Back in 1993 I had saved $2000 in order to purchase my own computer. There were a handful of local computer business in Salt Lake City who would sell me one. Some had models already built while others offered custom built machines. Of course, I also had the choice of mail ordering through a company like Dell or Compaq. After a lot of research I decided to order a computer from an outfit called Zeos.
Macs were not as popular back then. At least not among my friends. Nor were they seen much around the University of Utah campus. Before I decided on Zeos I paid a visit to a local store that sold Apple computers. Two things struck me at the time: they were more expensive and offered fewer models.
I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t a computer geek back then so I wasn’t sure I was comparing comparable models. But the number of options and configurations available on the PC was overwhelming compared to Apple’s offerings.
That Zeos computer arrived with a version of DOS and Windows 3.11. Over the next two years I installed a CD ROM drives, a modem, and a sound card, none of which were standard options back then.
It wasn’t long ago that my choice to stick with a Windows PC was determined by the software I wanted to run on top of it. Be it games or word processors or utilities, running Windows gave me access to to the largest library of software. I was tied to Windows by the software I could run on it. Some version of Windows (95,NT, XP) treated me well while others (Me, Vista) tested my patience.
That brings me to today. I still use a PC at work and home. But I’m no longer tied to Microsoft Windows. I current run Vista but it’s irrelevant to me. GMail has replaced Outlook. Google Docs has replaced Microsoft Office. Many of the utilities I used to purchase are no longer needed. The games I play are now online as are my blog, Facebook, Twitter and many other web properties where I spend the bulk of my time. I can’t think of a single program I run that requires Windows that I couldn’t live without or find a web based alternative. I’d miss Windows Live Writer and Windows Live Gallery but neither would keep me on Windows.
And that’s a major challenge for Microsoft which has opened the door to companies like Google by refusing to offer an online version of their Office Suite among other online services. Someone is asleep at the wheel when the largest software company can’t offer an online version of Word and Excel while much smaller companies like Zoho pick up the slack.
The internet is becoming the new operating system and that’s not a good thing if you’re Microsoft. I’m baffled by Microsoft new marketing spin called “Software plus Services” which appears to be an attempt to keep one hand milking the cash cow (Office, Windows) while the other hands plays around with web services. It’s Microsoft’s way of saying, “ we’ll charge for the software and the subscription”. I call it the World of Warcraft model and I expected more from Ray Ozzie.
For the time being, the huge number of hardware choices keep me on Windows. But I can see the day when I no longer want to build my computers by hand. I hope by that time we’ll have PCs where the underlying OS is so small and reliable it fades into the background. I hope one day all I’ll need is a small form factor computer running Firefox and broadband connection.