Has Microsoft Gotten Too Fat?

by Preston Gralla

The New York Times points out that in the five years since the last revision of Windows, Apple has released four new versions of its OS, beating Microsoft with many features such as widgets and desktop search. The question, naturally, is why? And the answer may be that Microsoft has simply gotten too fat.


M. David Peterson
2006-03-29 18:37:25
>> Apple has released four new versions of its OS, beating Microsoft with many features such as widgets and desktop search. The question, naturally, is why?

Because Apple has kept the reigns on the Apple market, while Microsoft, for the most part, has placed focus on their core competencies, letting products like Konfabulator [http://www.konfabulator.com < redirects to Yahoo's Widget engine as Yahoo purchased them a good 8 or so months ago (maybe a little more?)] and a variety of other widget-like Windows application fill this market accordingly. With this in mind, the question should be:

- Why did it take Apple so long to catch up to the Windows "widget" market which has been in existence in various forms for 5-7 years?

What the press seems to purposely neglect is that MS and Apple are not a one-to-one comparison in regards to the markets they compete in. One could easily state that Apple has filled an EXTREMELY nitch market, and its only since the iPod came into existence that they could be seen as a more mainstream Software AND Hardware company.

Of course their are SOME MS hardware products, but its tough to compare a keyboard and mouse to the complete top-to-bottom software and hardware factory that Apple calls home.

re: the fact that Apple has released 4 releases in the same amount of time, take the following novel, err, comment to my personal blog that I wrote as a follow-up to a post [http://www.xsltblog.com/archives/2005/12/when_the_open_s_1.html#comments] I made last December on my personal blog (there's quite a bit more content between myself and Dave Holden that I believe takes things even deeper into the how and why of all of this):


... I’m not so sure I agree with the overpriced comment. Take for example the fact that I purchased my copy of Windows XP Professional in 2001 for somewhere around $99 for the upgrade (I believe the price would have been $199 USD for the full version.) [UPDATE: In thinking about this, $99 may have been the price for XP Home edition. In fact I almost certain this is the case, although I think you can now get it for a bit less than this at Costco and other discount stores both online and off. I need to check the upgrade price of XP Pro, but it’s a bit more than that $99 price tag I originally stated. Even still, the comparison is still valid as there’s no direct product comparison between the differences between Windows XP Home/Pro and OSX, at least that I am aware of. Windows XP Home still would have provided me with the same upgrades and services via Windows Update, but some of the features necessary for a developer (i.e. IIS 5.1) are not a part of the XP Home product given that a majority of consumers are not also developers, nor do they have the same extended business capabilities that are part of XP Pro. (although to be honest I’m not all that sure what they are as the last time I worked on a Home box was… no clue :)] In five years since that time I’ve had free upgrades via service packs and who knows how many updates via Windows Update, which now is done completely automatic. Setting aside opinions that other OS’s are better than Windows XP Pro (something I would strongly disagree with at many levels, this coming from gaining quite a bit of experience in several varities of Linux distro’s as well as OSX Tiger) for $99 I have been able to quite happily (in most regards anyway) run a full-featured modern OS without any expectation for additional payment.

Take this same time period and compare it Apple’s OSX. The Tiger release is marked as OS X version 4 [UPDATE: actually, this should be version 5, I believe, given that the original OS X release would have been 10.0 and between 10.0 and 10.4 there are 10.1, .2, and .3, in total coming to five(5) total version releases], or Macintosh OS 10.4. So in this same period of time if I had owned a piece of Mac hardware and kept it up to date with each release, at a price of $129 per upgrade and (I’m guessing) $129 for the original OS X upgrade release, I would have been required to spend 6 1/2 times my $99 price tag to stay current with OSX.

Now some might argue you get a lot more OS for that 6.5 times price tag. Fair enough. I have my doubts that it could be viewed as 6.5 times more OS, but I will accept the notion that in a lot of ways if all I want to do is purchase and run offical Apple hardware or the potential of third-party hardware add-ons then I can gain the “luxury” of a better Operating System in OSX. Keep in mind, however, that to get the Mac hardware in the first place is going to cost me or my organization quite a bit more to start off with than it would for its equivalent in high quality PC hardware. To upgrade that hardware, again, is going to cost more than it would to upgrade its PC equivalent. Of course, this is in addition to keeping the OS up-to-date.

So my question to you would then be: Are you sure that Microsoft software is as overpriced as you’re suggesting?

You might come back with an argument that using the same PC hardware as this example suggests you could use Linux and a variety of possibilities in supporting software applications. My counter argument would be that whether or not you believe the reports that the Total Cost of Ownership for a Windows-based PC is lower than for its Linux counterpart, even the reports that suggest Linux has a better TCO, its not by a fantastic margin. Furthermore, when you factor in the notion that with a Windows-based PC I have a greater variety of choice in hardware manufacturers for add-on peripherals such as network cards (speaking in terms of Wi-Fi, something I have struggled with using Linux. I think its safe to say you’d be hard-pressed to find a wired LAN card that Linux doesn’t now support), handheld devices of various types, etc… and the supporting drivers and user-interace software, and that in many ways that variety comes in by several scales of greater magnitude, you would be hard pressed to find a way to suggest that with Linux your cost’s are not equal, if not more, when you factor the extended TCO into the picture.

With all of this said, again, are you sure that Microsoft software is as overpriced as you’re suggesting?

I don’t think it is, but I’m willing to listen to your extended viewpoint with an open mind.