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When did it end?

Looking back it's always easier to see when something ended than when you're actually living through it. As the Roman empire declined people probably didn't identify at the time when it "ended". They didn't wake up one day and say, wow, looks like the empire ended yesterday.

So, when did Microsoft's domination of personal computing end? Looking back from twenty years hence will people point to Linux, or Java, or Netscape (I know they failed, but did they do enough as they died to pull down MS as well) or the Blaster worm or the first moblie phone running app X, or something else and say, "well, they didn't know it at the time, but that's when it was all over for tMicrosoft"?

Ok, it may be provocative, but such domination can't last forever, can it? And if it can't when will it end, if it's not already? Is Microsoft currently in the position of dominating the thought space for some section of computing while the actual work is switching over to another platform?

Alex
Monday, September 15, 2003

I'm not inclined to say that Microsoft's domination of personal computing has ended yet. What open source software did for Linux and the BSD movement, it is now starting to do for Windows. I've spent half my day using gcc on windows, in a great IDE (great if you aren't building a GUI, that is), that didn't cost me a cent. I've got a killer image editing program, a nice free text editor, a good open source browser that's faster than IE, and I just downloaded and installed the same powerful, free database that I'm using on my UNIX systems.

I don't know that somebody else is coming to dominate the market so much as a lot of small players are providing viable alternatives to undermine any possibility of dominance.  The need to pay for software has gone away. Now I only need to pay when I need something particular.

That has a nice capitalist feel to it too.  People don't have to pay just because "that's the way it is." It's their wants and needs that make them poney up the dough. So as a software developer I'm not paid just because I'm entitled to be paid, but because my software meets a special need.

Clay Dowling
Monday, September 15, 2003

I think the more compelling question is when did programming become commoditized? Was it the globalization of the workforce? Was it the let-down of the dot.com businesses? Was it the Free software movement where programmers give away their skill?

This shift in thinking is where I think we will see a bigger effect on MS in the long run. Will software operate under razor thing margins like consumer electronics?

m
Monday, September 15, 2003

One of the reasons Lou Gerstner gave for IBM's turnaround was that they were perfectly positioned to be the people who add value to the "components" of computing by being the best integrator. It may be that the components are now becoming commodities, like resistors, or coffee beans, but being able to put them together, like Sony, or Starbucks still seems to be a way to make money. Perhaps the days of another "me too" source code editor sold as shareware, or another so, so, sort of RDBMS are over. Careful assembly of the commodity pieces can still distinguish one offering from another though.

Alex
Monday, September 15, 2003

>I think the more compelling question is when did programming become commoditized.

I don't think we should have a problem with programming becoming commoditized - it's normal in any industry.  However, like any other industry, if you innovate (read: really innovate, not some marketing hoopla), you can definitely make money and charge a premium. 

GiorgioG
Monday, September 15, 2003

It's interesting to contrast the vastly different professional protection that law has accumulated to itself compared to programming, as evidenced in a few recent threads.

In those threads, discussion of some simple scenarios were met with exhortations to See a Lawyer. No advice, just See a Lawyer.

Contrast this with programming. No one says: See a programmer and pay some money for the privilege. Instead, dozens of people are happy to provide all the information that's needed. In its extreme, of course, this is called open source.

JM
Monday, September 15, 2003

Claims of being good at integrating are actually a bit of a smokescreen. "Integrating" is something where big business can beat smaller companies, because it's often based on perceptions. It's also a business you can run even if you don't understand software well.

The argument that good programmers shouldn't be concerned about commoditisation worry me. All activities have elements that could be commoditised. Think audits. Think routine legal documents. Yet those professions still charge for them and still surround them with appropriate professional mystique.

So I think the commodisation of programming is something a bit unusual, and it probably derives from the fact that programmers haven't been standing up for their own interests.

I think the future lies in much greater stratification between successful and wanna-be programmers, with the successful programmers being the ones in successful software houses.

JM
Monday, September 15, 2003

When Bill Gates dies..
seriously.

chinaman
Monday, September 15, 2003

I tend to agree with chinaman....

John Rosenberg
Monday, September 15, 2003

Well, I hope MS's domination of computing doesn't end soon.

Microsoft means paid for software. Paid for software means a good living for programmers.

Free software, well, means free software. Very hard to make a living as a programmer, unless you are a super-star like Linus or Alan Cox.

John K.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"Free software, well, means free software."

so you believe in the existance of a free lunch then?  :)

honestly, companies will always be willing to pay for development in particular direction.

FullNameRequired
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

> honestly, companies will always be willing to pay for development in particular direction.

Yes, just like they're prepared to pay for cleaning.

JM
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"Yes, just like they're prepared to pay for cleaning."

<shrug> prices will find their level, no doubt.  Think of the cowboy programmers leaving the industry in droves though, that will lower the # of programmers and drive the price back up.

...and worst case, Ill just get a job at the local nursery...always liked pot plants...

FullNameRequired
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I wasn't aware that Microsoft's domination of personal computing has come to an end.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Clay - which IDE are you using, please?


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Cowboy programmer? I think that was just a term used to try to discredit people who disagreed with other people.

Anyway, if you intend it to mean less capable people, I think those are the people who will remain if programming becomes a commodity job.

JM
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

It will be fondly remembered as "the Microsoft years", the one time in the history of IBM that there awas a possible competitor that posed a threath. The whole OSS movement will be remembered only as an IBM tool that they used against MS.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"Anyway, if you intend it to mean less capable people, I think those are the people who will remain if programming becomes a commodity job."

<g> ...and using either interpretation the lack of programmers will drive prices back up and Ill be around to take advantage...

FullNameRequired
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"Microsoft means paid for software. Paid for software means a good living for programmers."

No, Microsoft means overpriced software.  Overpricing which threatens the livelihood of programmers outside of Microsoft.  I've seen projects cancelled because the high cost of software licenses gave the project an unfavorable ROI.  If Microsoft didn't dominate, their prices would be lower and quality higher.

Free software means less money for Microsoft, but more money for *everybody else*.

T. Norman
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

About the same time programmers stop pretending their professionals?

Mr Jack
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

...stop pretending their professionals ... what a fine use of the language from our learned cynic.

JM
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

See that proves it - a professional would have known to write 'they're', or indeed 'we're'.

Mr Jack
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

T. Norman Wrote: "No, Microsoft means overpriced software.  ...  Free software means less money for Microsoft, but more money for *everybody else*."

Obviously MS has high profit margins judging by their bank account holdings, though I certainly am not going to give my skill away for free and give corporations unneeded charity. I know some companies try to make their money from supporting the free software, but shouldn't the measure of good software be that which needs little or no support?

I just imagine an army of programmers staying up late working on this free software only to be tired the next day at their regular job flipping pancakes. Yeah, I know – I don’t get the open source movement. Free love and all that jazz.

m
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

> a professional would have known to write 'they're'..

Mr Jack, tell me, why do you think I quoted your sentence with its mis-spelling?

JM
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Another reason:  We're saturated with computers.  Like cellphones.

By the way, I've always thought Microsoft underpriced Windows to preempt threats.  Then again, I've also thought Microsoft was a more ethically responsible company than most large ones, even if it's important for consumers to attack their lock-in.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

--No, Microsoft means overpriced software. --

I always thought microsoft software was inexpensive. XP Pro costs $129. Office is about $400. That's pretty cheap for what you get.  In contrast I have an armchair that cost $699, and it is pretty nice, but the only thing I can do with it is sit in it.

rz
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"XP Pro costs $129. Office is about $400. That's pretty cheap for what you get."

Is anyone trying to coerce you into buying a subscription for your chair that you must renew annually to continue sitting in it?  Did anyone take away your right to resell your chair, or give it away to anyone you please, or let someone else use it for a while?  Does installing your chair in your house provide a way for intruders to gain entry and steal your possessions?  Does each new chair you buy take up more space, requiring you to buy a bigger house, even though your derriere doesn't take up any more space than it did before? (hypothetically, don't know your actual situation)

Jim Rankin
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"By the way, I've always thought Microsoft underpriced Windows to preempt threats."

Unfortunately, Linus seems to have turned this same tactic  quite decisively against them :).

Jim Rankin
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

> Did anyone take away your right to resell your chair, or give it away to anyone you please, or let someone else use it for a while?  Does installing your chair in your house provide a way for intruders to gain entry and steal your possessions?  Does each new chair you buy take up more space, requiring you to buy a bigger house, even though your derriere doesn't take up any more space than it did before? (hypothetically, don't know your actual situation)

Does your chair enable you to derive substantial income, communicate with peope around the world, prepare documents in five minutes that once needed a trip to the printers?

Does your chair, which expands your ability to do things enormously, let you learn to use it without much further ado? In other words, it has been so well designed that this can occur. Does it set the model that other imitators try to copy?

JM
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

my chair is actually pretty nice. However, t doesn't send email nor does it charge a subscription fee. That said, you guys did give me some great ideas for my new "smart household furnishings" business. thanks! ;-)

rz
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"Does your chair, which expands your ability to do things enormously, let you learn to use it without much further ado?"

I must confess, most of the chairs I have used required very little training time.  Although "Sitting in Chairs for Dummies" was quite helpful.

"Does your chair enable you to derive substantial income, communicate with peope around the world, prepare documents in five minutes that once needed a trip to the printers?"

But if someone was giving chairs away every day with a feature set and comfort level less and less distinguishable from the chairs I use now, would I continue paying top dollar for my current brand of chair?

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

"That said, you guys did give me some great ideas for my new "smart household furnishings" business. thanks! ;-)"

Good luck.  Will we be getting royalties?

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

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