True, but it's MacOS is STILL an alternative to Billy's crap and it isn't selling which should give everyone a clear idea that it's just not a question of availibility of non M$ crap. It's a question of what the people want.

Not quite. Let's apply some information systems theory here.

We can assume that very knowledgable computer people, who have been interested in computers for some time, have already made up their minds on one basis or another; in terms of OS sales, there aren't really enough to matter.

However, the ignorant computer user is different. They don't knwo anything about computers, and in order to be of interest in this discussion, they have come to the realization that they either need or want to have a computer. Thus, they engage in a search for information about computers, typically through whatever information channels they have already established; they may ask friends (who are likely to be relatively ignorant as well), they may ask salesmen, they may buy a computer magazine, they may look at what people use at work.

The only thing they are almost certain NOT to do is use the information channels that experienced and knowledgable computer users use -- simply because they are unaware, or unfamiliar, or don't understand the information.

When they are executing this search, most people will engage in a "satisfactory" search rather than a "maximizing" search that is, they won't look for the best possible solution. They will look for a solution that satisfies their need, and they will use the first satisfactory solution they come across.

At least 80% of the "satisfactory" solutions on the market are Wintel PCs. This person will not have heard of Linux or UNIX ever, in most cases; they may have heard of the Macintosh, but they have no clue what makes the Mac better or worse. In fact, they aren't likely to have ever seen a Mac, and if they have, it was likely in a showroom with Macs priced significantly higher than the PCs across the room. In this context, the Amiga isn't even worth a footnote.

MicroSoft has gained such a powerful dominance of the market that the average new computer buyer has learned everything they know about computers, either directly or indirectly, from the MicroSoft and Intel marketing blitz. They no longer even PERCEIVE a choice, in their satisficing search; the "satisfactory" alternative is already tapping them on the shoulder periodically to say "buy me".

Those who are interested enough to put effort into looking at alternatives are still faced with serious disadvantages; they don't know how or where to get information about alternatives. Their ignorance shapes their perceptions to the point where they may have trouble understanding what IS an alternative, and when swamped by aggressive marketing, no ignorant buyer will be able to comprehend that ALL the cloners are selling the same thing; they try to process all the information without any baseline, they fail miserably (no one could even HOPE to process everything out there), and they stop trying.

At this point most of these ignorant users find a friend or a salesman who is more knowledgable (or perceived to be more knowledgable) and let them decide what they buy. This isn't a bad policy if your guide knows what they are doing and has your best interests at heart, but the "friend" usually went through the same process a year ago (thus having the same problems, but an illusion of competence), and the salesman... well, when was the last time you heard a salesman hyping a Mac?

I've seen this happen to people, and it isn't pretty. People who are perfectly competent otherwise fall to pieces when they need to buy a computer. It's threatening, so they duck the responsibility in one way or another, and end up getting what everybody else has, and perpetuating the problem when their friend asks them for advice next year.

The fact is, people don't want MS specifically. They want:

  1. A computer that does the things computers do. ("What a computer does" is determined by MS advertising)
  2. Something they can use to do whatever they decided they needed a computer to do. This is often based on advertising, or taking office work home, or the nifty game their friend has.
  3. Something they are familiar with, because it is less scary when taking this big step. (Advertising.)
  4. Something they will be able to get help with from people they know. (The people they know almost certainly use MS as well).
  5. A "safe" choice, something they are sure won't bite them. Even the steadfastly ignorant understand that the cutting edge CUTS, if you don't know how to use it. (aka, don't buy a sword unless you can manage not to cut your feet off with it).

This is what people want, not specifically MicroSoft. If another company had MS's position, the people would be buying that instead.
This situation, unfortunately, isn't likely to change anytime soon; the OS (for a single hardware platform) is about as close to a natural monopoly as things get. There may be a window of oppurtunity as MS needs to switch processors, or other major technological innovations, but I don't think anything is likely to seriously shake MS's dominance until the computer market is sufficiently knowledgable to understand that the emperor has no clothes.

The problem is that by the time this happens, the Emperor may have acquired a full wardrobe from the people he's stabbed in the back.

Write by Randy Vice

Impaginato by Joseph Lombardo

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