One of the recurring themes in the software world is that Microsoft, and its practices stifles innovation. Through predatory tactics they close down markets and destroy competitors. Debate goes on to this day on how they still are a threat and that the outside world software world combined does not contain the capability of standing up to that threat without the use of legal force. As a software developer and small business owner I want to contrast that thought with what alternatives I see we have.
When I peer into the Linux world I see fragmentation, no clear sign of a winner in the desktop space. Given that anything I develop has an inherent cost to it (time, family, wages, brain pain) having some assurance that a platform would be generally accepted and installed is a great indication on my decision to adopt. I honestly do not have a desire to build/compile my own kernel and I suspect most of the general population does not as well. The other tangible item I like is a single line of responsibility where you can go to a specific vendor and get some answer to an issue, and lay the responsibility of fixing it squarely on their shoulders. Note that I have installed Ubuntu onto a VM to dig deeper but have not gotten very far as of yet.
Now looking at Apple (I own an iMac) the one thing I have to say is the hardware is for the most part beautiful. I have replaced the mouse with a Logitech one and I still find the keyboard layout a little ‘wonky’ for me when I use the system. Lets start out with the first issue I have with Mac, the stupid Mac vs. PC commercials. I know it may sound stupid for this to be a problem, but it is. Why, because for the most part it is extremely untrue. I have had PCs that run for years with very little problem and effort, where as I had my Mac and within a week it was screaming at me with a fault error (unseated ram BTW). Macs do break down, their covers get discoloured, their batteries get recalled, and other failures do happen. PCs can be used for every type of software imagined from Animation, music controllers, graphics design, video editing, office productivity and so much more.
Another thing that I ponder is when we contrast Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, are their character types so dissimilar. On the one side Bill is vilified on how he has run Microsoft and forced customers, vendors and competitors to his desire. On the other side Steve is look upon as a hero by creating ‘Innovative’ products and new markets. What seems strange to me is on the outset is not Steve acting the same way when it comes to iTunes, the store and its delivery and DRM as it is a very closed system and is at near monopoly adoption rates. Development on the Mac and IPhone and its closed tool environment where apple controls it where there is no real competition for that tool set. Delivery of custom iPhone applications and the revenue sharing model adopted were 30% (I believe this #) is changed for service through iTunes as well. Another issue that I see is the general high cost of the ‘Innovative’ apple hardware. Sure they look nice but does the nice really contribute to a 100% or more increase in the cost of the hardware. RAM is another money grab in my opinion, where guying PC ram is trivial, buying it for a MAC is outrageously expensive. I really like the fact that I can go down to my local Future Shop/Best Buy and purchase some commodity hardware to get the job done that is affordable. A Prime example is a couple of weeks ago I was starting a new project on a older version of a web platform. I was trying to decide between a VM or purchasing a second PC development machine for these types of jobs. I do not mind a VM for small workloads but the effort was 200+ hours of paid development time. So I went to the best buy, purchased a HP Slimline ($499) Windows installed, 500 GB HD, 4 GB of memory and could handle 1920×1200 resolution and brought it home. Less the 1/2 hour later it was up and running with a VS2008 instance ready to go. For the same configuration for an Apple I expect I would be pretty close to 2 grand.
Steve is really from the old world of thinking and continues to have huge control over the aspects of Apple.
Look at it this way your software goes up on iTunes with hundreds, if not thousands of other titles. To sell your product you will still have to pay for advertising, on top of all of the R&D to get it to market. So for 30% you are getting attached to a list of other products and get to host the download on iTunes. Does not see quite right to me.
I do not personally believe that Microsoft stifles innovation. I actually would attribute this problem more with the broken patent system where even the most nonsensical ‘brain fart’ can be approved and the litigation process that ensues. The fact that businesses have been created on purchasing these ‘ideas’ and suing the crap out of smaller companies is just ridicules. If we as a society want true innovation, remove or reduce the roadblocks in creating new and compelling software products and allow the customer to decide.
Linux does not have enough penetration in the desktop OS to make it viable business case for the small development shops
OSX is a shift to the way I develop and the general costs are extremely high.
Windows is the devil I know and love and at times love to hate, but it has the adoption. The platform is standard and the software I write can have exposure to a large enough community that I can build a viable business on.