Re: Am I missing something here?
Multivac, dId you actually USE any of these OSes?
Windows 3.x - amazing, breakthrough platform. A solid, usable GUI environment, but with full backward compatibility to DOS, which no one was prepared to give up at the time.
Windows 95 - refined in every way, brilliant new UI; Windows 98 - even better than 95, in endless small ways.
Also, omitted from your list:
Windows NT - sheer genius: crash proof, rock-solid, albeit with the older UI. Possibly THE greatest achievement in the history of desktop OSes. Win2k was just NT with the Win9x UI, an absolutely superb OS in every way - I relied on it for years, even after WinXP shipped.
Windows CE/Mobile - the breakthrough mobile OS, way ahead of its time, with a huge third-party ecosystem. Abandoning it was Microsoft's single biggest mistake, which Apple quickly capitalized on with its own vastly inferior mobile OS.
Credit where credit is due - Microsoft didn't rise to power by building crappy products. Alas, once its competitors were all exterminated, the company rapidly went to seed.
And yes, many companies did try to find alternatives to Windows, but all failed. That's how it is with monopolies. Even IBM couldn't break free, at a time when it owned the hardware side. Not because OS/2 was a bad OS, but because the lock-in of Windows was already too strong.