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Why Microsoft’s Copy-Killing Has Reached a Dead End.

200712160042
Daniel Eran Dilger
Microsoft’s rapid rise to power and its ability to hold onto control over the PC desktop throughout the 90s has long been revered by pundits as a classic example of copying an existing business model and then defeating all competition through price efficiencies, despite the fact that Microsoft’s Windows software has only ever gotten progressively more expensive with the passing of time. This copy-killing strategy, also described as “embrace, extend, and extinguish,” is now reaching a dead end. Here’s why.


The two most famous examples of Microsoft’s copy-killing involved Apple’s Mac in the late 80s and Netscape’s web browser a decade later. Looking at what happened in these two cases helps explain why Microsoft’s strategy is unraveling today as an unworkable play no longer relevant against a new type of competitors in a very different environment.

Case I: Microsoft Copy-Kills Apple.
In the early 80s, Microsoft lifted the design of much of the Windows environment directly from Apple’s Mac OS architecture, which Microsoft was intimately familiar with as one of the first and perhaps the closest of Apple’s early Mac developers. Apple started working with Microsoft to develop Mac software in 1981.

Historical revisionists like to suggest that Microsoft developed Windows in parallel with the Macintosh, and that both lifted all their ideas from Xerox. This idea is conveyed by various Wikipedia articles that credit Microsoft with developing Windows first and then imply that either Apple copied from Microsoft, or that both developed their products largely in isolation.

This artful fabrication of “original research” is partially built on Bill Gates’ infamous quote directed at Steve Jobs in 1983, “I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.” Gates flippant comment didn’t factor in the reality that Xerox had invested a million dollars into Apple’s development while it had no relationship with Microsoft.

Gates delivered his line after Microsoft announced “Windows 1.0” for the IBM PC in November 1983, a few months prior to the Macintosh shipping in 1984. Years earlier, Microsoft had signed an exclusive development deal with Apple in which it agreed not to introduce mouse based software for IBM’s PC until a year after the Mac shipped. Microsoft discovered it could violate its agreement on a technicality, allowing it to advertise Windows–but not release it–prior to the arrival of the original Macintosh.

Office Wars 3 - How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly

Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly

Microsoft’s Betrayal of Partners.
Jobs was outraged to be double crossed by the partner he had helped launch into relevance with the Mac; Gates comment suggested Microsoft had no qualms about stealing, originating a pattern of deceit and fraud that continued to weave throughout Microsoft’s business dealings with its partners over the next thirty years. “Microsoft Partner” has always been an oxymoron.

Windows was directly pattered after the Macintosh software Microsoft had been given by Apple while work continued on Mac hardware, not an independent parallel effort that that simply shared the same Xerox ancestry. If it were, Microsoft could have started selling Windows 1.0 prior to the Mac shipping.

Microsoft couldn’t actually sell Windows until Gates pressured Apple’s CEO John Sculley into licensing Macintosh technologies to Microsoft in exchange for continuing exclusive Mac development of Excel. Only after Apple licensed its technology to Microsoft in 1985 did Windows 1.0 go on sale in November of that year.

SCO, Linux, and Microsoft in the History of OS: 1980s

Copy and Kill.
Windows shared virtually nothing in common with other independent software efforts related to Xerox, but wholly independent from Apple’s work. That included VisiOn, the Muse that supposedly inspired Windows. Instead, it only closely mimicked the look and feel of the Mac, its overall architecture, and particularly the Mac’s graphics routines.

Two years later, Windows 2.0 expanded beyond the Apple licensing agreement and signaled the clear intention of killing off Apple using a port of Excel to the IBM PC.

Apple fought the betrayal in court, which lingered on in hearings that stretched out into 1994, an eternity in tech years. In the meantime, Microsoft pursued additional copy-killing work against Apple’s QuickTime, even appropriating Apple’s code directly into Windows in order to catch up, as documented in the San Francisco Canyon case.

Microsoft's Plot to Kill QuickTime

Microsoft’s Plot to Kill QuickTime

Legal System Catches Up a Decade Later.
Those cases between Apple and Microsoft established that the legal system wasn’t going to prevent or curtail criminal behavior in software development, but could only offer at best a review of copy infringement well after the damage was done. In 1997, Apple resolved its complaints against Microsoft in a deal involving Office, Internet Explorer, and a token $150 million investment.

Other disputes dragged on throughout the 90s, such as Microsoft’s copy-killing of Stac, and its later, failed efforts to do the same to Intuit’s Quicken. By the end of the 90s, reality reigned in on Microsoft and it began racking up a series of settlement obligations it was forced to pay to other victims of its copy-killing efforts and related anti-trust actions:

  • Microsoft paid Caldera $275 million for its antitrust actions against DR-DOS.
  • Microsoft recently settled with IBM in an antitrust suit involving OS/2 and IBM’s Lotus SmartSuite applications to the tune of $775 million.
  • Microsoft paid Novell $539 million to settle its antitrust suit over the NetWare operating system, and Microsoft is still being sued by Novell over claims related to WordPerfect.
  • Microsoft paid Palm over $23 million to settle an antitrust suit over the unfinished BeOS.
  • Microsoft settled with Sun in an agreement that included $700 million in antitrust and $900 million in patent infringements, both related to Java.
  • Microsoft paid AOL $750 million to settle the antitrust suit over Netscape.

Mac Office, $150 Million, and the Story Nobody Covered

Mac Office, $150 Million, and the Story Nobody Covered

Case II: Microsoft Copy-Kills Netscape.
The copy-killing case of Netscape reveals why Microsoft’s old strategy is increasingly ineffective in a world that now involves both cooperative and competitive efforts in open source development. Compare Microsoft’s ability to use Internet Explorer to rapidly destroy Netscape, but its failure to do the same to marginalize the open Apache Server using its own Internet Information Server.

Both Netscape and Apache were based upon code from the NCSA Mosaic project: Netscape was the web client, Apache was the web server. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was also originally based upon another branch of the same Mosaic code, obtained from Spyglass in 1996. Microsoft was able to scuttle the solo Netscape effort because it could:

  • vastly out spend the development efforts of its smaller competitor.
  • tie its browser together with Windows as a default install at a time when software downloads were more difficult to obtain.
  • bargain with Apple to push Internet Explorer on the Mac in a way that simply pushed Netscape out of the market.

Apple in the Web Browser Wars: Netscape vs Internet Explorer

Apple in the Web Browser Wars: Netscape vs Internet Explorer

Microsoft was unable to use any of those tactics to “embrace, extend, and extinguish” Apache on the server side because Apache was a distributed effort from the start, widely invested in by so many other companies that Microsoft found it difficult to match the resources of Apache’s distributed development efforts or tie its IIS into sales to the desktop in a way that could marginalize its use.

Of course, IIS was also just a bad product; IIS was the reason why the US Army moved its web servers from Windows NT to Macs in 1999, by which time Netscape as a browser was toast. When Mozilla was reformed from the ashes of Netscape in the same open model as Apache, the browser client rebounded from its death kneel to become a significant factor in reopening the web browser market and reestablishing itself as a sustainable business with Firefox.

The Web Browser Renaissance: Firefox and Safari
Kim Zetter and the iPhone Root Security Myth: The Root Myth

Microsoft’s Copy-Killing Arrested in the 2000s.
While Microsoft was able to derail a variety of other centralized efforts, it has found it far more difficult to compete against distributed efforts that involve cooperative competitive elements. For example, Microsoft was able to hijack Sun’s Java on the desktop and did its best to kill Silicon Graphic’s OpenGL in the Fahrenheit “partnership” involving Microsoft’s DirectX.

Sun responded by pushing Java towards being fully open, a step that has helped to broaden its use in the server market that Sun desperately needs in order to continue selling its hardware.

OpenGL has since been adopted and supported by Apple, Sony, Nintendo, and in Linux as collective alternative to Microsoft’s proprietary DirectX. In order to hold onto PC gaming, Microsoft is working hard to battle the rest of the industry, but the distributed nature of OpenGL is making that far harder than ever before.

Readers Write About Microsoft’s Plot to Kill QuickTime

Windows Media’s Failure to Copy-Kill.
Ten years ago in 1998, Microsoft assumed that it could publish its own video codecs and push partners toward abandoning the ISO MPEG standards. Its Windows Media 9 video codec copied from the MPEG-4 Part 2 (H.263), but was released with proprietary extensions.

After the industry collectively backed the original MPEG-4 as a published standard instead, Microsoft was forced to publish WM9 itself, using the SMPTE to deliver VC-1. This converted WM9 from an unpublished, proprietary standard into the openly published, proprietary VC-1 standard.

In the process, Microsoft also discovered that opening up its technology resulted in revealing its use of others’ patents. Anyone who licenses VC-1 now also pays patent licenses to the MPEG holders, because VC-1 itself is based on MPEG-4 Part 2 (H.263). Additionally, support from the open source community has resulted in improvements to implementations of MPEG-4 Part 10 (H.264) at a faster pace than Microsoft can deliver with VC-1 itself.

Blu-ray vs HD-DVD in Next Generation Game Consoles

Origins of the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD War
Blu-ray vs HD-DVD in Next Generation Game Consoles

The Vapor Barrier.
The Internet has also combined the dynamic of open development with new, alternative channels of information that together help to dissipate the vapor Microsoft has issued to cloud the market with uncertainty. Promises to deliver competition in the future simply don’t compare against the real progress transparently delivered by open projects.

Microsoft’s task of maintaining a long tail of legacy support is also making it more difficult to deliver future work at a time when rapid and nimble companies can cooperate together on their competing efforts. One of the best examples is in web browsers, where the three largest alternatives to Internet Explorer are working together to develop standards based interoperability:

  • Mozilla’s Firefox is open source.
  • KDE KHTML/Apple Safari WebKit is open source.
  • Opera is not open source, but is standards based.

Progress among these cooperating yet competing efforts is obvious and tangible with regular updates that embarrass Microsoft’s increasingly dated and isolated work on Internet Explorer, which is now conspicuously lacking in modern CSS support.

The Future of the Web: Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer

Going on the Offensive.
Apple’s combination of an open source Unix foundation, open source applications such as Calendar Server, open source frameworks including WebKit, and closed technologies such as Cocoa fit together in Mac OS X in a competitive package that makes it impractical to attempt to copy-kill it.

Rather than playing the passive victim, Apple is now on the offensive. It is competing against Microsoft’s dominant or at least visible position in a number of markets detailed under the heading “Microsoft’s May Day Parade” in the article “Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superpower”.

In addition to open source, Apple appears to have a second, closed weapon up its sleeve nearing launch; the next article will take a look at what that is. Can you guess what it is?

Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superpower

Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superpower

What do you think? I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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34 comments

1 Geek Lectures - Things geeks should know about » Blog Archive » Why Microsoft’s Copy-Killing Has Reached a Dead End. { 12.16.07 at 5:57 am }

[...] CBC Employee wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptMicrosoft’s rapid rise to power and its ability to hold onto control over the PC desktop throughout the 90s has long been revered by pundits as a classic example of copying an existing business model and then defeating all competition … [...]

2 lmasanti { 12.16.07 at 8:13 am }

quote:
“Microsoft discovered it could violate its agreement on a technicality, allowing it to advertise Windows–but not release it–prior to the arrival of the original Macintosh.”

This is the same “technicality” that still uses… “announce but do not release!”

3 hugo { 12.16.07 at 8:20 am }

Hi

Very good read, in relation to Apple’s close weapon against Microssoft. Surely it a mixed combination of OS X mobile and the whole area of ‘touch’ based OS development :-)

H

4 freediverx { 12.16.07 at 9:54 am }

“In addition to open source, Apple appears to have a second, closed weapon up its sleeve nearing launch; the next article will take a look at what that is. Can you guess what it is?”

Webkit, perhaps?

5 johnnyapple { 12.16.07 at 10:35 am }

“In addition to open source, Apple appears to have a second, closed weapon up its sleeve nearing launch; the next article will take a look at what that is. Can you guess what it is?” LMG – Cocoa based SDK for iPhone/iPod touch? There’s a lot of interest in developing applications for the iPhone. All those interested will soon learn the joys of Xcode and Cocoa.

Calling $150 million a “token” amount would be laughable almost anywhere else but you make a very good point later on by listing a handful of settlements – payouts, not investments – totaling nearly $4 billion. When Microsoft steals it’s a calculated play where they believe that by the time they’re caught and forced to pay up they’ve already got the cash and control of the market to do just that.

Great series this week Daniel!

6 Brau { 12.16.07 at 3:43 pm }

I’m often a bit bemused by the mythical assertion that Windows won because PCs were cheaper than Macs. While this was true in relation to the Lisa and the Next Cube, it certainly wasn’t the case with the Macintosh or the Quadra. Those who bought “cheap” PCs based on this premise usually spent between $5000-$7000 on Windows PCs for their home when they could have bought a Mac for much less.

What truly won Windows the marketplace overnight was the fact that you could buy a copy of Windows 95 for a mere $300, install it on your old CLI based 486, and boom you had a modern interface. To business owners this was a very cost effective no-lose upgrade. I watched and sadly participated in this uptake at my own office in 1996. For most people, who had never seen a Mac, this was their first exposure to a graphic user interface so when they went shopping for a computer for their home they wanted what they had experienced and knew at work, and that meant Windows. They didn’t even look at a Mac, much less actively price them out. Microsoft never predicted this response and got very lucky. The result was an overnight seige on business and consumer sales.

But that’s where the good news ends for MS. Today the entire ecosystem has reversed to the point where it is the features the consumer experiences at home that is placing pressure on business enterprise to keep up. This generation has experience and is not afraid of computers. MicroSoft is laboring under the delusion that theirs is a quality product which people are choosing en-mass; something which is desperately untrue. Their embrace and extinguish tactics have been exposed and they can no longer operate that way, while Vista shows us they they are don’t have any killer products waiting in the wings such as they had in the switch from CLI to CGI.

Apple on their part has learned from their mistakes, does have a truly great OS and can deliver consumer level products at price levels that entice the buyer while making it hard for competitors to profit on a strictly hardware level. They also have the advantage of being able to tailor the OS to all their hardware, something none of the Windows assemblers can do, which has a major effect on the overall user satisfaction level. These things indicate that Apple will continue to grow until someone else steps up and designs “the whole widget” as Steve Jobs has said. While MS has had some success with the Xbox, they won’t continue with home computers/device networking simply because they don’t have the software (the bloated Vista) to make it all work well. They can’t simply install Vista on a Zune because it’s too big, instead having to create separate derivative OSes thereby fragmenting interoperability at the most fundamental level for themselves and the rest of the industry as a whole. Their mode of operation today is simply to attempt to make the Windows Mobile and Xbox look graphically similar to Windows.

It also bears mention that Apple has largely been a North American phenomenon up until now, but they are making major forays into global markets. Even if Apple only manages to land the anti-MS consumers (about 5%) who see themselves as different for NOT using what everyone else does, this still means a rapid uptake on a global scale.

Computer users (to my mind) fall into two categories: those who are frustrated with their PCs and want something better, and those who think that the way they learned is the the “right” way. Of those who are frustrated, wanting something new, a few will try the Mac while most others will simply fall for the vain promise that Windows will get better. For those users who think they know how computers should work, they may buy a Mac but will insist upon using it in the same manner as Windows. Most of these users will be disappointed simply because, like Daniel said, they actually think fussing with DLL files and the registry is a feature. It also serves to make them look like a genius when they go to a friend’s house and help sort out a problem.

(I can personally recall speaking to one man who told me he didn’t want a computer that just worked because every time their PC screwed up, his wife would complain, he’d get to come to the rescue, fix it, she’d tell him how wonderful and smart he was … and then he’d get laid. I kid you not. Indeed, Windows may be partly at fault for the current population explosion. ;)

Some of this was evident in the switch from OS9 to OSX as well. Some Mac users could not leave the old OS9 days of rebuilding the desktop, managing the Chooser, partitioning, tasks, etc, for the automated environment of OSX. In my local Mac User Group, some of these OS9 oldies unbelievingly left the Mac platform for Windows as it offered the tinkering they had become accustomed to.

7 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 3:46 pm }

Thanks, Daniel, that was quite appropriate. It was a good summary.

I would make the case a little stronger: Apple and FOSC have been acting in ways which will, eventually, overcome Microsoft’s advantages. Thus, they ARE the market mechanism which will destroy Microsoft’s monopoly. But, this may be the work of a decade.

Initially, both had to act defensively just to survive. Now, they are acting cooperatively to nibble away at Microsoft’s advantages. Neither needs to be directly in competition with Microsoft, but that will come. Neither is directly in competition with each other, since they serve different market segments. Each will take over larger niches.

The Free and Open Source Community is laying foundations which Apple can take advantage of and help develop.

Apple is developing products and services which exploit the gaps between Microsoft and the Wintel manufacturers. It is offering unified products that do a better job than Wintel.

A good example is the deception about the iPhone’s lack of 3G service in Europe. I saw a timed YouTube clip of an iPhone and a 3G phone downloading the same website. The iPhone was faster in rendering the pages despite its lower EDGE transmission because the iPhone had faster hardware. What can compete with the iPhone when it has both faster hardware and is 3G?

Apple has not been hasty in moving into those gaps. Microsoft and RIAA had a series of failures in the music industry over ten years before Apple introduced the iPod.

This is a case of both Apple and FOSC bypassing Microsoft. The consumer market is catching on, so it the Small to Medium Business Markets. The Enterprise and Government markets are resisting this. But, that is okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was it torn down in one, either.

8 lightstab { 12.16.07 at 4:17 pm }

@Brau

I agreed with everything you said, until you said that the Xbot 360 was a success. Listen up, the Xbox has been an overwhelming failure. It has only made a profit for one quarter (according to Microsoft) and that was when Halo 3 was released. It has not been selling well and the Red Rings of Death has only made their problems worse.

Daniel was eloquent enough in this article that I don’t feel that I have much to add to the discussion, but I couldn’t let this Xbox 360 myth go without a challenge.

9 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 4:26 pm }

Good points, Brau. Apple made many mistakes. It was complacent during the early ’90′s, so it handed the momentum to Microsoft and the Wintel manufacturers. That momentum has been very hard to overcome.

Look at what Apple had to do to turn this around: buy NeXtstep from NeXT, kill the clones, retrench its product line to stop losing money, introduce a stylish line of computers, retrofit NeXTstep to allow in legacy MacOS 9 users, develop Quicktime so it could be used to undercut Microsoft, rework NeXTstep so it looked like it was Mac-like, introduce consumer products which exploit the weaknesses in Microsoft’s ecosphere, move its product line to Intel hardware and introduce BootCamp to overcome the “lack of Mac software” issue.

Each of these developments took years of planning and effort. That is why I am unconcerned about criticisms about the iPhone’s and the Apple TV’s supposed deficiencies. Both are works in progress. Their deficiencies will be overcome and they will fit into Apple’s ecosphere in a unified way which will amaze people.

This is only the beginning. Plans made for Rhapsody in 1998 can now go forward. Apple will be taking up technologies from NeXTstep it had to lay down to swallow Apple’s customer base. Apple will be moving to 64 bit processing. It will be taking advantage of coming hardware developments. Apple will be issuing new OS’s at 12 to 18 month increments. Changes will be fast and furious.

10 lmasanti { 12.16.07 at 5:44 pm }

@UrbanBard
Recheck your sources… Mac OS X 10.5 IS 64 bits.
The 12-18 month release period was announced for 10.4!
Read articles on Rhapsody in Daniel’s site…

But your point of view is good!

11 Brau { 12.16.07 at 6:27 pm }

@ Lightstab

I’ll concede your points about the Xbox, but I only meant “some success” as in terms of MicroSoft’s abject failures in the past which have failed miserably right out of the gate, never to achieve *any* sales (IE: Zune1). Only in that regard it is a moderate success, and I do at least know a few people who own an Xbox. Compared to the Wii, PStation? No way. It will only get worse for MS as time goes by because:

I was at my 71 year old uncle’s house this week helping him switch to a Mac. He loves it. He has never owned a game console but is surprisingly hot on buying a Wii, after using it just once to play bowling and baseball. If everyone from kids to grannies love this unit, it will gain stupendous market share, well beyond the obviously great sales statistics to this point. It appears to indicate another major shift is in the making. But not for MS – now that’s a real surprise, huh!

12 chr4004 { 12.16.07 at 6:38 pm }

The cat’s print out is amazing.

13 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 6:53 pm }

You’re right, imasanti; I knew that leopard 10.5 had the 64 bit API’s in it. But, there isn’t much 64 bit software yet, although 32 bit and 64 bit software can work concurrently, unlike Vista. I left out the word “completely” as in “Apple will be moving completely to 64 bit processing.”

What I meant to say that not everything in Mac OSX 10.5 is 64 bit yet. The finder is not, nor is Quicktime. Leopard is a mixture of Cocoa and Carbon. I’m saying that in five or so years, as part of the normal pattern of things, it will be completely 64 bit. Meanwhile, 64 Vista has a really tough migration ahead of it.

Just recently after Leopard was released, Steve Jobs reiterated to Newsweek that a 12 to 18 month cycle was their plan.

Have you looked at some of the clips on YouTube of Steve Jobs in 1995 demoing NeXTstep? That is a very impressive demo given the stage of the hardware then.

Perhaps, it’s my imagination, but Whenever I go back to Rhapsody or NeXTstep, I keep mentally checking off a list of things accomplished in the latest MacOSX.

14 John E { 12.16.07 at 7:35 pm }

a dose of realism is warranted. Windows is well entrenched because:

it is “good enough” for most consumers and businesses that use it (not the technocrati like us), doing what they need to do.

they know how to use it and learning something new is an effort if not scary.

changing OS’s is a one-time extra cost and extra work.

it can be done cheap, especially in the third world where PC’s are mostly white boxes and much software is pirated.

in other words, sheer inertia.

add to that the co-optation of a bloated Windows IT industry, many of whom would lose their livelihood without such a complicated setup to maintain and so are addicted to Windows, and you have an entrenched OS for a long time, no matter what troubles it has.

i bet its OS market share will gradually decline over the years. how much, i don’t know. bear in mind the huge numbers in the future will not be users in US and Europe. it will instead be users in the rest of the world. if a strong local commercial Linux OS product was launched in China or India, that would make a big difference. we’ll see.

15 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 8:16 pm }

I agree, John. That is why I believe there is no reason to expect Apple to make a head-on assault. Apple will continue to nibble away at Microsoft. Microsoft isn’t “Bad enough.” Consider how many companies are staying with Windows XP even on new hardware. The software they have works. Why change?

Apple will need to grow the market. The world wide computer market is about a billion computers and there are about six to seven billion people, yet the market is growing only at about five percent. Apple’s sales are growing about 30 percent.

I see change from two things: replacement of worn out equipment and from hardware improvements.

I see some changes coming in hardware from the Computer-on-a-chip systems and e-paper screens. This means that really cheap computers will be sold. Who will buy them? The poor, certainly, but also businesses for cash registers and front ends. They would be, almost disposable, systems.

If the cost of a complete system is a hundred dollars, who will pay forty dollars to Microsoft for beginners Vista? Linux will step in there. The point which is missed is that this market segment about 30 percent of Microsoft’s market share.

The other part is the consumer market. The average turnover for a PC is every two years. Every time a consumer needs a new computer, then Apple gets a shot at a sale. Many consumers are not locked in by software the way companies are.

Apple’s advertisements are geared toward the “Youth Market”–to the people buying iPods. Kids grow up and buy computers.

All Apple needs to do is provide good value, good looks and a good reputation. That is, keep doing what it is doing.

16 Brau { 12.16.07 at 9:25 pm }

For some reason there’s always an assertion that for Apple to do well they have unseat MicroSoft. It’s just not going to happen. The marketplace will only diversify as it has historically done in every other sector.

Ford held monopoly once, but now is just one player among a field of many. The same applied to many other electronic suppliers and will happen with computing. The ‘other’ players (Apple, Linux, Palm, Symbian, etc) will conspire to level the playing field meaning MS may lose overall gorilla force but will not simply disappear in some mythical “tipping point” that sees everyone flock to Apple. Instead, the individual parties are becoming more compatible while the OS is becoming more and more transparent to the consumer, who now base their purchases more on user features.

A long time ago RCA/Phillips had a huge lead in TVs. They offered upgradeable motherboards, and slot-loading tuning cards to placate those who worried new about being able to receive new channels as they became available. RCA lost out to Hitachi and Sanyo as they hit the market with instant-on, cheap, non-upgradeable, non-serviceable TVs.

When I buy most products these days I don’t consider the operating system or even upgradeability, I just want quality products with the new features. When I want new features, I buy a new device. As the OS becomes more entwined with the bundled applications, which are in turn reliant on the hardware, the computer itself will follow this trend.

17 davebarnes { 12.16.07 at 10:54 pm }

“Indeed, Windows may be partly at fault for the current population explosion.” is a statement of ignorance.

For example: “the total fertility rate… increased 2 percent in 2006 to 2,101 births per 1,000 women. This is the highest rate since 1971 and the first time since then that the rate was above replacement” from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/07newsreleases/teenbirth.htm

18 worker201 { 12.16.07 at 11:02 pm }

A lot of replies over the past couple days have been from people relating stories about “tinkering” acquaintances. You know, the person who loves mucking about in the registry and fine-tuning their *.ini files. These tinkerers invariably think a Mac is just too easy and lazy to work with. I used the same arguments myself in 1999, before OS X changed the Apple platform forever.

Anyway, if you have a tinkerer in your life, hand him/her a copy of Gentoo Linux. One of two things will happen:
1. 2% chance – the tinkerer will instantly become an Open Source convert, and will thus have an appreciation for the BSD/Darwin/X11 subsystems of OS X
2. 98% chance – the tinkerer will beg you for a piece of software that “just works”

19 UrbanBard { 12.16.07 at 11:12 pm }

I agree, Brau, it’s not about unseating Microsoft. I don’t hate microsoft. There are a whole bunch of possible outcomes, here.

Microsoft will lose its monopoly, but a lot of that is phony, anyway. No company is too big to die; which is what these statistics seem to say.

The assumption which follows from unseating Microsoft is that there will be some new monopoly. Not so. The computer market will become more diverse. Many devises will become true appliances.

It’s not about Apple taking over, either. Apple is doing quite well financially with 3 percent of the world market.

If each of those OS’s follow international standards, then its internal programming will be one of personal preference. They will tend to follow the market leader in how things are done. But, that market leader need not have a huge following.

It’s easy to see the big picture, but there will be surprises along the way.

20 mmbossman { 12.17.07 at 12:15 am }

While I am continually entertained and educated by your articles, this time I smirked about the header picture throughout my read. Not only is it a rather clever pun (not the copy-cat part, the copying of a cat, i.e. leopard, panther, etc), but it has a somewhat subtle second meaning. Take a good look at the “product” that gets produced after the copying: nothing but the smelly part of an otherwise desirable original! I wonder how many people have compared that copied picture to the experience of using Vista.

21 johnnyapple { 12.17.07 at 12:41 am }

Predicting that Microsoft “will” loose it’s monopoly is a bit of a stretch for me at this time. There are indications that the past victories do not point toward a static future. Microsoft “may” loose its current position and I agree they likely will. When is the question.

Apple retail is exposing the real value of stable, reliable and yes, stylish hardware and software to the masses. On the consumer side this strategy is playing out well. 30% to 35% y/y growth quarter after quarter for the past 2+ years verses under 10% for the industry as a whole speaks volumes. When it’s one person making a personal decision the choice is becoming easier to make. I believe at some point (fairly soon) this momentum will make it’s way into corporate buying and development decisions. I may be putting to much weight on the iPhone SDK but I really think that once a lot more developers really dig in and get to know Cocoa and Xcode they just might see a future for larger scale enterprise development. It’s a lot less code to write and a better and more stable application. They’re going to realize this.

22 harrywolf { 12.17.07 at 12:51 am }

@Brau and UrbanBard:

Yes agreed, – there will be no tipping point, although its fun to think of a sudden avalanche where M$ disappears!

The market will soften and spread across the board, probably driven by Google web apps, Apple brilliance and implementation of nano-technology, Linux natural wastage of too many vendors allowing for a more cohesive approach, and a host of other stuff, including the mythical ‘convergence’ where phones and computers become each other. (see iPhone!)

One of the things about the OS after over 20 years of desktop OS development is that the OS is becoming and will become increasingly invisible to many consumers.

For many, all they need is iTunes and their iPhone/ipod, iPhoto and their camera, iMovie and their DV camera, MS Word, an email program and a Browser. The OS dont matter to them.

Apples’ weakness here is probably the email program – I feel that major development is needed to make Mail as useful as Entourage is – the connection between iCal and Mail needs work.

Microsoft may survive because of Word, and perhaps rightfully so. Its getting bloated but does the job.
That’s theirs to lose.

The OS must be unobtrusive, I believe, and thats where Windows is in trouble – its architecture wont allow it to stay in the background.

23 UrbanBard { 12.17.07 at 1:42 am }

Thanks for pointing the symbology of the picture, mmbossman. I missed it entirely. I jumped into the text.

JohnnyApple, I laid out why Microsoft “will” lose its monopoly on the previous article comparing Microsoft to the Soviet Union. Monopolies who take advantage of their position to deliver high prices and low quality always lose their monopoly status. There has only been one Monopoly in recorded history which did not lose it’s high market share. That was Alcoa Aluminum, because it did not exact “Monopoly Rents.”

Microsoft has only had that monopoly since 1995 or so. I don’t expect any drastic changes. Apple is not in a frontal assault on Microsoft. It is not interested in Microsoft’s primary niche: the Enterprise market.

I wouldn’t be surprised in ten years at Microsoft saying it has between 50 to 60% market share. I don’t much care.

The problem is how you gauge these things. A global figure never seemed useful to me. We generally want specific information. If we are looking at a laptop, I might want to know what our peers are using. But who those peers are would change: black vs white, teen vs other groups, consumer vs enterprise, etc. I’d want to know how this is changing over time, but a global figure gets overwhelmed by the Enterprise market.

Microsoft counts every devise (computer, phone, PDA, etc ) which has the Windows name on it, including WinCE which is quite dissimilar to XP or Vista.

Does Apple get to count all the OSX’s? There are likely to be 250 to 500 million iPods and iPhones with OSX sold in ten years. Daniel says that the current iPods are OSX with a Pixo front end to run the display. Do those get counted, too? Or does Apple care about this game?

I also expect great things from the OSX SDK. Better yet is the marketing of iPhone software through iTunes. Apple gets very little money from selling music in iTMS. I expect the same from software. But, a controlled system would allow Apple to weed out the real junk. But, a rating system like Amazon has might do as well.

24 UrbanBard { 12.17.07 at 2:27 am }

Hi harrywolf,

“One of the things about the OS after over 20 years of desktop OS development is that the OS is becoming and will become increasingly invisible to many consumers.”

Many devises, because they run on international standards will become invisible–appliances. But, I expect those devices to vastly increase in numbers as their prices come down. This places a huge burden on the OS to control them.

Right now, it is rather expensive and cumbersome to have a dozen cameras scanning your home. They might be wireless and encrypted, but how do you control all that? How do you make it easy? Where do you store the images? I believe I know what Apple has planned to resolve this, but it would take too much time to lay it out now.

“For many, all they need is iTunes and their iPhone/ipod, iPhoto and their camera, iMovie and their DV camera, MS Word, an email program and a Browser. The OS don’t matter to them.”

The easier and cheaper it is to do anything, the more likely we let computers do a task for us. This is part of expanding the market, too.

“Apples’ weakness here is probably the email program – I feel that major development is needed to make Mail as useful as Entourage is – the connection between iCal and Mail needs work.”

Apple has been working on this. It recently included CalDAV group calendaring in Leopard server.

You must understand that finding a work around for Entourage comes quite close to attacking Microsoft on its Enterprise turf. Microsoft will likely retaliate. Apple is closing in on Microsoft’s core markets, but it must be careful. It must look nonchalant.

“Microsoft may survive because of Word, and perhaps rightfully so. It’s getting bloated but does the job.
That’s theirs to lose.”

The question is not about Microsoft Word, but what do the markets want?

The Pages program does a good job of receiving Word files and saving those files in many Word formats. Apple has, most likely, kept Pages and Numbers intentionally modest. Apple pretends that they are good enough for consumers and Small to Medium Sized Business owners, but do not attempt to invade the Enterprise market.

Steve jobs has said that Mac OSX will be upgraded at 12 to 18 month increments. The iLife and iWork software are likely to follow suit. It would be nice if Pages and Numbers has Plug-in’s to expand their feature sets. That way you could have as much compatibility with Word and Excel as you wanted to pay for.

“The OS must be unobtrusive, I believe, and thats where Windows is in trouble – its architecture wont allow it to stay in the background.’

You want an OS to be helpful, but in ways that don’t affect your workflows. Apple does that rather well now. But, it needs to give the consumer more levels and choices.

25 Robb { 12.17.07 at 12:14 pm }

@Brau
Don’t buy into the FUD on the Xbox 360. The Xbox is a solid franchise that too often gets lumped into the “M$ is bad!” arguments.

26 johnnyapple { 12.17.07 at 1:43 pm }

“Daniel says that the current iPods are OSX with a Pixo front end to run the display” oops, I think that was an April fools joke.

I don’t believe the global PC market share numbers include Win CE, XBox or Zoon. They do of course count cash registers and ATMs and lot’s of other computers that really aren’t personal.

One could argue that Apples OS X share should include Apple TV, iPhone and iPod touch because those actually are OS X computers and all of them are personal. As you point out and most of us understand, not everything branded as Windows is actually running Windows.

Anyway Urban, you’d be more fun to talk to than write to. It’s easy to read things differently than the writer intended. I re-read my “will” opening comment and couldn’t quite figure out what the hell my point was.

By the way Daniel, is that little black dot on the left edge of the print out the cats…. eeew!

27 UrbanBard { 12.17.07 at 2:05 pm }

It’s hard to tell what those market share figures mean, johnnyapple. I just don’t find that global figure to be useful for more than its propaganda value.

It does bring up the point that that many devises are more powerful than desktop computers were even ten years ago.

28 nimbus { 12.18.07 at 1:24 am }

Great article.

Also, the Xbox 360 is NOT doing great. Their FPS games are selling well, but the original Xbox was a 5 billion dollar hole in the wallet. The 360 has RRoD (red rings of death) for about 40% of the units out. The PS3 has actually outsold the 360 within the same year time frame and it’s about $100 more than the 360, while the 360 launched worldwide with NO competition for an ENTIRE YEAR. The PS3 suffered M$-FUD for 8 months before it even came out and the FUD still flows.

Anyways, great article. One of my favorite websites.

29 Robb { 12.18.07 at 11:38 am }

@nimbus
Do your homework. Nuff said.

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