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Wednesday, May 10th, 2006, 11:40 am

The 90 Percent Barriers

Bill Gates
Bill Gates arrested in his younger days (photo in public domain)

MICROSOFT have managed, over the course of many years, to sustain over 90% market share on the desktop. It is a figure that is easy to defend and argue in favour of given an unknown and uncountable number of Linux installations. Dropping below 90%, unlike what many would state or even insist on, is harder than getting there, but much is about momentum, as well as ethics. Allow me to explain why, primarily using an analogy.

Windows has deliberate lockins, so its popularity punishes those who attempt to change and ‘dance’ between applications or platforms. They get discriminated against, due to planned strategies that attain this state. That used to be the case with Internet Explorer once it elbowed Netscape, mainly by means of corruption and corporate aggression. Internet Explorer was adverse to standards and its source was kept in a safe as to avoid inter-operation with browsers on other platforms. At that stage, with inarguable domination in the browser market (well over 90%) — that which was seized through monopoly in the operating systems market — ‘defection’ became hard. This exemplifies the dangers of a totalitarian prevance of a browser that is extending itself unilaterally. The World Wide Web played along ‘to its tune’, which was not agreed upon universally. Later came Web standards.

Mozilla Firefox, quite fortunately, made a Netscape comeback and took away that ‘glimmer’ from Internet Explorer. Web developers can no longer discriminate against other, non-Microsoft browsers. Returning to topic: Once Linux pushes the Windows market share below a particular point, hardware vendors and software makers will simply have to support all platforms (if not lean towards Open Source development models altogether). They will no longer blindly make Windows a pre-requisite. We are now approaching that tipping point as Wi-Fi vendors begin to collaborate with Linux and it will soon be included in the kernel level. This is only one example among many others.

Related items: Web Browsers Statistics (2004), Firefox Eats Internet Explorer (2006)

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