Microsoft often takes a huge bashing on the Internet and in the press, but none of that has much affect. Microsoft will continue to dominate because they have the mindset of the people that don’t read Blogs, Digg, Slashdot, etc. People don’t want to deal with tracking down comparable applications for that shiny new Mac or learn how to get them to work with the latest copy of Linux. Most “normal” people don’t even want to deal with upgrading their operating system when it is just slightly more expensive to go out and buy the fastest PC that is already preloaded with the newest version of Windows.
This is a cycle that will be difficult to break and Microsoft knows it. When Apple made the move to Intel processors you knew that better OS emulation / virtualization was coming. Sure, we could do it before with Virtual PC, but the performance was nowhere near as fast as running Windows natively on a PC. Now, virtualization on OS X is all the rage with Parallels and VMWare, so recommending a new Apple computer to people that ask me what they should buy is an easy solution since they can run most operating systems that they care about. I still believe the Apple’s come out just a little more expensive, but the difference is much less than it used to be. (I know there are times when non Apple computers end up costing more than the Apple counter part, but for the average buyer they don’t seem to take in to account all of the additional software, etc. you get when you purchase a Mac.)
Although virtualization is close, it still needs to get more transparent to the general population before we’ll ever see a challenge to Microsoft’s dominance. People need to be able to launch any of their Windows applications without knowing how to startup other operating systems and their desktops first. They should be able to launch Visio from their Dock and have just Visio run transparently. We’re getting closer, but it is still not a technology I would put in front of my Mom unless I wanted to get a lot more phone calls from her.
I look forward to how far these technologies will move in 2008, but in 2007 I think it will still be a tough sell to most normal users. I still have a hard time getting people to understand their are other technologies out there just as good, if not better, than Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Microsoft Messenger, Hotmail, etc. Most of them feel that Microsoft is the safe choice. Face it, those of us that deal with this stuff every day are in the minority. We’re a very vocal minority, but I’d be surprised if we made up more than 10-20% of the population. Microsoft probably doesn’t care too much about our 10%, they want (and own) the other 90%; the majority of the population that really don’t care about the inner workings of the machine. Mediocre is good enough for most people and Microsoft knows it. They are a large company with very, very smart employees that really don’t like to lose. And they rarely do.
Keep looking over your shoulder Microsoft. As soon as my Mom can handle virtualization, I think you may actually be in a little trouble.
UPDATE: As I was reading this today (I wrote this really late last night) I realized that virtualization will not hurt Microsoft a bit, as people will still need to own a licensed copy of the Windows operating system to run all of those applications.Â So in the end, unless people make the move completely to an alternate operating system (which will only happen if there are applications available for the alternate operating system) it won’t really matter too much to Microsoft.Â The true threat to Microsoft would be the continuing “webification” of applications from people like Google, where the operating system becomes much less important.Â GMail, Google Calendar, their word processor and spreadsheet programs probably keep Microsoft up more at night than OS X.Â All of my computers at home run Apple’s OS X, but I still own Microsoft Office for the Mac.Â Microsoft continues to win.