For over 15 years, Microsoft has held dominance in the personal computer arena and has made plenty of enemies along the way. They took over many companies and sold other people’s products, and gained a reputation for being copycats with little creativity of their own. Meanwhile, Apple and Linux both made great strides in innovation. Even now, no-one is really threatening Microsoft in its core areas of the operating system and office products, in the home and business markets.
Wrt operating systems, Microsoft still holds a dominant position with 93.1% of market share for 2009 compared to 95.6% for 2006 mainly at the expense of the Mac, from 3.5% in 2006 to 4.9% now. However, this is still a small minority.
More important are the perceptions of many that Microsoft is struggling. This is because in the peripheral areas, such as browsers, media player, the Zune player, email programmes, MSN, and Bing, they are losing market share. In most of these cases, Microsoft has worked hard to improve and innovate their products. Internet Explorer 7 and 8 are a vast improvement on IE6, but still people are switching to Firefox and Chrome. The Zune player has received warm reviews, for example by Leo Laporte on the TWIT network. Bing has also been seen as quite innovative, trying to find a niche in a market dominated by Google.
Window 7 has also been warmly received by many in the tech community. Leo Laporte, a long time Mac user (fanboy?), is a big fan of Windows 7.
Now, the office products are under threat from free alternatives such as OpenOffice and GoogleDocs, in spite of being superior (especially in the case of Excel) to the alternatives.
Micrsoft also make one of the best file backup / sync tools called SyncToy. Having tried half a dozen different tools to back up files, I have found SyncToy to be the most reliable. I found Acronis True Image to be unreliable, often failing to make a backup for some unknown reason freezing after 30 minutes or so. I also suffered the misfortune of a disk image saved to a USB hard drive being corrupted. Getting the files back was tricky.
They have also now made Microsoft Security Essentials, a totally free lightweight anti virus. A product that has been warmly received.
So why are people knocking Microsoft still, and not saying a word against Google, who are possibly the new big monopoly?
I think it boils down to two things.
First, Microsoft is notorious for its security vulnerabilities in its products with 1000s of security holes in its products that require regular patches to fix. Although there are operating systems out there that are more secure than Windows, I believe the main reason Microsoft software is perceived as insecure is because they are the obvious target for crackers/hackers/malware writers when over 90% of the world are using Windows. This, however, is changing. Both Vista and Windows 7 are more resilient than Windows XP. I have found numerous XP systems that are so badly infected by rootkits, and other malware, that reinstallation has been the only option. Against that, I have yet to find a Vista or Windows 7 machine that couldn’t be cleaned up. (although reinstallation is always advisable) This is because the Vista/7 kernel is protected and User Account Control mean that users are not running in administrator mode. Many of the bad guys are now targetting other software such as Adobe reader, or the Mac, but mainly relying on social engineering, ie tricking people into installing bad stuff by pretending to be a genuine product (such as the scareware that pretends to be an antivirus)
Secondly, Microsoft’s costing model is to charge people for its products, rather than beig funded by advertising. This means, they have to release new versions of their products in order to pay the wages of their employees and survive as a company.
It remains to be seen if Google’s chrome operating system will dent Windows’ dominance. However, I contend it is time to stop knocking Microsoft, they have improved their act in so many ways. If we should be scared of anyone, it should be Google.