Opinion: Microsoft has made it difficultbut not impossibleto imagine life without the OS.
Developing a relationship
Finally, theres the matter of applications.
Its impossible to overstate the importance of Microsofts mastery and promotion of innovative development tools, plus ardent and effective courting of application developers, in achieving and maintaining the dominance of Windows.
The key question, however, is what the application development space would look like if Windows had never emerged.
When Microsoft started talking about Windows, Apple was a few years away from the release of its groundbreaking HyperCardbut it wasnt until 1990 that Windows 3.0 was actually useful, with another year before Visual Basic 1.0 made Windows development feasible for users.
By 1991, NeXT Computer had introduced an object-oriented development platform; Apples HyperCard 2.0 was already a year old and proving a fertile environment for innovative applications.
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Visual Basics model was a GUI with behaviors built behind it, while HyperCards was an extensible data structure with powerful but approachable GUI tools.
The HyperCard model might have been a better choice for the baby-duck imprinting of a generation of programmers. HyperCard "stacks" could easily have become an approachable model for distributed platforms and concurrent processing engines, and there were several competing Windows and cross-platform development tools that resembled HyperCard by the time Visual Basic arrived.
Visual Basic had the edge, though, in exploiting the Windows APIsand that was the advantage that mattered.
If there had been no Windows, wed still be printing, wed still be plugging and playing, and wed still be developing applications. Windows was brilliantly positioned, however, so as to replace the problem of how to do things on PCs with the problem of how to do things on Windows.
Thats a problem that Microsoft always solved better than anyone else.
Peter Coffee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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