installed, doesn't have one on Windows update and the "fix" that I downloaded from the printer vendor's website didn't work.

    So is this Microsoft's fault? I think it is, as the structure of Windows is such that each device must have a driver installed before it can work, and upgrades to Windows does not always allow old drivers to continue working. It would make much more sense to require devices to carry their own drivers (written in bytecode or some such) which are loaded from the devices themselves when they are plugged in (_real_ plug-and-play). But that could allow such devices to be used on other systems that recognize the same driver code, so MS would risk losing their dominant status. One reason Windows is dominant is that you can use pretty much any device you buy in a shop, where you with Linux of Mac first have to check on a list of compatible devices. Vendors have no incentive to have devices carry drivers or propose a standard that allows this) as long as 90% of their potential market runs Windows.

    As for Linux just copying features off of NT, MS is not any better. Almost all the new and exciting features of Windows 95 came from other places, most notably the Acorn Archimedes mentioned at the start of the article. Half a decade before Win95 it had pop-up menus, central printer management, central management for scalable fonts, drag-and-drop, etc. in a much more intuitive GUI. If you think it is easy to find the disk drives in Windows, it was/is much easier on RISC OS: They are all shown on the icon bar at the bottom of the screen.

  67. alistair millington

    Vista schmista, come on anyone else

    Being an IT semi geek that works (supports) on both Vista, Xp and uses linux.

    If you are a home user doing nowt but the net and letting the malware MS installs handle updates then you are fine with MS. If you take an interest and like installation of many games or software and use it beyond the day to day. Then there is so much out there that is better, but you wlil never know because it takes effort. The critical decisions to offer a choice have been made for you by the vendors through backhanders and big incentive schemes.

    I don't like MS, Vista isn't what they sell it as (anyone shocked), it is overpriced by a huge amount, it doesn't run on the RAM they advertise (it can use 128MB in ultimate (but can't read over 3) ) The security settings are a joke, the help files are worse. (4 hours to share a directory) XP and Vista don't share media libraries in media player 11 (winamp anyone) it crashes playing games because of an unknown error (the reporting error tool crashed twice) all something I discovered at home after installation. Then I started using it at work. (It got far worse)

    So you have to ask if MS next offering is Vista how safe is there market share.

    They do give massive carrot and stick incentives and they get away with it. Everyone knows they do, legally and otherwise by stopping licences and with holding support if someone dares to go against their wishes but they know there is nothing out there to worry them.

    For me windows Xp works but the fact we are facing service pack 3 says it all. There is a Microsoft tuesday for pete's sake. It is that filled with holes and that poorly written that they have to make such regular releases as to have a known time and day to do it.

    Linux has too many distro's to be any good (Just pick one or two and go with them). You have the internet, open office and Email with good OSS stuff so now tackle to rest of the bulk home user market. Games, that to me is the key to the future. (Don't even mention games on Vista.)

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    personal preferences

    Why does everyone always hammer Windows. Every OS has good points and bad points from the point of view of the user. Personally I would take XP over OSX anyday. I have to work with a combination of OSX, XP, Vista and Linux. I am very adept with all these operating systems, but my personal preference is XP. That isn't a crime. No one is forcing you to agree with me. If you don't like it, use Linux or OSX but stop shouting that just because it is best for you, or it is your preference that it makes it right for everybody. I am no MS fanboy, I hate the way they do business and the prices they charge but I like XP. When XP no longer provides the functionality I need, then I will look at another preferred OS and that may or may not be a MS product. I am not going to be grouped into any fanbase (take note Apple and Linux brainwashed fanboys) I use whatever I like the best and at the minute that happens to be MS

  69. crashIO

    @ Rick Stockton

    So who is at fault then? Sears, CompUSA or Microsoft? Who is really at fault? The person selling (MS) or the people buying (CompUSA)?

    You know why most stores don't sell Linux (besides the big kickbacks MS offers these resellers) is that Linux has NO SUPPORT beyond the community.

    Like my Grandma is gonna get online and look for a solution as to why her printer doesn't work.

    Open source cannot compete with commercial apps because the philosophy is completely different.

    You fanboys should know that.

  70. crashIO

    Baseline Normal

    <Quote>: "I bet if I look at everyone who read this columns system it is either a MS platform or a Mac platform (running MS Office) so that pretty much says it all doesn't it?"

    You lose.

    Reading (and replying to this) in Firefox on a Gentoo Linux box running KDE desktop.

    Been using Linux on the desktop (and for all my servers) at home and work for years.

    Never hangs, never crashes, never gets a virus, never costs a penny.

    I do use Windows for the important things like playing games or testing how Internet Explorer's bugs and quirks affect display of my standards compliant web sites.


    Yes I am sure you are the standard for all users out there. I must have been mistaken.

  71. Steve

    @Sub geeks

    "Last week I spent 4 hours installing an application on a fully patched windows server, including several dips into the windows command line,and several trips to the windows download site to update .dll files that didn't work, reinstall broken support frameworks. (note these are Windows support files, not the application.)"

    This has never happened to me. Ever. Not once. The only time I have even heard of anything even remotely similar happening was when one of my neophyte developers shipped half of his %windir% as part of a software update that was subsequently loaded on to 150 machines. This is a big ouch, but it was caused by a simple human incompetence, it isn't the fault of the OS or the manufacturer, but of the idiot who shipped the wrong files and the idiot who installed 150 updates without testing any of them.

    If your machine is in such a mess, it is almost certainly going to turn out to be your fault.

    "Windows never worked, never works, chance are, never will."

    Come now, this is simply bullshit. If it never worked, we wouldn't be having this conversation (again) about MS having a monopoly, because they wouldn't have. Millions of businesses around the globe run windows. Clearly it works well enough.

    "And often I (in spite of having used Windows for over a decade and having a Ph.D. in CS) have to give up too because of the arcane ways things work (or not) in Windows."

    Then I'm sorry, but you should really take your doctorate back to wherever you got it and demand a refund as you were clearly defrauded.

    Windows is by no means perfect, but those of you who have this much difficulty with it can rest assured that the problem is indeed between the chair and the keyboard.

    I dread to think how much damage you numpties could do on a linux system.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Glad to see *somebody* round here forgot to put their blinkers on. The end of your original post was the most inciteful and accurate comment I've seen for a while.

    Anybody remember Lotus 123? The Borland Quattro restrictive practices by Lotus whine wars? No?

    The perfect example of a multi-million dollar, de facto software monopoly disappearing down the tubes faster than you could say "WTF was that?". All they got wrong was backing the wrong horse in the OS wars and sinking all their effort into OS/2 and relying on the semi-gui DOS product to handle Win 3 (supporting that shit was a stressful time).

    The same thing could just as easily happen to MS, who knows what the catalyst might be?

    Of course the *really* funny circular argument here is that what eventually killed off Lotus was a spreadsheet ubiquitous on the Mac but unheard of on PCs, MS Excel. Oh the irony!


  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Did anyone notice that all of the Linux comments were, "It works if you do ___."

  74. Shinobi87

    people are forgetting

    I think the main thing people are forgetting here when they talk of innovation is that. if you are the market leader by such a huger percentile and people will still flock to you do you really need to bother changing, theres no real competition in the home and bis pc market. I don't care what people say Linux is not user friendly enough for most people to use at this moment in time it really isnt. if someone said "ey up mate ive got this new version ive self coded" and it was as user friendly as windows you guys wouldnt use it purley on the basis that you like having to do work arounds playing with the terminal etc. the avg bloke or buissness want something thats fast easy to use with good support and thats semi reliable. if i was for example to say hell lets add usb wireless adaptors to all the pcs it would be a snap in windows, in linux it could take days to get a driver that was compatible. It's just not an option at the moment. Don't get me wrong i think linux is brilliant but devs need to focus on one distro get it sorted good and proper. I suppose this is the dissadvantage in open source, too many cooks and that. I have no doubt at one point linux will get up there. As for macs unless they start fighting back its going to be MS forever unless you do something creative. They are focusing far to much on the fasion side of things. they've bled the market dry with Ipoops and they might as well have given up with any thing to do with joeblogs systems.

    all in all i think the problem is focus and support. moaning that companis don't offer the drivers of something in linux isnt the awnser i'ts not a supprise they dont support it theres more distros then crappy actors in eastenders Focus people Focus

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