In 1995 M$ was just beginning to have a presence on the web. When Lose ’95 was inflicted on the world, M$ bundled its browser with the OS and did anti-competitive actions to boost its presence. It’s web server, IIS, rapidly grew to ~22% by 1998, when US Department of Justice went after them for their illegal war on Netscape. After the complaint in 1998, IIS levelled off and except for a few bumps where they bribed large customers to use IIS for periods of time, and reached 36% at most, IIS has declined gradually ever since.
“One important current source of potential competition for Microsoft’s Windows operating system monopoly comes from the Internet, described by Microsoft’s CEO, Bill Gates, in May 1995 as “the most important single development to come along since the IBM PC was introduced in 1981.” As Mr. Gates recognized, the development of competing Internet browsers — specialized software programs that allow PC users to locate, access, display, and manipulate content and applications located on the Internet’s World Wide Web (“the web”) — posed a serious potential threat to Microsoft’s Windows operating system monopoly. Mr. Gates warned his executives:
A new competitor “born” on the Internet is Netscape. Their browser is dominant, with a 70% usage share, allowing them to determine which network extensions will catch on. They are pursuing a multi-platform strategy where they move the key API [applications programming interface] into the client to commoditize the underlying operating system.”
When the anti-trust suit was “finally” settled in 2007, other competitors emerged and IIS started a steeper decline. Today IIS is at 12% of “all domains” according to Netcraft. Google, nginx and “other” are taking share from IIS and the market-leading Apache which has 55% of sites.
This shows that when competition is allowed to thrive, M$ is just another player, not the elephant of IT. The predominance of M$’s OS on the desktop is evidently the result of all the anti-competitive actions M$ has taken to create and to preserve their cash cow. Fortunately, M$ could not control all the small OEMs providing consumer electronics globally and now we have */Linux on small cheap computers everywhere. M$ is making a late start in the mobile space, but with their track record, they will again be just another player. Android/Linux appears to dominate this space and with exposure to OEMs, retailers and consumers, the cash cow of M$’s OS on the desktop is also threatened. There’s nothing like seeing a different OS everywhere to raise awareness that M$ is not the only game in town.
The truly locked-in claim the small cheap computers that run */Linux are not real “PCs”, but they are. Just ask any teenager who uses them more than a PC to browse the web, send messages or talk for that matter. It’s not just teenagers, either. My “little woman” uses her smart phone more than her PC now. The big PC is relegated to printing and storing all the stuff her smart phone gathers… She travels and shops a lot and the smart phone is with her always. The big PC will stick around but it’s not a growth industry any longer. There might be a necessity of one per household like a server but there is a necessity to have one smart phone per person in society and that drives growth there. The smaller cost and greater portability makes it inevitable. Even I may have one in my holster out in the garden, shopping or hunting sooner or later.
Incidentally, the judge in US DOJ v M$ defined a PC:
“A “personal computer” (“PC”) is a digital information processing device designed for use by one person at a time. A typical PC consists of central processing components (e.g., a microprocessor and main memory) and mass data storage (such as a hard disk). A typical PC system consists of a PC, certain peripheral input/output devices (including a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and a printer), and an operating system.”
Well, the small cheap computers have all of those albeit in tiny form… The judge was also quite limited in his outlook. A GNU/Linux PC can serve multiple users and be a server as well.
The one thing the big PC does better, production of stuff in business, can mostly be done better with thin clients, too, so the gradual decline of M$’s cash cow will continue there because the thin clients can run GNU/Linux. The use of web applications will also dry up that cow.