Tech, Gadgets, Photography, Social Media and Poor Spelling
Turn up at any office in the western world and its a safe bet that Microsoft Windows is the prominent OS used in that office, look at PC’s in the Starbucks and if it’s not a Mac it will probably be a Windows PC. Microsoft’s dominance of the Desktop PC market is strong..
The tide however is changing and while it is it might be time to ask a few questions.
This is actually an important question and a valid one just why is Windows and Microsoft’s software so broadly used in the commercial and consumer sectors.. History would point to some very shrewd business deals in the early days and some hard fought OEM agreements squeezing Windows on to just about every PC manufacturers desktop. However I believe there is more to the wide use of Microsoft’s products than Microsoft themselves buying their way to the top. It has to do with support of the product especially on the consumer side. Alternatives and choice have been around for a very long time however the simple fact of the matter is, as a consumer buying a Windows PC and using Microsoft Software buys you comparability and support. Comparability with the files you use at work and the knowledge if you have a problem with your computer a family friend will probably be able to fix it/support you and get it resolved.
Microsoft’s 6 years with Windows XP also has a lot to do with it’s majority use, XP was the Desktop OS of choice for that period of time when IT went consumer. Prior to XP, computers were office tools however over a 6 year period average Joe found the internet, and started buying Desktops, then laptops, then netbooks and during this period of time Microsoft didn’t change it’s OS. To the tech world this was a night mare for the consumer world just becoming savvy with IT this was huge it provided a long term consistent platform ironically something Microsoft had never provided prior to this and was only providing at the time because of other issues.
While as a Mac and Linux user it would be easy for me to sneer and claim all sorts of reasons based on my preferences of OS. To do this is wrong because an Operating system is a tool for a job, and while i may not personally enjoy using Windows, I would agree as an OS it is best placed still as being the OS of choice in the workplace. It does support enterprise networks with AD and its networking infrastructure well and as a result of this many people find it easier to use at home as files and look and feel are the same.
that being said though it may not be the right tool for every job, Microsoft want to be the every-man OS the right tool for every job, the past however has shown while Windows does its job popularly on Desktop/Laptop hardware on Mobile Phones, Tablets, low powered devices and even media centers it has fallen short on many counts.
There is an old joke, Microsoft isn’t the answer, Microsoft is the question the answer is no. While Microsoft has attempted to place its historical foot into many camps it’s not always done a great job and this alone has rendered the company persona non Grata in some IT Systems.
The popular press would have you think this is also the case with Windows 8, an Operating System. The Interface is designed for touch based systems so isn’t as intuitive to use on the older point and click systems however when being used on tablets the OS keeps dropping back to the traditional “Windows 7” Desktop something which is proven not be the best touch screen interface. In trying to bridge both Desktop and Tablet the company has created a jack of all trades which is master or none. In doing so has resulted in the OS selling well using the traditional method of forcing OEM’s to use the devices hoever even Microsoft have had to admit sales of the latest OS are not anywhere near what they think they should be.
As the Desktop OS you and I use rose to dominance through the 90’s and 00’s as did the server stack, when I first started doing this job Novell Netware was the de-facto standard Network operating system. TCP/IP didn’t exist the way it does today and IPX/SPX was the network protocol of choice.
With it’s GUI, Active Directory, Point and Click setup compared to network Windows Server 3.5.1 was the break through OS and rose to dominance bring the masses SQL servers, Sharepoint, IIS Web servers, DHCP, DNS and many other great tools and has shaped the current company LAN over the last 20 years into what it is today.
However as IT admins have learnt over time this ease of use came with a great price, lock in. As the company started to rely on the Exchange/Outlook combination for example the eary days were great, then IOS, Macbooks and Android devices started slipping into the LAN and compatibility has ony recently allowed these devices to co-exist.
We have also learnt that you don’t always need to spent the £10k+ to get an SQL server up and running, and open source alternatives such as Linux and the LAMPP stack have dramatically reduced costs in the comms room. However this transition from Windows to Open Source servers isn’t the easiest one with data migration, training and problems with inter-operabiity.
Just as the Desktop landscape is changing so is the server room.
As we have already read support and geek knowledge has been a huge factor in the mark of the Windows OS over the years. It may also be a march forward for years to come because the learning of the alternatives is still a geek thing, and the current and new crop of Sysadmins are not geeks, they are 9-5 system administrators who have grown up on Sega, Nintendo, Playstation and XBox not Commodore 64’s, Pet’s or Spectrums. IT isn’t an adventure it’s a payslip which is increased with a few accreditations which bolsters Microsoft’s standing. So the introduction of Android, IOS, Apple, Ubuntu and any other number of cloud services has many a new age Systems Admin running scared because these are devices for the home, not for the workplace.
These alternatives also have to become compatible, use the drop down save menu in Libreoffice and you will see the Microsoft file formats of yesterday and today, look at its interface and you will also see something resembling Office 2003. Ubuntu changes from Gnome 2 to Unity and the backlash was huge, within the wails of bemoaning users were the ones who had crossed over from Microsoft and liked the fact that there was something which resembled a start menu, program files and the Windows task bar. We have grown up on this look and feel and for alternatives to be able to compete they either need to be as intuative as IOS/Android have been or able to mimic what we know.
So in many cases NO, the IT dept can’t support the new phase of IT, however they may not have to.
Lets get one thing clear, the desktop/laptop PC is not going to die tomorrow, next year or even in the next 5 years. It has a place in our world, just as Windows XP was around long enough to shape users needs and wants, so the Mouse and Keyboard will be too. However we do catch this industry in a dawn of change. Desktop Applications are not as needed as they once were with Web based interfaces being able to mimic and replace. Speech, touch, gestures all growing as more research money is spent on them and how we communicate with the internet wirelessly has broken the need to tether ourselves to the internet cable just as longer battery life has also broken that other strong bond to a wall socket.
Microsofts first real attempt as an iPad killing OS has not been that widely accepted and they are stuttering in this area. It’s important that they get it right the Desktop, Office Stack and how we use them are a huge chunk of this companies revenues and while i’m sure they are not goin to go under because of a Vista like rejection, creating a product which makes a loss can spark a slow down in innovation and an increase in playing it safe.
It’s safe to say Apple own’s the Mobile platform market right now, Google a close second and with other players all wanting a slice of this cherry pie it will be hard to get a foot hold and rise to XP like dominance o this market. However there may not be a need, we are in transition, as a community of IT users we are more willing then every to break free of the Windows desktop experience and try something new. Our mobile devices are becoming more powerful, we are not tied to local storage as we once were and as a result Interfaces, displays and even how we interact with IT is all about to change (Google Glasses anyone)
I thought it might be a good idea to put some balance in here and ask this question, thankfully the answer is yes, it’s obvious with the Metro Style interface the company is still willing to take risks, it should never lose this. The risk has paid off on Windows Mobile Phone 8 a beautiful interface which I just wish someone would put on a tablet. The common code across all devices is a huge leap forward. It’s cloud based Outlook.com, Office365.com Skydrive and Azure are all huge leaps into a market they didn’t create but are understanding well. The Xbox is generating revenue and with Kinetic is presenting us, and itself with invaluable data about interaction and interface design which someday will replace the keyboard.
there are a lot of positives to be taken out of Redmond, however much Windows 8 may or may not be doing well the innovation is still living on.