August 14, 2002

Making Life Difficult

Now will someone please explain to me why Apple's and Linux's desktop market shares are so small?


On Lisa Rein's Radar: Warning To Windows Media File Collectors: Your Music Will Die With Your Computer: A guy reformatted his hard drive and then found out none of his Windows Media files would work. Turns out that Windows Media Player turns the "copy protection" (copy prevention) on by default when it rips CDs, so when he reformatted his hard drive the player thought he was trying to play the copy protected files and a computer other than the one they had been licensed for.

Let me say this another way: when you rip CDs on a Windows machine using Windows Media Player, it makes a unique identifier for your computer (that has privacy implications, yes, but I'm trying to make another point here). That unique identifier is associated with a license that is stored separately from the file itself that will only let those files be played back on the one single computer that matches the unique identifier. No other devices. Ever. (Without a lot of hassle anyway -- Without having to backup and restore your licenses on the other computer -- or use Microsoft's Personal License Migration Service (PLMS) -- two processes that, to date, have performed less than dependably -- according to many a sad music collector....)

Posted by DeLong at August 14, 2002 02:55 PM | TrackBack

Comments

The Linux/Apple markets are so small because of the virilent network effect around Win32. Complementary products (particularly IT labor and the developer networks), file formats, calendaring, email encodings, etc. etc. Life maybe better in France, but it's weaker network effects look like to doom it as a culture. Worse is better in the presense of network effects.

Posted by: ben on August 14, 2002 05:06 PM

I personally blame it on consumer apathy.

I was at Linuxworld yesterday and ended up chatting with one of the representatives of the Free Software Foundation - which had a small booth shuffled off to the side. One of the gentlemen running it lamented that more than half of the attendees had no idea what the FSF actually was. Admittedly, the conference organizers weren't exactly pitching Linuxworld to pennyless desktop hackers - something obvious enough from the fact that most of the public email and demo terminals they provided were happily running as root - still...

... Lisa Rein should count her blessings. My own gripe with Microsoft is that the Windows install automatically wipes over the bootloader as part of the install process. This makes it tremendously difficult to keep Windows on a dual boot machine, you need to reinstall every other operating system on your machine AFTER resurrecting Windows. Trust me: losing several gigs of media files is nothing compared to losing an entire (and more reliable) operating system.

Can somebody say... antitrust?

Posted by: david on August 14, 2002 05:56 PM

Why? Because of poor management that values risk avoidance and devalues domain specific knowledge.

Posted by: Victor Yodaiken on August 14, 2002 06:15 PM

Macs are too expensive (they're the only PC company to *raise* their prices from one year to the next), and Linux has an absolutely horrid GUI.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on August 14, 2002 07:58 PM

Operating systems are a natural monopoly. The more people using

a system the more attractive it is to software developers. The

more software there is for a system the more attractive it is

to users.

It's a dynamically unstable game and if the market started with

several choices, one would soon win. Microsoft long ago won the

first round; it will win every succeeding round barring massive

self-destruction.

There are many subplots to this game but one I find interesting

is the whole question of standards. Microsoft strives to make

the standards something that it proprietarily owns. A public

standard is something a potential competitor might adopt and

thus lower the cost of crossover cost of switching for a user to

choose its operating system. Thus microsoft continually strives

to destroy public standards and replace them with ones it

proprietarily owns.

The business about Windows Media files is in part a measure of

Microsoft's confidence in the unassailability of its position.

Back when there was a real question as to which operating system

would emerge as the monopoly, a little item like this might

have been enough to lose the game.

Posted by: on August 15, 2002 08:00 AM

Operating systems are a natural monopoly. The more people using

a system the more attractive it is to software developers. The

more software there is for a system the more attractive it is

to users.

It's a dynamically unstable game and if the market started with

several choices, one would soon win. Microsoft long ago won the

first round; it will win every succeeding round barring massive

self-destruction.

There are many subplots to this game but one I find interesting

is the whole question of standards. Microsoft strives to make

the standards something that it proprietarily owns. A public

standard is something a potential competitor might adopt and

thus lower the cost of crossover cost of switching for a user to

choose its operating system. Thus microsoft continually strives

to destroy public standards and replace them with ones it

proprietarily owns.

The business about Windows Media files is in part a measure of

Microsoft's confidence in the unassailability of its position.

Back when there was a real question as to which operating system

would emerge as the monopoly, a little item like this might

have been enough to lose the game.

Posted by: on August 15, 2002 08:00 AM

The shares or Linux and Apple are so small because first Linux requires you to know to much - we prefer simplicity - second Apple has more expensive early on and as Dos/Windows caught on it was easier for us to go with what others in our field were using - medicine is the field. We have tried to use what is widely used, simple, and less expensive.

We use Intuit, MS Office, etc....

Posted by: on August 15, 2002 08:46 AM

By the way, Real Player has the same default option. I have run into the same problem with it. But it can be turned off, making all recorded tunes transportable. This option can also be turned off in the Windows Media Player. From the Media Player's help file:

Protect content

Specifies whether tracks copied from CDs in Windows Media Format are licensed files. Licenses help protect the copyrights of artists by preventing illegal distribution. Selecting this check box prevents you from playing the tracks on another computer

The reason this option is checked by default on both platforms is most likely purely legal. Neither platforms wants to be perceived as encouraging music piracy. I am not sure a LINUX based platform would be any different as soon as it would be popular enough to attrack the attention of the copyrights gods...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on August 15, 2002 11:56 AM

So the need is for competition, the problem is there is the ease of market concentration. A price conscious Apple or an ease of use conscious Linux would sure have helped. How can Microsoft be properly competed against now? It does not seem enough to simply tell me to master the tricks of Linux. Give me a way to easily make a change and I probably will. Apple sold me several computers for graphics use, but never sought to hold me.

Posted by: on August 15, 2002 12:45 PM

Reguarding the comment about standards being an interesting subplot in the game. I absolutely agree. Microsoft is in the business of owning standards. They are masters at the art of winning standards wars. Standards which help parties to coordinate their actions have network effects. I found it very interesting to realize that standards are public or club goods.

Posted by: ben on August 15, 2002 05:55 PM

Apple's critical error was when Steve Jobs insisted that Apple develop the Graphical User Interface as a totally new machine (the Macintosh), rather than as a software shell running over the Apple II's AppleDos / CP-M (which was what Steve Wozniak advocated at the time). The Mac was a beautiful machine, and far more elegant than any shell running over AppleDos, CP-M, or MS-DOS could have been. That didn't matter though, because it was slow. It couldn't have possibly been anything but slow, due to the capacity of the hardware at the time.

The competition, Microsoft, developed Windows 286, then 3.0, as the shell over DOS that we all grew to know and hate (and use). At the time though, everyone with a PC bought it because it was only around $59 or whatever, and everyone was dying to see what the new Graphical User Interfaces were about. They bought it, installed it, played with it for a few minutes sometimes, and then went right on using WordPerfect and Lotus because (you guessed it) Windows was slow (just like the Mac). What noone did at the time was actually use it, but that didn't matter because Microsoft could report a huge "installed base" to developers and the press (who didn't use it either) and everyone knew the computers would get fast enough to make it useful soon enough. People kept using DOS programs (because they were fast) for many many years, only gradually changing to Windows use as performance improved and as specific applications which used Windows became worth the time and hassle. Not only that, but users kept right on using DOS programs in situations where Windows equivalents (especially utility programs) were unavailable or of lower quality. In other words, Microsoft maximized the network effect of their installed base (and the simplicity of programming for a CP-M like system) right from the beginning of the GUI age.

Apple threw away the market position and critical network effect that the huge installed base of Apple II machines, developed software, and programmer skill had given them, because of miscalucating (or ignoring) realistic appraisals of machine speed improvements and their affect on user experience. By the time Steve Jobs learned that lesson and decided to develop a realistic server level machine (the Next) he had been kicked out of the company by John Scully, who went ahead and repeated the exact same mistake (unrealistic appraisal of the effect of slow processors) in creating the Newton.

Ancient history, true, and both those Apple machines were beautiful (Newton & Mac) but those mistakes were the ones that allowed Microsoft (and to a lesser degree, Sun) to get a major jump on Apple, and network effects account for a big chunk of the rest of the story.

Posted by: BC Price on September 11, 2002 04:09 AM
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