Lately it seems as though more and more people are switching to Mac based operating systems, Microsoft delays and cuts back on promising projects, and the GNU/Linux marketshare grows every day. No matter what, there is one factor that stands out, regardless of whether or not Microsoft’s product is better, and that is the simple fact that Microsoft is losing it’s marketshare as each day passes.
Microsoft is growing weaker day by day as the software giant shrinks in size, and this
depression recession has not helped, whether we’re pulling out of it or not. Just three years ago, I remember that I never heard of people talking about switching from Windows, and those who did were laughed at; yet nowadays, it seems as though the Mac is the “next big thing,” and all of the gear heads (including myself) have switched to using GNU/Linux operating systems as their primary. Microsoft has been hit with too many anti-trust cases and accused of being a monopoly too many times, and although these are primarily in Europe, Microsoft is simply no longer the all powerful colossus it once was.
There are many prime examples of products replacing Microsoft’s own as they are superior, faster, and more and more often, free. Windows Media Player is one such product, as it is laughed at by GNU/Linux and Mac users as they tout their own applications such as Amarok (I myself am a proud user of 1.4), iTunes, Banshee, or even VLC if you’re not using it to manage a library. Internet Explorer is most likely the best example, as it was surpassed long ago by Opera, Safari, Firefox, and now Chrome (or Chromium), for which most modern tests use increments of IE’s speed to compare the competitive browsers’ speeds.
Even major applications such as Visual Studio and Microsoft Office are being overtaken by competitive applications and suites such as KDevelop and Code::Blocks for VS, and OpenOffice (OOo) or KOffice for Microsoft Office (this goes for almost everything, such as Microsoft Virtual PC, for which there is VMWare and VirtualBox). Even with this in consideration, Microsoft also tends to spend three or more years in between most major updates, whereas users of OOo, Code::Blocks, KDevelop, etc can expect to wait only about six months between major releases.
On top of increasing competition, Microsoft also has to deal with the fact that this competition is gradually taking Microsoft’s customers, and as such, profit. Microsoft is being forced to cut back as each product loses its battle, such as Microsoft Encarta, Microsoft Money and more. Even such projects like WinFS are also being canceled or held back left and right, which promise major improvements and a unique future for Windows.
What remains to be seen is how Microsoft can respond. Windows 7 is an excellent product and Microsoft is still kicking, I am not trying to say otherwise. Windows 7 has many excellent strong points such as WMP12, VHD booting, excellent hardware compatibility, a high level of security (for Windows), speed, and so forth. Windows 7 could very well slow down the progress of Apple and the FSF on the operating system front and maybe even turn the tide; nonetheless, as the Internet grows and cloud gets bigger, platform independence is inevitable. The cloud is the future, and products such as Windows, Mac OS X, and GNU/Linux distributions will eventually be left behind or just a shell of what they are now as the distinctive line between the cloud and the physical grows thinner and thinner.
Nevertheless, this is not a future to turn away from. The abandonment of Windows and other OSes is imminent, but the best choice. Instead of arguing over which platform is the best, we should stand shoulder to shoulder and look for the horizon and recognize that change is inescapable. The next generation of computing is impossible to prevent, so instead of succumbing to bias, keep an open mind and watch the next software war carefully.