Friday, August 17, 2007

Why competition is a good thing

For many years Microsoft's dominance of the desktop was virtually total - and it is still powering ahead today - but things are happening to shake their confidence. One is obviously the rise of Google and the alternative vision of simple applications - Google Docs and Spreadsheets and the rumoured presentation package expected shortly - hosted centrally and available for free supported by ads. The other is the resurgence of a confident Apple, powered by innovative new products - the iPod and iPhone - and great new designs. This newly confident and commercially powerful Apple has caused MS to look again at the quality of its products and inspired the huge effort behind Vista. This is a good thing: MS is finally developing with the ordinary consumer in mind.

One simple example: I was setting up a new router yesterday and adding 128-bit WEP security. I had to go round the various computers in the house to add the long string of characters. On the Mac there's a check box which allows you to show the characters (instead of just ****) while you type. This is incredibly useful as you can check the string to make sure it's right (before unchecking the box again). Next I repeated the operation for the XP machines. No such option - and several goes to get the typing right! Our new Vista machine was a breeze, however. Guess what? The same treatment as the Mac. That's progress.

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