Why Microsoft is not bad

I am just celebrating 30 years of working with computers, most of time as a programmer.
I worked on HP Time Sharing System in 1975-79, DEC's RSX-11M up to 1985, then APPLEDOS, CP/M up to 1997, MS-DOS and UNIX up to 1996 and I almost exclusively use Windows since then.
I programmed in Basic, Fortran, Assembler, Pascal, C, xBase and the like, and now I mostly use Visual Basic.NET
I was watching while Microsoft was grabbing the market, after consolidating and bundling Office components into one product (and, what is more important, one package to install).
I was delighted when Windows reached a level, between versions 3.1 and 3.11 for Networks, where programs were not coming any more with drivers for particular graphics card, printer and/or network adapter, and where national fonts, printing and networking started to work flawlessly, while basic use being easy enough to be mastered by ordinary people
I was watching while everyday hardware stopped coming with drivers for operating systems other than Windows (it was hard for me being a PC-UNIX fan back then).
I also spent several years watching many vendors promising revolutionary new systems around RISC processors, all in vain - if my memories are still reliable, Microsoft had the first non-AIX operating system for PowerPC, it also had the first fully POSIX compliant operating system ever.
I saw Novell buying the UNIX from Bell Labs, trying to make it a Netware-related client-side operating system (was not this Novell act far more preposterous than anything Microsoft has ever done?).
While selling one of the rapid application development tools (JAM, if anybody remembers) I witnessed the demise of several database systems, compilers and other development components while Microsoft was grabbing more and more of the market at the same time.
And why all of this happened? It was easier and cheaper for users and gave them more integrated components which all worked more intuitively. Users enjoyed that very much and during that years invested (and are still further investing) tremendous amount of time and money in learning how to use (Microsoft's and others') tools.
Prophets of other kingdoms usually kindly ignore this users' invested time and achieved skills (and that of support people, too) when they profess switching to other platforms and tools because it is slightly cheaper and/or slightly more powerful.

The history of computing can be simplified into this few sentences:

  • There were mainframes a long time ago.
  • Minicomputers replaced then-only mainframe solutions mainly for their then-bargain prices.
  • UNIX and the likes then replaced general-purpose minicomputer for their supplier-independent operating system and available tools.
  • Microcomputers were overwhelmingly successful for total control and availability they gave to their owners.
  • Microsoft won the market for their one-stop shop approach - two CDs installed and most of computing needs of most users were solved.
Each of this switches happened because of the great advantage they gave to users over the previous paradigm, not the minor one. And for each switch users had to abandon most of their existing skills and acquire new ones. Alas, there are several orders of magnitude more users now than back in the era of mainframes so Microsoft replacement will require much, much more effort.
Regarding the Intel monopoly, it will be replaced when somebody offers better and/or cheaper hardware. However, this switch would be far easier and is far more probable as, unlike with Microsoft, there is almost none investment of user knowledge and skills in their use of Intel products (compared to, for example, AMD hardware).
Microsoft, in the other hand, will be replaced on appearance of something that will satisfy users' needs in so much better and/or cheaper way which will make users massively consider abandoning of many or most of their computer skills and existing tools an appealing goal.
That skills and tools of existing users to be abandoned and still-ruling two-CDs-to-install concept is what makes Microsoft such a strong market player (for most users, I mean) - other things are for fans only or for special purposes.
That is what makes bundling of more and more functionality into Windows and Office good for users, not bad, however loudly opponents may cry.
And that is what will establish another strong market monopoly again, after Microsoft is replaced. Monopoly is the nature of this market, I guess, because of users knowledge and skills investment necessary for massive adoption of such complicated technologies.

And why do I write this text? As a reply to often put question if Microsoft monopoly is good or bad and whether it should be dismantled into several companies or if Windows PCs should be replaced by so called 'network terminals', 'thin clients' etc.

It should be said that I do not work for Microsoft (nor had I), Microsoft does not pay me for this and I do not expect anything at all from Microsoft, directly or indirectly. I do not particularly like Microsoft, I just find using its products convenient for me.

What I do like is to dive occasionally, watch underwater world and hunt octopuses. You might find some useful thoughts in this text. If not, spare me of your hate mail - I would not answer it anyway.

Gjuro Kladaric, Zagreb, Croatia