Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Innovation Shminnovation

I laughed out loud (and so-help-me, I'm not going to write LOL'd...except for that one there) when I read this:
"So if Apple wants to abandon floppy disks or sell computers in funny colors or shapes, it can. In contrast, PC makers have been trying since 1999 to get away from the beige tower and legacy features. So far, they haven't even managed to get rid of parallel printer ports."

That's the drawback that Microsoft has with "owning" 95% of the world's desktops, isn't it? On the one hand, you've got users who spend every weekend pulling apart their computers and rebuilding them, making them bigger, faster, and more powerful. Then you've got some corporate IT schlub telling you that you have to support an obsolete dot matrix printer in their warehouse because it's the only way they can print out their packing slips. And somehow, the newest PC purchased has to work with the oldest on the network, regardless of which version of Windows each is running. I wonder if Microsoft could ever do with Windows what Apple has done with OS X: Create a new, forward-looking operating system that almost completely eschews backward-compatability? "Longhorn" once promised to be such a beast, but the features keeping being cut. It's times like this that make the small market share a blessing.

The piece also made me wonder if I'd ever linked to this excellent post at Daring Fireball about the Macintosh platform and the number of people who use it. A grand mythology has sprung up about the missteps that Apple made back in "the day," many of which just aren't true:
The idea being that the Mac’s relatively low market share, in the face of its superior usability and design, is because the corporate market was and is resistant to buying proprietary hardware. And so thus Apple should have developed and licensed a version of the Mac OS that ran on Intel PC hardware. Then you do a little hand-waving, and boom — Apple could have been Microsoft.

The first problem with this idea, as stated earlier, is that IBM-compatible PCs simply weren’t capable of providing a Mac-like user experience in 1984, and it was many years later until they were. And by the time PCs were capable providing a Mac-like experience, Microsoft’s MS-DOS was already entrenched as the monopoly OS.

The second problem is that it’s based on the dubious assumption that the corporate IT market is innately resistant to proprietary single-vendor hardware platforms, but has no reluctance whatsoever to tie themselves to proprietary single-vendor software platforms. That the corporate market has in large part chosen an open hardware platform (x86 processor IBM-compatible PCs) and a closed software platform (DOS/Windows) is quite possibly just the way things turned out, not necessarily the way things were destined to be.

It's worth reading the whole thing, as well as this follow up about market share and the iPod/iTunes Music Store.

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