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  • by ziggy (25) on 2003.08.25 14:58 (#23476) Journal
    You forgot one important driver of Windows sales: network effects.

    Suppose you need to do basic stuff on your desktop. Any browser will do, any email client will do, any word processor, any spreadsheet will do, any presentation tool will do. As soon as you need to exchange documents, compatability becomes an issue. You can standardize on Macs within the office/company, but that's only half the battle. You will communicate with people outside the company, so you will need to read their documents, and they will need to read yours.

    Bam! Everyone needs to use Windows because everyone else needs to use Windows. Theoretically, you could use apps on Linux/Mac OS X/*BSD/BeOS that support the various necessary file formats. In practice, the only real solution is a recent vintage of Microsoft Office or whatnot.

    That's an oversimplification of course, but it explains why Windows has 95+% market share on the desktop, has retained 95+% marketshare for close to a decade, and will continue to own that much of the market for perhaps another 10 years.

    Now, consider what happens when management chooses Exchange as their mail server and slowly starts using additional features, like calendaring. Bam! Everyone needs to start using Outlook. Sometimes you can get away with something like Evolution that can talk to Exchange. Sometimes you can tolerate techies using IMAP, and Gnus/Eudora/Mozilla/Pine/Mutt. Most of the time, you really do need everyone using the full Outlook/Exchange stack.

    Alternative desktops are exactly that - desktop OSes that may help you get your job done, but make it more difficult to interact with the rest of the world who uses Windows. This matters to people. If it didn't, Mac sales would be at least triple their current rates, because there is so much pent-up hatred and frustration using Windows. It's only when people bite the bullet and decide to deal with these interactions that they switch to a Mac.

    This is a basic example of Metcalfe's law, and utterly disproves conspiracy theory Cringely can cook up.