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.
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 must preface this message by the admission that I am not a fan of Microsoft. Do a search for Microsoft on my site and you will see a few articles about my opinion of Microsoft as a business. I do not like Microsoft's impact on the computer industry. And one of the many reasons I have for not liking Microsoft (but certainly not a main reason) is that their products do not perform very well and they are targets for viruses and spyware.
I thought I would throw out my two cents on the release of Windows 7. It is tomorrow, October 22. I have been working with it for the past few months and think that it is 90% better overall than Windows Vista. I will not go into the myriad of reasons except to say that it is considerably more compatible with XP and some of the older applications and peripherals than Vista was. Microsoft went so far as to design a copy of Windows XP into Vista so that you can literally run XP inside your Win7 computer simultaneously just in case you have a very antiquated application that absolutely, positively will not work on anything except XP (also for those that are afraid to commit to a newer operating system).
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.