Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not represented as fact|
Where's The Competition to MS Windows?
14 February 2002 Edition|
Microsoft owns the desktop, it's Windows operating system being installed
on the huge majority of personal computers all around the globe.
the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook
are revealed for all to see!
Despite the company's claims that piracy has affected its bottom line,
the revenues generated by sales of OEM and upgrade copies of
the operating system generates represent a princely sum by anyone's
So why haven't competitors come along with Windows-like operating systems
that might steal a sizeable chunk of that market?
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Yes, we have Linux -- a fine operating system that supports several very
Windows-like GUI shells which do an admirable job of mimicking Microsoft's
look and feel.
However, these alternatives lack one critical factor -- you can't just
grab a copy of your favourite MS Windows program and run it in such
While there have (and still are) a few attempts to provide Linux with the
ability to run unmodified Windows programs, none are yet ready
for the big-time.
Of course we all know that developing an MS Windows-compatible OS is not
going to be a trivial job. It would cost many millions of dollars and take
quite some time -- but I'm beginning to think it might just be worth the
Microsoft's "Trustworthy Computing" train appears to have already been
derailed by the recent surge in security alerts relating to Windows XP,
IE6, Hotmail and MSN Messenger -- so anyone who can come up with a truly
secure OS that is fully compatible with Windows is staring a fortune in
Except for one thing...
The laws, as they stand, appear to be stacked very much in Microsoft's favour.
In the USA, not only is it illegal to "reverse engineer" someone else's
software (thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act DMCA) but you'd also
likely find yourself injuncted to hell and back -- tied up in court by
Microsoft's lawyers on all manner of other charges.
I am absolutely sure that if building a totally clean-roomed Windows
clone was simply a technical matter then it would have already been done and
we'd see some real competition in the marketplace. Amongst the positive
side-effects of such competition would be a massive improvement in the
security and reliability of the average desktop operating environment.
Unfortunately the technical challenges associated with cloning Windows are
probably the least difficult. The real problem lies with the fact that you'd
be swimming in shark-infested waters with raw bait in your pockets.
So the US government only has itself to blame as they struggle to try and resolve
the Microsoft problem.
Just about everything they've criticised the company for could be resolved by
market forces if they'd just allow a little competition to grow in the marketplace.
Unfortunately this just isn't going to happen under the mass of existing laws
which are stacked very much in Microsoft's favour.
Of course Microsoft are going to use every piece of leverage that existing laws
allow (and some) to protect its strong monopoly position -- that's only natural.
What is farcical is that the US government seems intent on continuing to shoot
its own toes off by creating a commercial environment that effectively
stifles the production of "cleanroom clones."
What happened to the good old days when we had Microsoft and Digital Research Inc
going head-to-head with MSDOS and DRDOS respectively? The competition between
these two functionally similar products that were able to run the same binaries
was intense and it saw some great innovation take place.
Wouldn't it be nice to see the Windows OS having to go head-to-head with
a "real" competitor?
Last night my heart really skipped a beat.
My Sky TV set-top box reverted to the old software and I could surf through
the channels just as fast as I could push the up/down button.
The white-on-blue text reverted to white on black and everything happened
at lightening speed.
Had Sky seen the light and ditched that awful new software?
Was I going to, once again, enjoy using my Sky remote?
Well I'm afraid that it was just a transient change. This morning things
are back to "normal" and I'm once again lumbered with the treacle-like
response and atrocious ergonomics of the new EPG.
I guess they were downloading another bug-fix to this awful new system
and the box reverted to the ROMed version of the old code during the process.
Still, it was nice to be reminded just how good the old system was before
the marketing goons at Sky got too greedy.
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