State of the Empire – #2 Cross Platform Development

Being the only operating system to support as many applications as possible is very important to Microsoft. It used to be that companies could build for Windows and be happy that this would serve 90-95% of the market. However, as the variety of devices we use on a day to day basis expands, and the operating systems used on these devices becomes more fragmented software vendors will no longer be able to focus entirely on Windows to reach this large a market.

With more devices, such as phones, MP3 players, UMPC’s, etc, coming into the market everyday we are seeing other platforms emerge which companies are increasingly aware they need to support. As these companies adjust their development to support a 2nd platform, such as OSX for example, they are also seeking out ways to build their applications or services in a more platform independent manner. Many of these companies are looking to incorporate web based applications or advanced containers such as Adobe AIR into their product design in an effort to lower (or eliminate) the cost of porting these applications to different platforms in the future.

Companies can no longer depend upon reaching 90-95% of the market simply by supporting Windows. More applications will be built to support many platforms and the old barrier of consumers not being able to switch to Linux, OSX, or anything else due to a lack of application availability will begin to be a thing of the past.

We need only look to Steve Balmer screaming on stage “Developers, Developers, Developers” to understand how important it is to Microsoft to be the only operating system that developers think of when they decide to build an application.

…and, just in case you forgot about this video, here it all its glory.

Filed under: Open Source | 1 Comment

State of the Empire – #1 Apple/OSX Market Share Growing

So to start things off – Apple/OSX and the risk they pose to the Microsoft empire.

There are obviously a number of reasons why Apple’s market share has started to grow, probably the most quoted one is the popularity of the iPod driving the so-called ‘halo effect‘ onto other Apple products and services. Apple started to gain significant publicity while conquering the music player space but more importantly they have continued to enhance and add new products and services which build upon the same successful elements of the iPod – elegance in design, and simplicity. Apple has been so successful in this regard that many computer users have been convinced to leave the safety of their known world in Windows to explore the apparently more hip and happening Mac world.

Some recent statistics point to much of Apple’s growth occurring in the US right now. This article identifies Apple computer sales moving into 3rd place amongst all US computer makers, in addition to now occupying an overall market share of 5.9%, up 1.1% from the previous year. While on a global scale this is still a largely insignificant share of the market it highlights what I believe is the beginning of an important trend – that people are starting to use and buy devices for everyday use which do not have Windows on them. Of course, the reasons why this is happening, and is even possible today, is not entirely to do with Apple but more importantly it is a function of convenient timing in relationship to a number of other events we will cover off later in this series of articles.

Going forward this increased Apple market share will also grow the more general non-Windows based device market so it will be interesting to see what impact this will have on devices running operating systems like Linux. As an example, will software vendors having to support > 1 operating system result in more platform independent software being built?

Depending on how successful Apple ends up being, there is always the risk that one monopoly simply gets replaced with another. However, with any hope the Apple success story will simply inject some healthy competition into a market that has desperately needed it.

Filed under: Open Source | No Comments

State of the Empire

How long do Empires last, and what are the signs of one falling?

From the time I installed my first Linux distribution (good ol’ Slackware, when I was probably 12) I was fascinated with the question of why Linux wasn’t as widely used as Microsoft Windows. Obviously, for my rather unsophisticated mind of the day, this was a simple matter of what *I* thought was better. Back then the idea of considering broader market dynamics as a way to analyze why Windows was more popular than Linux was clearly not the top thing on my mind, and aside from the fact I didn’t even know what “market dynamics” meant I was much more interested in trying out new versions of the Linux kernel. It is kind of quaint (or sad, depending on how you look at it) to recall myself actually thinking “I don’t understand why more people don’t use this!” at precisely the same time I was in the midst of downloading the bootdsk.144 file from the internet over my 14.4 modem. Ahh Memories.

Sixteen years later much has changed, while many things have stayed the same. No more DOS or Windows for Workgroups 3.11, no more bootdsk.144 or floppies for that matter, we have Vista and Ubuntu, and that other guy Apple has returned with a vengeance. No doubt, if I showed my 12 year old self the Ubuntu of today he would be certain of the fact that it must now be winning the war against Microsoft. However, he would be quite surprised to hear that Microsoft, more than 20 years into their monopoly, after multiple anti-competitive legal challenges, and after missing such “minor” technological shifts such as the internet, still manages to maintain a 90%+ market share.

Remarkable stuff for Microsoft, but alas all good things come to an end and even the strongest empires have lost their way at one point or another. Now that I am infinitely wiser than my old self I thought it would be a good idea to revisit those market dynamics I so foolishly left out of my analysis when I was 12. Over the next few weeks I’ll write up some of the most interesting current trends and market events which, when taken together, I believe pose the most imminent threat to the Microsoft empire and the greatest opportunity thus far for Linux.

Filed under: Open Source | 1 Comment

What happened to October?

It’s been a busy month and I can honestly say I’ve not put a lot of time into writing recently, or at least writing about things on my own volition about topics of my choosing. This is largely because I had the great pleasure (please note sarcasm) of spending a fair chunk of time last month preparing for my GMAT and while it was very exciting re-learning about Isosceles triangles and analyzing the case for building a new ski lodge in Anytown, USA I am very glad that experience is now behind me.

Of course, just as one task completes another one takes its place. Now that the GMAT has been written and I am pleased with my score there is nothing impeding me from moving forward with applying to schools other than the rather important issue of whether or not I am actually ready to commit the time and $ to go forward with doing an MBA. So for the next little while this question will be filling my mind in the hopes that at some point the mist that clouds this decision will soon be burnt away and I will suddenly have clarity about what to do.

While I continue to ponder the expensive MBA, I’ve been using the reading list defined in the somewhat cheaper Personal MBA to guide my spare time reading. Most recently I’ve been reading The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. Mind you I am only a quarter of the way through the book but I was intrigued by his commentary on the so-called “man of knowledge” (or perhaps in today’s terms “person of knowledge”).

“The man of knowledge has always been expected to take responsibility for being understood. It is barbarian arrogance to assume that the layman can or should make the effort to understand him, and that it is enough if the man of knowledge talks to a handful of fellow experts who are his peers. Even in the university or in the research laboratory, this attitude – alas, only too common today- condemns the expert to uselessness and converts his knowledge from learning into pedantry. If a man wants to be an executive – that is, if he wants to be considered responsible for his contribution – he has to concern himself with the usability of his “product” – that is, his knowledge.”

– Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive

Being that my wife is quite involved in the field of usability I’ve grown a great appreciation for why usability is fundamentally important to products and services. However, I have never given any consideration to the fact that knowledge itself can be usable (or even not usable). The funny thing is that when I think about it this is probably something we all encounter everyday. We’ve probably all requested some piece of information from a co-worker or friend and what we received back was either not exactly what you were looking for or just simply resulted in more questions. In other words the information provided back to you was not usable and for all intents and purposes you end up no better off having asked for the information than if you had never even bothered.

In any case, definitely an interesting idea. With any luck the rest of the book will be just as interesting.

Filed under: Random | 2 Comments