Re: Platform of choice (very long)

Subject: Re: Platform of choice (very long)
From: Mitch Berg <mberg -at- IS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 1997 14:07:31 -0600

This is taking on the appearance of a holy war. I don't want to get
into one - but there's too much "World According to Bill Gates" being
propagated here...

Wing, Michael J wrote:
> ><snip>
> >EVERY "groundbreaking" feature in Windows was implemented first in
> >either NeXTStep, OS/2 or MacOS.
> Yet for some unfathomable reason neither NeXtStep, nor OS/2, nor MacOS
> has had nearly the success, market share, or acceptance that Windows has
> had (and still has). This despite their HUGE head start. Please
> explain.

Nothing unfathomable about it. In business (especially in IS), the goal
is less to succeed than not to fail. Windows, and the whole MS
philosophy, have capitalized on that fact.

This has been explained better, and frequently, by others over the last
five years. I'll offer up a capsule summary:

1) Microsoft had the advantage of a HUGE head start of its' own - MS-DOS
helped kick off the microcomputer age, bringing a (clunky, inefficient,
limited, badly scalable but acceptable) command-line OS to the desktop
in the early eighties.

2) MS-DOS became the de-facto DOS standard (anyone remember DR-DOS?),
especially on the business desktop. Cheap, sort of reliable - and
standard, so business IS managers ...

3) UNIX established itself as a niche OS, primarily for scientists and

4) Macintosh priced itself out of the competition as the preferred
BUSINESS desktop standard.

5) Application developers went where the money was, at the time -
writing for the business desktop. Which was dominated by MS-DOS.

6) Microshaft introduces Windows - a blatant ripoff of the Mac GUI.

7) Apple declines to sue Bill Gates back to the Stone Age - mainly
because of Gates' threat to stop developing applications for the Mac.
Windows is allowed to establish itself.

8) Leveraging the enormous installed base of DOS desktops (and networks
cobbled together from them), Windows becomes the primary business GUI.

9) Windows is able to dominate the home market because:
a) most applications are written for Windows
b) Windows, thru economy of scale, is cheaper
c) Since everyone uses Windows at work, might as well have it at

In short, OS/2 couldn't overcome the "installed base" deficit. MacOS
(and, to a greater extent, NeXT) priced themselves out of the mass
market, and are both niche products. UNIX and its derivatives (SunOS,
HPUX, IRIX) are also niche products for high-end scientific and
engineering systems.

Windows succeeded because of a) installed base, b) it didn't violate big
business' comfort level, and c) more applications were developed for it
because of a and b.

Note that in no case did Windows have any technological advantage over
its' competitors - in fact, Windows <3.0 was a disaster, and early
versions of NT were wretched. NT is a vile networking environment - but
IS managers would rather stick with it than risk something truly daring,
like adopting UNIX. ActiveX might be an achilles heel for MS - as the
industry moves (with Java) toward interchangeability, ActiveX's
limitations (compared to Java) don't look so good.

> If Sun's been doing it for years, shouldn't they be dictating
> the 'de facto' OS standard?

Um, SunOS is a UNIX derivative. UNIX IS an ISO standard - any UNIX
system will be able to work pretty much the same as any other.

I'm referring to Java vs. ActiveX. Neither of which is an operating
> Pioneering a technology is one thing. Developing it and bringing it
> successfully to market is another. It looks like developing and
> controlling the market in operating systems were IBM's, Sun's, Apple's,
> and Next's to lose. They did!

No, they didn't. To "lose" the market, you must first "have" it. IBM,
Apple and NeXT never "had" it, they made unsuccessful tries to get it.
Sun has never been a player in the OS market.

Microsoft has taken advantage of IS industry conservatism and marketing
success to dominate a market, even though their products, objectively,
DO lag badly in technological terms (and horribly in usability and human
factors aspects!)

Nonetheless, I run Win95 at home. Why? 'Cuz it came with my machine!
It's cheap! And most of my business is in WinHelp - otherwise, I'd have
bought a PowerMac.

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