It Takes a Monopoly

In a post entitled “For reasons that have little to do with the product, itself, Windows Vista simply can't lose”, Robert X. Cringely points out why Vista will be a winner. From the article:
Windows Vista is finally here, a shadow of what it was once supposed to be, but here nonetheless, and now the pundits are holding forth on whether or not Microsoft's new operating system will succeed. What a waste of good punditry: of course Vista will succeed, and those who think it will fail simply do not know what they are talking about.
There have been good operating systems from Microsoft and bad operating systems from Microsoft, but of those only one that I know of can truly be said to have failed — Bob, the so-called social interface operating system I always figured was really named after me.
Bob was a functional failure, a user catastrophe, but Microsoft had weathered those before. Remember DOS 4? What might have made Bob fail was its design, which was flawed to say the least, or as my mother would put it — crappy. But what ALLOWED Bob to fail was something much different — the fact that the operating system wasn't strategic for Microsoft OR for users. Nobody needed Bob and nobody was forced to use him against their will, which sounds a lot like my old dating life but is actually more profound than that. Microsoft practically guaranteed that Bob would fail by creating no artificial situation (say the forced retirement of the last pre-Bob OS) that forced people to use Bob whether they wanted to or not.
Microsoft — a company that eventually learns from its mistakes — will not make that particular mistake again, certainly not with Windows Vista, in which they have a $5 billion investment.
What we'll see for ourselves and read about over the next six months, then, are users complaining about Vista instability, an inevitably emerging vulnerability to hackers, and applications that don't work as well as they do under XP. Enterprise customers will hold back in droves. But does any of that make Vista a failure? Nope.

He contends that since Microsoft basically has the ability to force Vista on the market, it simply can't lose. You know what – he's right, at least for certain definitions of win and lose. Because most people simply go to the store and purchase a new PC without even knowing what an Operating System is, they will almost assuredly get Vista with the next PC they buy. While many corporations make slightly more educated decisions, for other reasons including compatibility and the perception that choosing Microsoft is safe they will also eventually go to Vista in many cases. You can be certain though that we won't be seeing droves of people upgrading for some whiz bang feature that Vista holds. In a way, while from a market share perspective that makes Vista a winner, I think it will still be a loser in the grand scheme of things. There is a very real chance that this upgrade cycle is the last one where Microsoft is the 100% default choice. With both Apple and multiple Linux distributions gaining traction, if I were Microsoft I would have seen this as a chance to get a fabulous release out to solidify mindshare in the market. Instead you have a product that has been stripped of almost all of the promised innovation and interesting features, but still way late to market. You end up with a loser that will still make tens of millions of dollars of profit.
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