Thursday, April 10, 2008

Gartner Catches On to Microsoft

Over a year ago, I predicted the end of Microsoft domination. Now, a year and a quarter later, Gartner is catching on and stating that Windows is "collapsing." The reasons stated are the obvious: Vista is seen as too incremental to warrant a migration off of Windows XP, and it has the reputation of being a resource pig.

I have been using a Mac now for a month. I am really, really happy with it. It is not perfect -- the Mac's reputation of being the PC that never crashes is overstated -- but it is a heck of a lot better than XP. 

I find it interesting to find my own mind-set changing, quite without thinking about it. When Google announced its Google App Engine two days ago, I noticed that the demonstrator was demoing it using a Mac. When I have been seeing developers show demos for whatever they are selling, I am seeing them done on a Mac. When you see pictures of a "generic laptop" in ads or in movies, they are always a Macbook. This has been trickling in over the years, but now it is ubiquitous. iTunes sells more music than everyone other that Wal-Mart, and they will overtake Wal-Mart this year. iPod has been the number one music device for years. iPhone is selling very well and has the cache of being the phone to have ("Blackberry or iPhone" is the question. No one else need apply). 

Regarding my mindset, I look at a PC app and think to myself "man, that looks old." When I look at a software provider and I see that it only runs on Windows, I think "man, that is old-school." All of a sudden, the future for applications that people use has only two platforms that matter: The Web (as in Gmail, Twitter, Basecamp, etc.), or Apple Mac. The movement to the web was no surprise. That is a no-brainer, as Google Apps,, and other "Software as a Service" offerings gain real traction. What surprised me was that Apple would surge back so strong. But, now that I am living the experience, it is no longer a surprise. I love this thing. I'll write more about that in a separate post, but I love this Mac.

Now, I can't ever see myself ever again saying "I love my Windows box." In fact, I can remember only one instance where I ever truly felt that I loved a Windows box, and that was my old 486 running Windows NT circa 1992 -- and then, it was the box I loved (faster that anything!) rather than Windows NT (Registry? What the heck is that? What was ever really wrong with Config.ini?). No, all Windows boxes I have had save the 486 were pains in the neck, but necessary evils, since there were no alternatives. Laptops in 1994, 1995 were Toshibas running Windows 3.1. Windows 95 beta fried my old Toshiba and forced me to swear off forever "beta testing" Microsoft products. Writing code for MS-DOS was quirky, but basically straightforward. Writing Windows code forced me to rely on their super-buggy Microsoft Foundation Classes. I had to debug their software! And pay for it, too! Oh, sure, I could have written my own library of Windows routines, but then about 90% of my code or better would girders and pillars, and only 10% or less would be actual functionality. 

The Mac was always a joy to write code for (although I didn't personally, because the money was not there... Mea Culpa on Windows domination to that degree.) I still have a t-shirt from the 1998 Software Development conference in Santa Clara for CodeWarrier ("Kicking Butt and Writing Code") which was the development tool of choice for many Mac developers and was a great platform, at least from the demo I saw and the people I spoke to.

Next Computer's NextStep operating system and Objective C were unbelievable! And, guess what? They live on in Mac OS X. 

In retrospect, it is surprising that I waited until 2008 to make the jump to Mac. I am not the only one -- it is happening all over. 

Macs are not 100%, yet. They don't fit very easily into a Windows Active Directory world, although they are better, much better, than they used to be. Businesses are still strongly incentivized to use Windows-based PCs and laptops, and general inertia will keep the platform alive in the business sector for several more years. But, it is dying. Businesses will, over time, move more and more to Linux and Open Source for back-office systems like databases, and web applications for user applications, leaving Microsoft in the lurch.

If Gates were still with Microsoft, I would not count Microsoft out. But, he is gone. Microsoft cannot pull off the big come-back without him. It looks like Microsoft's demise is getting obvious.