Earlier today I read an article by Randall C. Kennedy of Infoworld that spoke of a world without Microsoft and Windows that would be more of an apocalypse. At first, I thought: “This is junk, I wouldn’t share it” and I kept reading. After I finished the article, I just sat on it and I kept coming back to how utterly ludicrous it was. The preposterousness then turn to more of a WTF – this is more than crazy, it’s dead wrong.
Randall’s first argument is that we would have to kiss Client Application consistency goodbye. That client application user interfaces and programming APIs will be so all over the place that they’ll “vary widely among implementations”. Here’s the thing Randall, if Microsoft were to die, dissolve or otherwise just disappear (they won’t,we all know that), applications on the client side won’t just up and die. They won’t be completely replaced by web applications. The two biggest “other” platforms that exist today, Linux and Mac both run local client applications and have an incredibly robust client application platform and API from which application programmers can write for. If Microsoft were gone today – the client application would live on and quite possibly be stronger than ever.
Even worse, however, is that Randall forgets that all of the thousands of Win32 applications that exist today – they aren’t just going to turn into space dust. Yes, with out Microsoft’s developer support they may not be updated until a mass of developers carry the Win32 API forward – but most of these applications can now run on the current iterations of Mac and Linux through emulation. Heck, getting rid of Microsoft doesn’t even mean that Windows will die either, this may mean that Microsoft’s truly useful Operating System’s can live on in other ways that Microsoft may have stifled in the past (For example: an extremely fast Windows PE implementation of Windows 2000?).
Even more amusing is Randall’s “bright spot” about the traditional software distribution. Why, without Microsoft’s method of licensing, those rocket scientists and brain surgeons that are required to understand Microsoft’s licensing rules can now get back to what they do best. I say a net win for society as a whole.
His second argument is one that seems to be thinner that the first. The lack of Microsoft/Win32API means “the developer tools landscape will be fundamentally altered by the inevitable decline of the Win32 API.”. Wow, the win32 API will decline? Lets looks at that for a second. This sort of argument seems to pre-suppose that Microsoft created the idea of an API and without Microsoft, the API will die with it. The truth is, without Microsoft’s support – every version of windows will still exist in the same form, maybe not even the same form – but the the idea of an API will live on well past Microsoft’s reign on the PC platform. Every single major Operating System today has some sort of API and each one of those user interfaces has some method of closing the application that is standard across the User Interface. Microsoft didn’t create standardization Randall.
I will, however, give Randall the third argument. Hardware will be in “Chaos until a new overlord rises”. I do think that Microsoft has had a calming effect on the hardware ecosystem and without that influence Hardware and driver support would be much more chaotic until a large vendor comes in to calm that chaos.
The sad truth of all this is that the technology industry would probably be better off without the Microsoft of today. The heavy-handled licensing would not be missed. The minor incremental changes to products that are cash cows for them – just to generate more cash. The control and power over OEMs. The monopolistic rise of Internet Explorer. None of this will be missed in this theoretical post-Microsoft world.