Well, by now you all should have seen Paul Graham’s essay “Microsoft is Dead.” You have probably also read his follow on piece “Microsoft is Dead: The Cliffs Notes.” If not, you should certainly go read them (www.paulgraham.com). I tend to agree with the gist of his essay and thought that, this being the Geek Buffet, that we should have some discussion about it (especially since nearly every other tech oriented blog has already jumped on it – “link bait” some have called it).
I was interested in his essay because I had had a similar epiphany at the American Geophysical Union meeting last December. There were 15,000 very geeky geo-scientists and students there and they had a huge area set up with tables and chairs for attendees to use their laptops on the convention center’s WIFI network. It seemed to me that I was the only person there using an IBM laptop running Windows. I was shocked by this and spent some extra time observing the phenomena just to be sure I wasn’t overreacting. When I looked closely at people who seemed to be using a non-Apple computer, they were mostly running some variant of Linux. This experience has led me to believe Microsoft’s monopoly on operating systems has been broken. Microsoft still has a huge advantage in the number of machines using their operating system versus all of the others combined, but people now believe there is a viable alternative and are acting on that belief.
Another experience relevant to this issue is the effort that I have had to personally put into keeping the Windows machines I am associated with running. The big desktop machine in our house was completely cutoff from the internet by an upgrade to IE 7. I have had to reinstall everything on my office laptop due to a virus infestation that got past my virus protection software and firewall. Even though everything was backed up, the productivity lost to reinstalling the operating system and all of you other software and files is enormous. Now, the latest MS security update has caused a glitch in my Windows 2000 system that makes a startup take 30 to 40 minutes. I see this situation as unacceptable, and expect that many other users see it the same way.
Because of these personal observations, I have bought a Mac laptop and am in the process of moving over to that platform for all my personal work and hope to move all my professional work over to it soon. There is some learning curve to get over, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Personally, I am hoping to consider MS dead soon.
I am interested to hear if anybody else has personal experience that leads them to think MS is losing its importance in the computer world.