Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Teaos » Sun Feb 06, 2011 12:38 pm

This was an interesting debate I actually had with one of the passengers on my last ship andI just remembered it now.

It started off just chatting about computers ect and what we each had, this other guy had a Mac and said he hadnt had anything but a mac since the late 90's and had what could only be desribed as a pathalogical hatred of Microsoft and windows specifically, infact as far as the debate goes you could probably swap out Microsoft for windows.

He was saying that by being a monopoly, sucking up all competition and having "clunky and unefficent software" that they essentially set back the computing software industry by years and only now is it being off set by the competition Apple computers are giving.

But from other chats I have had and from what I've real if it wasnt for microsoft having that monopolythe birth of the personal computer might never have taken off.

If from the start and up to now there had been multiple OS software makers, even as few as 4 or 5, that the industry would have been to clutered to take off. Imagin that the first generation of people to buy a computer found that a lot of software just couldnt run on their computer, that they couldnt swapand trade with the few of their friends to have computers, the added complexity of having to learn multiple formats.

Computers may have stayed in the hands of proffessionsal and geeks and never made it into to lounges of the middle class.

By only having one format, By having every bit of software work on all computers it made everything far more user friendly.

Sure it hadits costs, Microsoft became complacent and stopped innovating and built what was almost a total monopoly.

Only now that the world is computer literate enough to work out the differences between platforms can we have a duopoly or maybe evenmorein the future.

So doyou think that we needed the stability microsoft provided or were they just somethign holding back the industry through a ironclad monopoly.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Mikey » Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:08 pm

In other words, this guy was jealous because he wasn't as rich as Bill Gates. Other than that, the argument is completely void of merit. The only monopoly that Microsoft held was one caused by the lack of challengers, not because of anything Gates had done to circumvent any anti-trust laws. Microsoft can't be held accountable for the fact that nobody else situated themselves in a position to oppose them, business-wise.

Were Microsoft's products ever perfect? Hell, no. But of course, neither were Apples, neither were anyone else's. If this guy truly believed that what Microsoft was doing was inherently wrong for the modern age of human culture, then we would have seen [i]his[/i[ company rise up in an antagonistic position to Microsoft. We didn't, which means that this guy is just one of the millions who likes to compalin about things after the fact.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Mikey » Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:08 pm

In other words, this guy was jealous because he wasn't as rich as Bill Gates. Other than that, the argument is completely void of merit. The only monopoly that Microsoft held was one caused by the lack of challengers, not because of anything Gates had done to circumvent any anti-trust laws. Microsoft can't be held accountable for the fact that nobody else situated themselves in a position to oppose them, business-wise.

Were Microsoft's products ever perfect? Hell, no. But of course, neither were Apples, neither were anyone else's. If this guy truly believed that what Microsoft was doing was inherently wrong for the modern age of human culture, then we would have seen his company rise up in an antagonistic position to Microsoft. We didn't, which means that this guy is just one of the millions who likes to complain about things after the fact.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Reliant121 » Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:20 pm

I don't really think its ever had a monopoly. It's been the easiest to access computer for a very long time but that doesn't mean its always been the default choice. Apple has always had considerable sway in art and journalist professions. It's just now that Apple starts to threaten Microsoft's traditional home ground of consumer computers.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Teaos » Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:39 pm

In terms of opperating systems they pretty much had a monopoly due to their agreements to have windows pre installed by most hardware brands.

Even though I didnt agree with his position I still thought it brought up an interesting point.

What would be the state of the industry if it hadnt been dominated by one big player for so long?
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Nickswitz » Sun Feb 06, 2011 5:06 pm

Well, the fact that we only had one big player for so long was only because of the fact that no one else wanted to become a player in it, no one else thought it would go anywhere.

FORD was once the sole car manufacturer (I think it was FORD, granted I know little about car history, so I am probably wrong, but there was only one company at one point.) , because no one thought it would go anywhere, in any industry, someone has to be bold enough to break the ice and not worry about people telling them they are wrong and stupid.

and it was only about 10 or 15 years that it was the sole company. I mean they started with PCs about the mid 60s early 70s, and Apple started in 1984, so it was maybe 20 years, which if you think about it is not that long, considering they have been around now for 50 years, and will continue for a couple hundred years, more than likely longer.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Teaos » Sun Feb 06, 2011 7:17 pm

Ford was never the only automotive manifacturer, it didnt even coem close to holding the market share Microsoft did in the 90's.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Nickswitz » Sun Feb 06, 2011 7:31 pm

Teaos wrote:Ford was never the only automotive manifacturer, it didnt even coem close to holding the market share Microsoft did in the 90's.


As I said, I know little about cars, at some point nobody thought cars would go anywhere, someone decided to take them somewhere.

Although that still may be a flawed argument, I'm just trying not to go with technology, although it seems to be the only thing that no one believes will go anywhere.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Captain Picard's Hair » Mon Feb 07, 2011 4:09 am

A couple of posts have mentioned the lack of competition (aside from Apple). This largely comes down to what economists call "barriers to entry." It's pretty easy to create a bagel shop, since it doesn't require a huge capital outlay. So, this business has low barriers to entry; there will be lots and lots of small bagel shops as a result. Creating an O/S has never been easy, let alone one with the graphical display and wide array of features in a "modern" O/S like Windows 7 (which I think is a fantastic OS overall). There are millions and millions of lines of code in a modern version of Windows, or Max OSX, or Linux.

Then, there is the unavoidable fact that an OS requires maintenance. Microsoft doesn't have to release a pack of updates on the second Tuesday of each month because they have crappy programmers -- far from it! Any piece of software of any complexity is effectively impossible to write without bugs simply because of the amount of code involved. Hell, even relatively simple programs usually don't work the first time you try to compile and run them.

So it takes a big company to create a highly functional O/S. In a business which requires such enormous capital outlay, it is inevitable that there will be a small number of successful competitors. Considering the part Linux plays in embedded devices, servers and supercomputers, and phones/tablets (Android is a version of Linux if you didn't know this) there are effectively three major players in O/S'es. Similarly, there are few major CPU makers, with Intel occupying a Microsoft-esque position in desktops but not quite with the same market share, and AMD eating the scraps. Phones usually use designs based on ARM cores (a company in the UK which licenses power-efficient CPU designs for low power situations). There are more car makers than either of these examples, but it's still a relatively small number that each make many thousands of cars a year which make up the world's car market.

It's not necessary that Microsoft specifically have the position it has, but it is necessary that there be a couple of large companies controlling most of the O/S market. Is Microsoft an "evil?" In the 1990's you would have a better argument than now, given the anti-competitive tactics they were eventually brought to court for (in the Netscape case). Since then, they've been consistent in obeying the law. Are they an evil for creating a "flawed" Windows? As I explained above, bugs are inevitable. The malware problem is largely a result of the fact they occupy such a large market share and have for a long time; Windows Vista and 7 are more securely built though there are a lot of less secure XP boxes still around. Actually, much modern malware is generally spread through social engineering rather than computer engineering - they don't necessarily directly attack the software in order to get into the system, but the user. Also, relatively few malware programs are designed to infect Windows directly but attack popular third party software like the browser (albeit IE is another MS product, though with a less dominant share in the modern browser market) or Adobe reader as a means to infect the system. In an open ecosystem like that of Windows, Microsoft has a limited ability to police developers who write for its platform. 'Sandboxing' techniques for isolating programs to a greater degree from the base system seem to be gaining in popularity but aren't yet ubiquitous.

Microsoft does their best to combat the problem, and it's quite a healthy thing that they update so regularly too. Apple's update pattern (yes, Mac has lots of bugs too, inevitably) actually could do well to learn from Microsoft. Putting out huge update packs every few months lets whatever bugs that are addressed in the update pack go unpatched on average quite a bit longer than similar bugs in Windows. It's also a positive that Microsoft nowadays is quite transparent about most things, in contrast with Apple which likes to use mystery to built its 'aura' -- and also likes to ignore the fact that it is not nearly as invulnerable to attack as they'd like you to think. Apple also isn't nearly so transparent about what exactly is in each update pack as Microsoft.

Well, that was a long post but it was a complex topic to attack!
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Teaos » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:45 am

Interesting post, and I agree thatsince they got sued back in the late 90's and Apple got more powerful things have gotten a lot better. Windows 7 shows this. I think the original version of Windows Vista before all the fixes was the last of 'Old' Microsoft. I company so big and powerful they could do anything and people have to put up with it no matter what.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Mikey » Mon Feb 07, 2011 1:13 pm

Indeed, but as CPH the infrastructure was key. Microsoft's stranglehold and virtual identification with PC came about not because they illegally barred competitors, but because nobody else had the wherewithal to compete. That's not MS' fault.

What was gained from that stranglehold was an environment of commonality, support, and evolution... which IMHO only helped the rise and modern ubiquity of the personal computer.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Tyyr » Mon Feb 07, 2011 2:45 pm

The idea that Microsoft's dominance in the marketplace has been a net benefit rather than a problem is an idea I've subscribed to for a long time. I'm old enough to remember when there were multiple OS's available and the issues that could arise from that in terms of purchasing software, moving easily from one computer to another, and sharing files. It wasn't pretty. Like it or not Microsoft's dominance and that dominance's pushing certain formats and such as standards has made computers ubiquitous. Without them things would be an even bigger pain in the ass.

As for the "bugginess" of Microsoft's products versus Apple's, you have to remember what each company is dealing with. Apple maintains a very tight control of the hardware. There's not going to be any surprises for their OS when it comes to things like processors, video hardware, network connections, the vast majority of their programs, etc. It's their shit built to their specs. Windows doesn't have that luxury. They are writing for an almost infinite number of hardware configurations with an almost infinite number of programs that can be put on that hardware most of it with no real requirement on the part of the manufacturer to follow Microsoft's recommendations. The fact that Windows operates as flawlessly as it does the majority of the time would have gotten their programmers burned at the stake as witches two hundred years ago.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Captain Picard's Hair » Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:25 pm

Another excellent point: Windows is expected to support just about literally every possible combination of consumer hardware on earth and an enormous library of third-party apps. What I feel is a strong downside to Apple's locked-down, controlled system is a lack of choice. There is essentially no such thing as a "basic" apple computer, for example, and no traditional desktop option until the price range of a Mac Pro (mucho dinero!) but only all-in-one iMacs. To live in Steve Jobs' world you either do it his way, or not at all.

Even MS has dealt with incompatibility in its own systems. There are historically two lines of Windows OS'es. The original "9x" DOS-derived windows was the first shipped to consumers while the NT line, a sort of remnant of the OS/2 project with IBM, was originally shipped to enterprise customers. The two lines are different all the way down to the Kernel (the most basic core component of the OS, responsible for things like hardware and memory access, CPU management and scheduling, etc). Today's modern Windowses are all NT-based; XP = NT 5.1; Vista = NT 6.0; 7 = NT 6.1. You may note that MS released two versions of Windows in 2000: ME was the last of the 9x DOS-derived series and Win 2000 an NT product. The big thing internally for MS with the release of XP the next year was the unification of their product lines under the more modern NT line; however, Windows NT is innately incompatible with software written for the previous consumer releases (9x), so MS included a compatibility layer for Windows '9x'/DOS software in XP.

Windows has always had the same name, but it hasn't always been the same thing.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Teaos » Mon Feb 07, 2011 5:19 pm

What was gained from that stranglehold was an environment of commonality, support, and evolution... which IMHO only helped the rise and modern ubiquity of the personal computer.


That was my main point, that by only having 1 platform to deal with it helped the computer ignorant middle class become computer savy enough to have them a part of our every day lives.
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Re: Was Microsoft a neccesary evil?

Postby Mikey » Mon Feb 07, 2011 7:37 pm

Exactly. Even today, when personal computing and other "smart" electronics are commonplace, Mac is still considered a secondary topic and things like Linux are relegated in popular conception to the field of "only for computer guys."
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