DOS and Windows,
despite being harder to use than the
soundly defeated the Mac in sales in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
By the mid-1990s, the competition was over.
Microsoft had won.
And it is
still dominant today.
The paradox is not why the techies did not use the Mac
(I used DOS because it had a command-line).
The paradox is why ordinary corporate and home users
did not buy the Mac,
which would have made their lives easier.
Pirates of Silicon Valley
Not a bad film.
It ends in 1999 with Microsoft triumphant over Apple.
But this was before the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad.
10 years later, and Apple would overtake Microsoft again.
Why did the Mac lose? Explanation 1 - "The Paradox of Beauty"
has an interesting theory in
The Aesthetics of Computing,
(Ch.2, "The Paradox of Beauty").
He suggests that Windows won
because the Mac was too easy to use,
at a time when computers were meant to be
hard to use.
He makes the comparison with cars,
where every advance in ease-of-use,
such as electric starters and even closed tops,
was resisted by the "macho" car culture,
which preferred cars to be hard to use.
We see this even today, where computerised control
in cars is resisted by Europeans,
who prefer to do by hand
many tedious jobs -
such as managing the clutch and engine speeds -
that could be handled by a computer.
Why did the Mac lose? Explanation 2 - It was not a better interface for power users
For me, UNIX is easier to use than either the Mac or DOS/Windows because of its
powerful programmable command-line.
I didn't actually find the Mac easy to use,
since it didn't allow me write short command-line scripts.
This leads to another reason why the Mac may have failed:
It was too extremist in having (until Mac OS X)
no command-line at all,
and forcing you to use windows and menus
instead of just having it as an option.
The Mac had an extremist philosophy,
whereas DOS/Windows and UNIX were more tolerant of
multiple different styles of interface.
I say that the Mac is a better user interface,
but of course I'm saying (patronisingly)
that it's a better interface for other people.
I don't really believe it's a better interface for me.
So maybe the Mac lost because it lost the power users (programmers, sysadmins),
who preferred UNIX and DOS throughout the 1980s-90s.
Not because they were being macho, but because no-command-line really
isn't a good interface for power users.
But why did ordinary users follow the power users?
Because the OS is so fundamental to all applications,
there is a tendency to standardise on an agreed OS.
This can be done 2 ways:
An openly agreed, open-source standard developed by co-operation
among many organisations, like HTML, XML,
and indeed most of the protocols on the Internet.
One organisation gaining a monopoly, e.g.
Microsoft Windows, and everyone agreeing to use their products.
This will normally be closed-source.
In both cases, all applications run on a common platform.
The disadvantage of the 2nd case is that you are at the mercy of whatever
the monopolist decides to give you.
Free enterprise works because competition leads to better products
and better choice.
Sometimes this doesn't work,
and, for whatever reason, the market turns into a
in which there is seemingly no competition.
For example, many have disputed that
Word, Excel and IE gained dominance in the word processor,
spreadsheet and browser markets respectively
by simply being the best products.
A common complaint was that they gained it
because they came from
the company that made the Operating System.
No one else had a chance.
The latecomer Internet Explorer's
rapid and total defeat
of the pioneer Netscape
is perhaps the most
spectacular example of this.
For many years, people argued about whether the state (in particular the US and EU)
should do anything about the Microsoft monopoly.
Whether government should intervene to restore
competition in the industry.
In the end, little was done, but other factors caused the monopoly to ease (though not end).
The "open file formats" option above has happened.
Microsoft has been pressured to open its formats
due to anti-trust cases,
and governments (and companies) being increasingly
unwilling to store their official documents
in a secret format.
Google has flaws:
uses third-party titles
(e.g. from dmoz.org)
instead of the site's own title.
Google links to my site, not using my own title,
but using a misspelled title written by someone else.
There are ways to
stop it using third-party titles
but many sites will not know this.
It is a bad idea by Google.
I have even seen sites which are given hostile third-party titles
which Google uses to link to them.
The YouTube monopoly
YouTube (owned by Google)
now has massive power over what videos people worldwide can see.
And yet some of its banning decisions are odd: