It surprises a lot of people I meet that used to be a Windows wrangler. For some reason they seem to expect some bearded sandal wearing linux geek or else some wide eyed Mac evangelist.
Well despite increasingly feeling unhappy about windows start up times and upgrade mechanism, that’s not the case. In my time I’ve written registry poking code and code to poke active directory as well as supported the Windows desktop.
While I used a Mac at home - well until the late nineties anyway - at work it was Windows all the way. I even argued for abandoning formal support for Apple when it looked like they were going to go down the toilet in the nineties.
As a manager of a managed (however loosely) computing environment I always found Apple impossible to talk to, to engage with, while Microsoft, well you could talk to Microsoft. You may not have liked some of their behaviour, especially their licensing models, but you could talk to them, and their behaviour was always rational, aimed at obtaining the maximum revenue for their shareholders.
And remember, it’s only recently that Microsoft have had serious competition. In fact I’d argue that they still do not have massive competition. What has in fact happened is that a combination of the GFC and the consequent contraction of business spending, plus the advent of the iPad has simply taken a large chunk out of their revenue.
Basically, the GFC has meant that businesses have kept computers going for longer and lengthened their upgrade cycle. The disaster that was Vista gave them a reason to stick with XP, and Windows 7, while considerably better in user appeal than Vista didn’t quite grab back everything that went to XP.
At the same time the advent of the iPad and other tablet solutions meant that a large part of the consumer market decided they didn’t need a PC. After all an iPad letes them do their online banking, tweet, play with facebook, surf the web and do a little bit of email perfectly well. And you can carry it about, it’s light, you can use it anywhere you have a connection.
And while OS X has also taken a chunk out of Windows, purely because Apple machines feel nicer, I have this suspicion that Apple have cannabalised some of their own market with the iPad.
People on the whole want a low cost lightweight computing solution - the netbook wave was the first part of it, which Microsoft hobbled by the memory and restrictions in Windows 7 Home Basic - on a different day a different decision might have given them a platform to fight back against the iPad with. Certainly the increasing popularity of the ChromeOS platform suggests that people still have an appetite for a low cost computing device with a keyboard, not to mention all these bluetooth iPad keyboards out there.
And Linux - well linux has stolen the server space from Microsoft, and from the high end server makers such as Sun by being able to give good performance on cheap (and or virtual systems) and having little or no licensing costs - simpler to administer for one thing.
But it’s never conquered the desktop. It’s lacked a company that will seriously push and support a linux based solution, and so it remains a mess of different window managers and something that only the bearded geeks among us use. Which is a pity, because it’s perfectly usable as a desktop alternative.
After I gave up on Macs at home in the nineties I used windows, plus a bit of linux both at home or work. I did buy an iMac a few years ago but that became J’s desktop in the way that things do and I ended up using a Xubuntu based machine as my home machine for a few years, until I changed back to Windows. And I changed back becuase the hardware was no longer supported, not because I was unhappy with Xubuntu.
So, I’m not a Windows hater. But it’s definitely lost its edge. And the range of the iPad and web based computing reduces the number of tasks that you simply must have Windows (or Office) for month by month.
Basically, Microsoft now faces competition in a way it hasn’t for around twenty years - and what we’re seeing is the behemoth gradually turning round …
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