Remember the 60s? I do. We had a rotary phone and it made phone calls. Our number was Whitehall 6-4990. And it was an amazing device that allowed us to talk to our friends and family by simply spinning the dial for each number and waiting for someone to pick up the phone on the other end. Back then, Ma Bell had a monopoly and most people probably thought that was fine. Phone service was reliable. The technology seemed like a blessing. The service was affordable although long-distance calls were very, very expensive.
It began so well. Microsoft wrote DOS. They started small and they created an operating system for the IBM PC that opened up a new world for the common, everyday programmer. DOS was sometimes a bit tricky. I recall issues with getting printers and modems to work. There was no graphic user interfaces. There was no multitasking. You ran a program. You finished and you ran a different program. Looking back, it was quite primitive. But, remarkably, the industry thrived throughout the 80s.
During the early days of the PCs in the 1980s, software manufacturers battled with consumers over copy protection. Floppy drives and the 5.25" floppy made it possible to very easily create illegal copies of software. This resulted in a boom in training books that were targeted to buyers of pirated software. The leading word processing software, the application that invented the term "WYSIWYG" was called Wordstar. Wordstar rapidly grew into the leading and best-selling word processor of the early 1980s. And as it grew in popularity, many users were also copying the software.
Wordstar decided to copy-protected their product just as WordPerfect was gaining in popularity. WordPerfect was shipping without copy protection and ultimately became the leading word In the Lotus 1-2-3 followed suit and also abandoned copy protection. In the highly competitive software world of the 1980s, the most successful companies were learning that copy protection was bad for business. Wordstar disappeared many years ago.
So, I bought a new Acer Aspire One Netbook for my wife and for home use. It is a terrific little machine. It comes with Windows 7, 1gb RAM, a 160gb hard drive, 3 USB ports, external video jack, 10" LCD screen, 100mb ethernet, WiFi, cam and a microphone for only $325. And it weighs just over 2 pounds.
But when I went to install my printer to the machine I ran into a problem. I have a HP LaserJet 1320TN at home. It has been a terrific printer. It has 2 trays and it prints on both sides of a page. It has never had a single problem. I think the printer is about 7 or 8 years old. So, I get out the CD that came with the printer and I copy it onto a thumb drive because the netbook does not have a CD drive. Then I try to install it but it just doesn't work. The printer software is too old.
I met with a potential client. They have a very specialized business that involves analyzing data on hard drives. The data can take many forms and so they have a multitude of software tools that assist in compiling information. And like most businesses, they have a Windows-based network. But the primary applications they are using are not Microsoft. They are 3rd party, industry-specific applications that are mission-critical. If their programs are not running properly, they are not able to work and not able to run the business.
I have been watching the television advertising and also reading print ads and I have noticed an interesting phenomena. Microsoft is advertising that it's new Windows 7 operating system is very very good. They are trotting out good reviews and smiling babies. I also read recently that part of the reason that the umpteenth version of Windows is going to be great is because hardware manufacturers are preparing the new device drivers and that they will be ready before the operating system is released.
How has Microsoft has been able to eliminate so many of their competitors in so many of the most lucrative application areas? My theory is that they use their intimate knowledge of the operating system to create applications that nobody else can compete with. I compare it to a world where the auto industry had only one engine manufacturer and all of the car makers would have to buy that engine to build a car. And they also had to compete against the engine manufacturer because the engine company also built cars. But the engine company would not tell the competition everything they need to know about building a great car around this complicated engine.
The myth that Microsoft has created is that the Windows operating system needs to keep getting bigger and more functional. With each new release the OS grows bigger with new applications, new graphic interface designs and new utilities. But if you take a look at the cell phone industry, you can see that the PC and the cell phone are converging.
The new cell phones from Blackberry, Apple and Plam are meant to do much more than make phone calls, send and receive messages, and browse the Web. It's a platform, like a PC, that's designed to run a wide variety of sophisticated third-party programs, or apps, from social-networking gateways to games to business tools.
I really don't understand why Microsoft keeps developing new operating systems. Windows is windows and each new version is loaded with bugs. And it usually comes out just as the previous version is becoming stable. Why does Microsoft do this? As a reseller, consultant and end-user, Microsoft has an impact on my business on a lot of different levels. I sell and support their products and I also use them. And as a user, I am very unhappy with the lack of innovation that comes from Microsoft. Like AT&T, we need Microsft to be split up so that competition and innovation can flourish.
Would you consider using the cell phone you had in 2000? Think about it. Back in 2000, the early models of the Treo were hot products and by today standards they are very inadequate.
As for me, I am still using Word 2000 and even if you have the more current version, I doubt that there are any features in it that are compelling. Microsoft has a stranglehold on the PC industry. They dominate the operating system and the applications market. They don't have any formidable competitors. Test yourself. Who is Microsoft's biggest business software competition? It isn't Google because Google is giving away their Google Apps. It isn't Apple because Apple is a hardware manufacturer. They don't develop business applications that compete with Office.