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back to article Microsoft haters: You gotta lop off a lot of legs to slay Ballmer's monster

Contrary to increasingly popular belief, Microsoft is not a “dead” company, nor at immediate risk of collapse. I do, however, believe that Microsoft’s “Windows on the endpoint” monopoly days have passed, that Microsoft’s senior management are aware of this and are actively taking steps to compensate. Similarly, I believe that …

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Desktop monopoly

They will continue to have a desktop monopoly as long as manufactures like Dell and HP; and retailers like PC World/Currys, are too cowardly to stand up to them.

I applaud the handful of retailers like Novatech who will sell you a laptop with no OS.

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Re: Desktop monopoly

why should Dell and HP "stand up" to anyone when they are making money?

I think the time to "stand up" would be when it is no longer profitable to sell machines configured in this manner.

There are plenty of other, smaller retailers out there who will sell you a server, desktop or laptop with no OS installed. However, I do not think adding the choice of OS, be it Linux or Windows, is the key point here.

As the author already noted, the point is the transfer away from a desktop with a full blown OS acting as the endpoint to mobile devices with a competent OS.

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Re: Desktop monopoly

ebuyer do os free laptops too now.

MS will continue to have a monopoly while people dont understand computing. I've worked in many places and MS software is generally used to write documents containing data and write other documents containing data about how the other data should be used and more documents are created concerning how the other documents should be preserved and access. 99% of documents are redundant once the data drives itself - that's what software has been capable of doing since Leo in the early 50's.

I've met a few managers who actually understand data with semantics - unfortunately they tend to be in IT but when they are in the real world and want the company to benefit then you get very small bits of software doing amazing things very well.

IT from MS is enabling 19thC office practice in the 21stC. Its just doing the wrong thing more efficiently. Works well for them mind.

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Re: Desktop monopoly

"the point is the transfer away from a desktop with a full blown OS acting as the endpoint to mobile devices with a competent OS."

I think the more important point is the transfer away from owning software and renting it - basically a "back to the '60s" model of computing which on the one hand seems to guarantee income by milking the users at regular intervals, with their data as hostages but also reduces any "investment" in software to whatever this monthly fee was, so leaving is cheap. The bet is that the latter is much less of a factor than the former and that cloud users will continue to pay for access to their data no matter how attractive the apps from alternative suppliers might become.

It didn't work out too well for the service vendors in the 1960's; maybe it'll work better this time. But, when mobile devices are able to run software locally as well as a 1990s PC then we'll find out what SaaS actually has to offer most users. By my reckoning it's precisely zip.

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Re: Desktop monopoly

I'm going to fight against SaaS tooth-and-nail. And then when I loose my teeth and nails fighting against it, I will still keep fighting.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

Do you really think there is a big market for "naked" computers?

I suspect the market is 1% or less at retail stores. Businesses react to demand and that doesn't even register as demand. Consumers will more often than not stick with the OS supplied, then when it stops working they either take it to the shop or buy another computer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

@Tom 7 (10:05)

"MS will continue to have a monopoly while people dont understand computing"

People don't understand computing because "people" do NOT care about computing!

"People" get one provided by work for them to do their job, and they buy their own to do stuff - how it works they do not care.

And, IMHO, nor should they - it's just a tool!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

@AC 12:13 'And, IMHO, nor should they - it's just a tool!'

So is a car but you expect that people learn the names of things even if they don't know how they work. Brakes, pedals, indicators, clutch, engine etc etc.

When it comes to technology people are just being lazy. The box is broken, I filled my memory up, the clicky thingy. With at least a basic understanding of what things are, they can get help easily when they have a problem. I hate it when people say 'I don't need to know any of that computer crap.' Yes you bloody well do. Computers run every aspect of your life, they have access to your most intimate details, your finances etc. A basic understanding of this is essential not optional. The internet isn't a safe fluffy place full of cats.

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Re: a big market for "naked" computers?

Probably not. But that is no reason for having no market because "we are not allowed to sell computers without windows".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

You've rather missed the point. The article is not about the desktop, but the endpoint.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

Maybe Thomas Watson (IBM) was right - "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers".

(I am aware this may not have actually been uttered)

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Roo
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Devil

Re: Desktop monopoly

I think Tom 7 made a valuable point. As for mugs who have to operate these corporate computing dung heaps "not caring", I disagree with the sentiment that they shouldn't care. The plebs bashing away at their work PCs should care that because vast sums of money are making folks like Ellison and Ballmer richer when that money could be making them richer instead.

Tom hit the nail on the head with his observation that often the software used is a poor fit for the problem at hand. One particular system from recent memory comes to mind... It was a .NET WCF service that used Coherence as a it's primary storage to stream a bunch of updates to a bunch of unreliable remote clients, this thing had burnt $zillions of licensing, required a bunch of very expensive servers to cope with it's memory consumption, and had a bunch of expensive SSDs slotted in to work around Windows' poor file I/O performance.

While bored and frustrated waiting for this large expensive and complex system to work, I read the requirements + interface specs and hacked up my own version within a couple of hours with some Python scripts and an Apache webserver running on my cruddy 5 year old Linux ultra-portable laptop.

The resulting hack did the same job faster, burnt less network bandwidth, consumed less memory, was more reliable, more robust (ie: a client going offline didn't kill the whole system) and cost about 2 hours of my time to implement (vs. 6 people taking 8 months). My code was a lot easier to maintain too, < 1K lines vs >100K lines. ;)

The guys implementing that system were not stupid or bad at their job, quite the reverse in fact. The root cause behind this expensive nightmare was that the *Requirements* specified that the system comprise of WCF services backed by Coherence running on Windows boxes, so I guess technically my hack didn't qualify as a valid solution either.

It's a shame, an expensive one for that company, but that's what you get if all you have are hammers and every problem looks like a nail.

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Re: Desktop monopoly

"You've rather missed the point. The article is not about the desktop, but the endpoint."

Yup, the world now includes machine tool controlers, autoweighing machines, sensors and scanners of all types and varieties, web sites with info - eg tax rates. Few are wedded to MS.

Integration is the new money maker

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Pirate

Re: Desktop monopoly

I don't think it's a matter of expecting "manufactures like Dell and HP; and retailers like PC World/Currys"... "to stand up to them" either.

We have laws and regulations, legislatures and regulators to protect the manufactures and ourselves from this sort of abuse. Microsoft's monopolism has been found illegal numerous times. I believe what we're talking about here is illegal: If I buy a computer and do not wish to run a Microsoft OS on it, my purchase should be reduced in price accordingly. That's a TOTAL COST reduction, of course, TCO; ie my unwanted "licence" at cost PLUS Windows compatibility testing & development costs, all certification fees and the like, etc. Microsoft Inc has no power to raise tax, to take my money for something I do not want and do not use, or to construct a cartel which makes it difficult for me to go about my business without paying "tribute" to Microsoft Inc. Our legislatures and regulators should be policing these antics and, if the law isn't clear or strong enough, tightening it. That is their job it is their only job it's the whole reason we put up with the tossers.

Instead of protecting the public and the market, our political lords and masters appear to have set about protecting the Microsoft Corporation Inc. Busily drafting Microsoft consumer protection rules carefully contrived to make it illegal to sell a computer which arrives in a "non-functional state", while carefully honing "non-functional state" to amount to "without Windows™". Drafting bizarre procurement rules so obviously designed to match ONLY the one product they've been bribed to procure. Then there are the demented "education" policies... IT "education"?... All for it... as long as it's painstakingly restricted to being nothing more than indoctrinating the next generation in using the GUI of "the OS and office applications most prevalent in industry at the moment" - I wonder what that might be. IT? Have they heard of it?

With the rot so endemic it's hardly reasonable to expect individual companies to "stick there necks out". They have businesses to run, shareholders to consider, etc. They have to operate within the political and legal environment which prevails. The failings of the IT industry are our (the voters') fault. Just as all the other imperfections of our lot. Such is the meaning of "democracy".

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Anonymous Coward

Re:@Tom 7 (10:05)

"MS will continue to have a monopoly while people dont understand computing"

People don't understand computing because "people" do NOT care about computing!

"People" get one provided by work for them to do their job, and they buy their own to do stuff - how it works they do not care.

And, IMHO, nor should they - it's just a tool!

Fair point RICHTO, so how about you relinquish those restrictive all-or-nothing licensing terms? Allow Windows to stand on its own in an open market and let the consumer choose what *their* new tools will run. No? Thought not. Looks like their new tools will continue to be phablets running AnythingButWindows instead of PCs then.

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Re: Desktop monopoly

Agreed, right now this SaaS feels "new" so people are willing to sign on to Adobe Cloud, Office365, etc. Eventually people will begin to feel fleeced once they pass a threshold of how many services they have to sign up for a monthly or annual service. MS, Adobe, etc all want to slip into consumers minds like a monthly utility bill, but once they get people used to a monthly fee, they'll start to raise prices.

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Re: Desktop monopoly

You must be a god, I couldn't even type 1K lines of lorum ipsum in 2 hours, let alone 1K lines of working debugged code!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

Hah hah, love the Linux crowd, still trying to win the 'linux on the desktop' war. That ended about 15 years ago. With a decisive MS victory.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

@AC 12:31

Sorry but I totally disagree - this is the outdated geeks view of the world.

People DO know the equivalent bits of computers, both hardware (mice, keyboards, touch UI's, storage etc,) and software (which primarily these days is the browser and web-based apps).

They do not care how it all works, they just want it to work.

And why exactly is that so wrong??? We should be striving to produce kit & s/w that does just work.

So you don't have to figure out how to make it work, and can get on with USING it!

And yes, for some people that isn't more than cats in boxes, but for a lot of others the browser is their window into their computer

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

>Hah hah, love the Linux crowd, still trying to win the 'linux on the desktop' war. That ended about 15 years ago. With a decisive MS victory.

Really RICHTO? Doesn't look like the Linux crowd got your memo: Linux has just kept growing. You should try it, I'm pretty certain you'd find something you like. The desktop Linux ecosystem has never been healthier, richer or more diverse. How's Windows doing? I hear you're up to version 8 now. A roaring success no doubt and good for you too: The market's plenty big enough for a bit of diversity.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

He said "ended" but clearly meant *began*

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

. . .

I have about 40 copies of office that will die as soon as somebody builds an API that allow libreoffice to generate documents through the office API used by every CMS programmed in the last decade.

THAT'S WHY WE CAN'T GET RID OF BLOODY WORD. Believe me, it's not any great love of it!

And when somebody offers an alternative to outlook 2003 then it will die in agony as well. All we need is a very, very basic exchange client that offers the ability to read and send messages and the use of the delegates function. A separate calendar we might be able to live with. Having to give people your password so they can log into your account while your away on holiday instead of goto "file->open other users folder" is NOT something that is acceptable.

Windows is dictated as the platform because use of the business specific CMS is built around word. and the users realistically need Outlook because the other options don't meet the level of functionality of Outlook 2003 in a exchange environment.

Slay office and then there is bluntly no need to be running windows on the endpoint since at that point we can probably use React OS or possibly your OS of choice. Slay the windows endpoints and we aren't linked to windows server.

But there is no practical alternative at the moment. Nobody in IT loves Microsoft, we just buy what we need to achieve the business objectives. And quite frankly, at the moment Microsoft's offerings from 2003 offer crushing productivity advantages over FOSS options available at the current time which mean that we are stuck with them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

"Hah hah, love the Linux crowd, still trying to win the 'linux on the desktop' war. That ended about 15 years ago. With a decisive MS victory".

I understand why you could want to remain anonymous. The desktop strategy was brilliant. Get the OEMs to pay an inflation proof per-model fee to Microsoft, regardless of how many boxes the OEMs shifted without Windows. Currently, since a lot of hardware manufacturers have inexplicably not gone with Windows, MS had to go about 'taxing` the Android mobile manufacturers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

"MS had to go about 'taxing` the Android mobile manufacturers."

You mean, because Google chose to use technology developed by Oracle, Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, etc. in their product there is a corresponding IP bill to pay to use it....

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LDS
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Re: Desktop monopoly

Ask yourself why you don't have alternatives... Outlook 2003? It's more than ten years old. In ten years no Linux developer was able to deliver a better alternative? Why? No one has ever written an API to generate documents you need? Why? Oh, but that's open source, why don't you contribute and write them? Why just waiting for someone else doing what you need - for free?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

How sad, and how true. In particular, seems that creating an Outlook killer is not on anyone FOSS agenda. And the heaps of dependencies you bring on with a CMS or ERP package are enormous. Another example is SAP: extremely cross platform on the server side, in practice Windows only on the client side.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

why don't you contribute and write them?

Imagine that your an SME with 40 staff. Do you:-

A) Pay a developer to program a word compatible API for libre office and also develop a mail client duplicating office 2003 basic functionality. Investment: hire a programmer for 30k per year, likely to take 3+ years at best (ie ~100k spend)

or

B) Buy a copy of MS Office from a catalouge at ~£100 per copy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

"Yup, the world now includes machine tool controlers, autoweighing machines, sensors and scanners of all types and varieties, web sites with info - eg tax rates. Few are wedded to MS."

Actually loads run MS - Windows CE, Windows Embedded and Windows Automotive are everywhere...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Desktop monopoly

"Having to give people your password so they can log into your account while your away on holiday instead of goto "file->open other users folder" is NOT something that is acceptable."

Erm, you know you can just delegate access instead, right? Oh, nope - you are incompetent - which is why you still work in a 40 user company...

http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/outlook-help/allow-someone-else-to-manage-your-mail-and-calendar-HA010355554.aspx

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Roo
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Re: Desktop monopoly

It was <1K lines of Python and lots of cutting & pasting code from elsewhere. I don't think of that as godlike. ll the scripts did was submit data to the webserver and query the webserver to retrieve it. :)

Most of the heavy lifting and logic was done by the webserver & HTTP libs. By choosing a more appropriate set of tools I spent less time achieving a good quality solution than the guys banging away at WCF.

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Stop

Re: Desktop monopoly

Windows embedded has been haemorrhaging market share for some time.

WinCe was the last real version with market share, XPe never really took off.

In the MFD market as an example, there are to my knowledge, only two companies still using Windows embedded, and their products suck (and they are based on XP)

Toshiba, Ricoh, KonicaMinolta, Kyocera, Samsung, Panasonic, all use a flavour of Unix, Linux, NetBSD, or their own Unix-like RTOS.

Or telephone systems, Windows is almost non-existent again.

Entertainment devices? Bluray players, Video cameras, NAS boxes, streaming devices, mainly run BSD or Linux, although some are now starting to run Android.

Oh, and of course, mobile phones.........

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The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

How often have I heard that or the closely associated press hype that "Microsoft are betting the firm on...something, something, oranges, something".

Sadly, it's never true. They have a massive lock-in on business users. There simply is no alternative to Windows for normal day-to-day office work. Well, there is, of course, but nobody is buying it. They're buying "all your files belong to us" Office 365 and "all your phone calls belong to us" Lync systems which will mire any future attempt to move away to someone else in man-centuries of pain.

People get the OS they deserve, I guess.

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Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

I'm not so sure.

All of us in our SME had our nice, speedy desktops replaced by thin clients. Dell lost out there and the manufacturers of the blades won. We, as employees, also lost out because the VM machines are less responsive than the desktops. It does make the work of the sysadmins easier though.

Now, if the management is prepared to make such a big change for the sake of cost, then it is not hard to see them replacing the client OS and office software. All it will really take is a good salesman to demonstrate how easy and similar <linux variant> and <other office package> is and, more importantly, how many hundreds of thousands of <applicable currency> can be saved. Management gets big bonuses and MIcrosoft loses out.

Indeed, I suspect that the reason that we still have Microsoft on the desktop is because our CFO uses Excel as his daily tool and the pain that he would have to suffer converting his elaborate Excel files to LibreOffice, or whatever, is too great. I suspect that Excel is Microsoft's killer app.

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Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

I agree up to a point. MS certainly have achieved a high level of business lock-in with the Windows/Office cash cow. But the more they travel down the Windows 8/Office 365 path the more attractive Linux and Open Office look.

They have best of bread product in Active Directory, System Center, Windows 7 and Office 2013. But the more they force a touchscreen UI and SaaS based Office on end users who don't need/want the more their core business market is eroded.

It's true their core business monopoly can't last forever and they do need to diversify to protect themselves from the inevitable. But there's no reason to be actively quickening the process.

We're fun while Windows 7 Pro and Office 2013 are still here and supported. I'm not convinced by Microsofts current direction of travel that they will have viable replacements lined up for us when the time comes. Since OpenOffice/LibreOffice is free maybe the cost savings in licensing can help fund a switch to the more expensive Apple desktop?

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Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

"I suspect that Excel is Microsoft's killer app."

I have to agree here. The number of custom, macro-ridden spreadsheets used in my previous place of employment was immense. It would have taken far too much time and resources to move those over to another spreadsheet package, let alone the amount of retraining required.

The other killer feature keeping Windows alive is old, proprietary software. Again, at my previous employer, there were many old pieces of software, many of which interfaced with old hardware, which cannot be upgraded. Often, the original supplier is no longer in business, or will not upgrade it without significant capex. A company often will not do this while the old stuff still "works". We still had many machines running Windows 95, as hardware XYZ did not have drivers for later OSes.

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Coat

Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

The biggest 'lock-in' products are IMHO

SharePoint and Exchange

Don't forget all those MCSE's out there who think that AD is god's gift to Admins.

(there is a Policy for that, pun intended)

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Unhappy

Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

MS did have a “24 months is critical” point, but that was ten years ago.

When tech historians look back at 1995, they’ll wonder how MS (with Windows 95 on DOS, no browser, and no TCP/IP stack (NT had one, but was too fat for Win95)) managed to hang onto PC hegemony.. they did that with sharp practices that they’re paying the price for to this day.

When tech historians look back at 2002, they’ll wonder how MS (with virus friendly WindowsXP, and leaky DCE TCP/IP stack) managed to hang onto the PC & file-server hegemony.. they did that with the Trustworthy Computing Initiative, that closed enough vulnerabilities quick enough to stop somebody trumping them.

Truth is “2002 to 2012” was always going to be a shi1e decade for Microsoft; that “the MS BASIC company” is still relevant is actually remarkable..

Ironically, Steve Ballmer’s problem is that he’s too timid (RT should never have been “Windows”, gesture controls on non-touch, non-kinetic PC should never have happened)..

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Thumb Up

Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

"Mind the oranges, Marlon!" Thank you, that brings back good memories :-)

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Windows

@Steve

"Don't forget all those MCSE's out there who think that AD is god's gift to Admins."

But how long is that going to last now that they can soon no longer play with those toys themselves (hinting at Microsoft dropping TechNet support)?

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LDS
Silver badge

Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

It was Windows 3.x that won the desktop - from there on it was only easier. Nor Apple with its expensive hardware/software proprietary combo, nor IBM with OS/2 - and its attempts to tie it too much to expensive and proprietary PS/2 systems, were able to deliver an OS for the "masses". Windows 3.x was, it could run on any PC compatible with enough RAM and a 386 processor, and its applications delievered what user needed. Competition was strong and good products arose. That's why 95 could sell so well, and later XP. Nor MacOS, nor OS/2, nor the firsts Linuxes could match Windows software, and therefore the user desktop. And now Windows server OS is powerful enough to compete with *nixes also....

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Anonymous Coward

Macro ridden spreadsheets

Yes, we have these where I work too. And all the applications they deliver are badly designed and badly flawed, performing some useful but simple function and also in many cases generating misleading data, because these should have been on a proper database to start with.

That creates a dependence upon Excel, but as a legacy app, until all these apps are properly migrated. The kind of platform best delivering this kind of legacy app is generally a virtual machine, as it can run in a suitable security sandbox with everything around it frozen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

What was the alternative to Windows 95? erm, not a lot. Macs were expensive and had an even worse OS. Amigas and STs were on life-support. Linux was crap, it still isn't really as polished as Windows on the desktop now.

Windows 95 didn't have USB either, so what? you can't look back at an OS in 2013 and say it didn't have XYZ when things were different back then. You could still get Windows on floppy discs back then.

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Re: People get the OS they deserve

My main machine is a MacBook Air. Much as I prefer the hardware to my Lenovo, I can categorically state that *for me* Windows 8 is far superior to OS X. I still use OS X in preference, but only because of the hardware it runs on.

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Silver badge

Re: The other killer feature keeping Windows alive is old, proprietary software.

This too. And not just old. Brand new as well.

Rockwell, Siemens, etc. only supply their PLC programming environments on windows (they started with DOS). You can't set up a data acquisition unit from National Instruments or a temperature sensor from Neoptix without windows. Try talking to an ABB motor drive without anything but windows. The only way to get data out a Tektronix 'scope or a Fluke OTDR... well, that's the thing.

You'd think that engineering companies would be capable of making portable applications. But they can't be bothered.

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Devil

@tmcd35

"They have best of bread product in Active Directory, System Center, Windows 7 and Office 2013."

As in extracting bread from their customers?

Yes I think I'd agree with that statement.

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Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

AC@12:10,

Both Amiga and ST where long buried by Win'95s release. I think even Escom (bought Amiga from Commodore) had gone bust by that point! And yep, Apple were still 6 years away from a usable OS. I don't Linux even entered the public consciousness much before '97/98.

Yep, there was no real competition to Windows '95 at the time. I remember their being some fleeting talk of OS/2 Warp in magazines of the time but that never really panned out. And yes, if I recall correctly it was *only* available on floppy disk. I think Win98 was the first to boot from CD (CD installers where eventually available for '95 but required a boot from floppy first).

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Thumb Down

Re: The other killer feature keeping Windows alive is old, proprietary software.

@R E A Harvey

Most of them still need a PC with a parallel port - a proper one too, not a USB->LPT1 simulator!

Phil.

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LDS
Silver badge

Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

I believe downvoters are people *born* in 1995 and have no clue about the IT landscape back then. A browser in 1995? Most people didn't know even what "the Internet" was - and almost any PC for the home came without a NIC - and I still remember in those years when we had to open new PCs at the office to add a NIC for the LAN. TCP/IP? A lot of networks were still running on Netware's IPX connected to Netware servers - LAN Manager installations were only a few, and NT 4 was just released.

Linux was only released in 1991, and it took years to be known outside its circles and becoming an alternative (and it still lacks too many professional applications to be a real alternative).

Apple in 1995 was in very bad waters, Jobs was back only in 1997, it was at its lowest, struggling to deliver a new, modern OS.

IBM OS/2 was doomed since MS broke the alliance, it had almost no software to run, device driver support issues, and even IBM after buying Lotus kept on delivering software first for Windows instead of its own OS - and because it couldn't run Win32 software like it did with Win16, the switch to 95/NT killed it.

Dear downvoters, put yourself in the shoes of a 1995 computer user - what would you choose?

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Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

Before Windows

There was X Windows, many companies had Sun and Apollo workstations

Sun allowed you to run multiple MS DOS sessions on their 386 workstation

Quarterdeck Deskview/X

NeXTSTEP

Mark Williams Company Coherent

Even VAX/VMS used Motif

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Bronze badge

Re: The next 24 months is Microsoft's true window of vulnerability.

>they’ll wonder how MS (with Windows 95 ...) managed to hang onto PC hegemony

Perhaps they will look at the contemporary reviews and user experience, and realize again that the UI was not just "best of class", but identifiably superior to everything else on offer.

Of course, you've marked yourself as unreliable by using the label "Windows 95 on DOS", which tells us that you deal in slogans, but are so stuck in the past that you can't even get a job in management.

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