17 December 2005

Total share: 30 years of personal computer market share figures


Electronic digital computers moved out of science fiction and into reality during World War II. Less powerful than a modern pocket calculator, the first real job for these massive machines was to speed up the calculation of artillery firing tables.

Thirty years later, computers had firmly cemented themselves in the public imagination. They were huge boxes, covered with blinking lights and whirring reels of tape. Banks and big corporations all had computer rooms, closely guarded by a priesthood of programmers and administrators. Science fiction novels and movies imagined impossibly brilliant supercomputers that guided spaceships and controlled societies, yet they were still room-sized behemoths. The idea of a personal computer, something small and light enough for someone to pick up and carry around, wasn't even on the radar.

Even the major computer companies at the time didn't see the point of small machines. The mainframe industry was dominated by IBM, who was the Snow White to the Seven Dwarves of Burroughs, CDC, GE, Honeywell, NCR, RCA and Univac. Mainframes took up entire floors and cost millions of dollars. There was also a market for slightly smaller and less expensive minicomputers, machines the size of a few refrigerators that sold for under a hundred thousand dollars. This industry was dominated by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), with strong competitors such as Data General, Hewlett-Packard and Honeywell-Bull. None of these companies considered the personal computer to be an idea worth pursuing.

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute
ENIAC, the second electronic digital computer, circa 1943

It wasn't that the technology wasn't ready. Intel, at the time primarily a manufacturer of memory chips, had invented the first microprocessor (the 4-bit 4004) in 1971. This was followed up with the 8-bit 8008 in 1972 and the more-capable 8080 chip in 1974. However, Intel didn't see the potential of its own product, considering it to be useful mainly for calculators, traffic lights, and other embedded applications. Intel had built a reference design with a microprocessor and some memory that could be programmed using a terminal, but it was used for testing purposes only. An Intel engineer approached chairman Gordon Moore with the idea for turning it into a consumer product, but Moore, with a rare lack of insight, couldn't see any practical purpose for such a device and decided not to go ahead with the project.

The task of inventing the personal computer, and with it the personal computer industry, was left instead to the manager of a small, little-known calculator company in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His name was Ed Roberts.

The Altair (1975-77)

Ed Roberts always dreamed of becoming a doctor, but instead he wound up starting his own private electronics company. Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) started out selling model rocket telemetry kits and subsequently recently branched out into selling pocket calculators. By 1973, the company had a couple of dozen employees, and was doing fairly well. Then electronics giants that manufactured their own CPUs and other chips, like Texas Instruments, began a calculator price war that nearly drove MITS into bankruptcy.

With his company over US$300,000 in debt, Roberts took a fateful trip to the bank, to discuss whether or not he would have to shut down the company. He told the bank manager about his plans to sell a kit computer to electronics hobbyists. The manager wanted to know how many Roberts expected to sell each month, and he guessed that they might sell as many as a hundred. This was enough to stave off the company's execution.

In the mean time, Les Solomon, the technical editor of Popular Electronics magazine, was looking for a cover story to compete with Radio Electronics' article on how to assemble a machine called the "Mark 8" from a collection of bare parts including an Intel 8008 CPU. The Mark 8 was merely a list of parts, but Solomon wanted a story about a fully-fledged personal computer that you could go out and buy, if not in fully assembled form, at least in an easy-to-build kit. He contacted Ed Roberts who told him about his plans, and a mockup of Robert's design made it on the cover of Popular Electronics' January 1975 issue.

The machine needed a name. Les Solomon asked his young daughter what the computer on Star Trek was called, and she replied "Computer." Telling her that was less than helpful, she retorted that they should call it the "Altair," as that was where the Enterprise was headed that week. The name stuck.

The Altair looked in some respects like a modern desktop computer (at least in the days when desktops actually sat on your desk). It was encased in a metal and plastic rectangular box that opened up to allow the user to connect add-on boards. However, there was no keyboard or display offered with the system initially. The machine was programmed by flicking a series of toggle switches on the front panel, and the results of the program could be viewed on a long string of LEDs. Roberts admitted that the design for the front panel was significantly inspired by the panel of Data General's popular Nova minicomputer.

The original Altair computer, with its top off

Ed Roberts had worked out a deal with Intel to purchase 8080 CPUs. Normally, these CPUs sold for US$300 in small quantities, but Roberts was able to purchase a batch with cosmetic defects for only US$75 each. This enabled him to set the price of the Altair kit at US$399. He calculated that he would need to sell 200 units over the product's lifetime to reach the break-even point. After a week of being available on the market, MITS had orders for over 2,000 machines.

Basically, the hobby electronics community went nuts. The pent-up demand for a personal computer was so great that MITS had far more orders than it could possibly ship. People were willing to wait for months for the company to work its way through the backlog, just so they could get a machine of their own. Some people even set up camp outside MITS headquarters.

The success of the new machine spawned a collection add-on hardware products and imitators. Other companies cloned the Altair's 100-pin 8-bit bus, and called it the "S-100" bus, infuriating Roberts. Boards that interfaced with teletypes and CRT terminals made the Altair resemble a modern computer. A young HP employee named Steve Wozniak saw the Altair at a Homebrew Computer Club meeting and decided that he could make something like it himself, which ended up becoming the Apple I. And an unknown college dropout named Bill Gates, together with his partner Paul Allen, wrote a version of the programming language BASIC for the Altair, forming a company called Micro-Soft in the process. He would later drop the hyphen and the capital S, and make billions of dollars.

MITS struggled to keep up with demand, not only for the Altair, but for the 4k memory cards that were required to run BASIC. Competition from other add-on companies and new computer companies hurt MITS, and Roberts eventually sold the company to the hard disk manufacturer Pertec in May 1977. Pertec management failed to move the company forward and it went bankrupt a few years later.

The Altair ultimately failed in the marketplace, but it sold thousands of units and jump-started the entire personal computer industry. The concept and form factor of desktop computers, with add-on boards that plugged into a standardized bus, the concept of third-party software, and the idea of retail computer dealers and dealer expositions were all pioneered by MITS. Ed Roberts took the millions from the sale of his company and reinvested them in himself. He completed his medical training and achieved his life-long dream of becoming a doctor. He still keeps an Altair in his office.

Ed Roberts, with his creation

The first trinity: the Commodore PET, the Radio-Shack TRS-80, and the Apple ][ (1977-1980)

Despite the success of the Altair, the big computer companies still considered these small machines to be the domain of a few slightly screwy enthusiasts, and not a product for the mass market. This didn't stop many of these same enthusiasts from starting their own computer companies, almost all of which no longer exist today.

There was Processor Technology's Sol, designed by Lee Felsenstein who went on to design the first "portable" computer, the Osborne 1. There was Cromemco, which was started by two Stanford students, and made add-on boards for the Altair before designing their own computer products. Vector Graphic also started making S-100 memory boards before introducing their own computer system. A company called IMSAI built an Altair clone and had the distinction of having the first personal computer ever to be featured in a movie, Wargames, before imploding due to overexpansion and forced est training for management that distorted fiscal realities. SouthWest Technical Products (SWTP) built a machine using Motorola's new 6800 CPU. In the UK, the NASCOM-1 kit attempted to mirror the success of the Altair on the other side of the Atlantic.

By the end of 1976, over 40,000 personal computers had been sold, with MITS selling approximately 25%, IMSAI 17%, Processor Technology 8%, and SWTP 8%. There were dozens of other companies selling computers. Many of them sold too few products to even show up on the radar. In ten months, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had managed to sell only 175 units of the hand-assembled Apple I motherboard, which lacked a keyboard, monitor, or even a case.

From left to right: a Vector Graphic, SOL-20, SWTP 6800.
Bottom row: NASCOM-1, Apple I, Cromenco Z-2, IMSAI 8080

The stage was set for the a second, more professional, group of electronics companies to introduce their own products.

The holy trinity: Commodore PET, TRS-80 Model I, and the Apple ][

The first of these was a calculator firm called Commodore, which was started as a typewriter repair company in 1954 by Auschwitz survivor Jack Tramiel. When Texas Instruments started their price war that nearly drove MITS out of business, Tramiel realized that it was vital for his company to own semiconductor technology that could produce chips in-house, just like TI did. He found ex-Motorola engineer Chuck Peddle, who had invented a vastly cheaper 6800 clone called the 6502. Commodore bought Peddle's company, MOS Technologies, and let him continue working on his own projects. One of these projects became the PET computer, ostensibly standing for Personal Electronic Transactor, but Commodore engineers sometimes called it Peddle's Ego Trip after it wound up becoming a smash success.

The PET had its own built-in monitor, keyboard, and tape drive, giving early computer users everything they needed to start working. It even had a version of BASIC purchased from Bill Gates' tiny Micro-Soft company. The keyboard was a cheap "Chiclet" job that was replaced in later models. Commodore sold 4,000 PETs in 1978 and sales kept rising. A base model PET sold for US$795.

Elsewhere, the electronics chain Radio Shack decided that they should get into the personal computer business. Their Tandy-Radio Shack 80, or TRS-80 (known to some computer hobbyists as a "Trash-80," in the first of many platform flamewars to come) was available in modular form, with the keyboard and computer selling for US$399, the black and white display for US$199, and a cassette storage system for US$49. The main advantage that Radio Shack had over the others was their built-in distribution system. Each of their 3,000 stores was given a single TRS-80 to sell, but within a month the company had over 10,000 orders. The lowly TRS-80 quickly became the top-selling personal computer of the trinity, as new models enhanced its capabilities.

The final computer of the trinity was made by the only company to survive into the modern age as a computer company. The Apple ][ was a refined version of the Apple I motherboard, with added color, memory capacity, eight expansion slots, and an attractive beige case with a built-in brown keyboard. It retailed for US$1,298 with 4k of RAM, or US$1,698 with 16k. Initial sales were sluggish as Apple sold only 600 machines in 1977, mostly due to the high price compared to the PET and TRS-80. However, with the addition of the fast and relatively inexpensive Disk ][ floppy drive accessory, made possible by an ingenious disk controller using only eight chips that Wozniak designed, the Apple ][ sold 7,600 units in the following year and 35,000 in 1979. It was still a distant third compared to the other two machines in the trinity, however.

Apple's response to being in third place involved the genius of Regis McKenna, the former Intel PR executive who had spearheaded "Operation Crush," the predecessor of the "Intel Inside" campaign. McKenna decided that what the company needed was great marketing, so all advertising for the Apple ][ was glossy and rich, and some ads even claimed that the Apple ][ was the "best-selling personal computer." It had nowhere near such status at the time.

What really turned the company around, however, was the release of the first ever "killer app." This was VisiCalc, the original spreadsheet application, which was released in 1979. The author, Dan Bricklin, wrote it for the Apple ][ simply because that machine, borrowed from his publisher Dan Fylstra, was the only one he had available. A combination of great marketing and even better luck propelled the Apple ][ from an also-ran to a serious contender. In 1981 the company sold 210,000 units, leaving the PET in the dust and nearly equaling the TRS-80's numbers.

Personal computer market share during the "trinity" years

The 8-bit era (1980-1984)

Time Magazine: January 1983

The star of the personal computer was rising. For 1982, Time Magazine featured a generic version as "Machine of the Year," the one and only occasion a nonhuman has won that award. By this time, many new firms had joined the fight, releasing the third generation of machines. Most of these used the 6502 CPU, because of its excellent bang-for-the-buck ratio.

Commodore, realizing that the PET was running out of gas, started a number of new 8-bit computer projects based around their 6502 and custom chips developed in-house by MOS Technologies. One of them, the VIC-20, named after the Video Interface Chip that ran its graphics, was enormously successful. Despite limitations in the VIC chip that could only display 22 columns of text, the colorful and inexpensive computer sold 600,000 units in 1982.

But the big winner for Commodore was yet to come. Rushed into production by shoehorning components into the VIC-20 case, the Commodore 64 made its debut in late 1982 for US$595 with a full 64KB of RAM, the maximum directly addressable by 8-bit CPUs. At the time, computers with that much RAM cost at least three times as much. By integrating the full 64KB of RAM as part of the standard model, the C-64 enabled software developers to write and port stunning high-resolution games to the platform. An improved VIC chip allowed not only 40 column text but supported sprites, making it easier to create fast-moving, flicker-free game graphics. In addition, a multifrequency synthesized sound chip (the legendary SID) gave the small machine a sweeter voice than any other machine of its time. Sales of this new computer took off, reaching a staggering 2 million units in 1983.

Commodore VIC-20, top. Commodore 64, bottom

This incredible volume, unheard of in the personal computer industry before (and it would still be a respectable figure for a new computer model today!) allowed Commodore to get its final revenge on Texas Instruments. A price war which left the C-64 selling for as little as US$199 caused TI to panic and remove its own computer, the TI-99/4A, from the market.

The Atari 400 and 800

Atari, flushed with the success of PONG and its 2600 games console, released the 400 and 800 series of computers in 1979. The 400 was essentially a cheaper version of the 800 with less memory and an awkward "membrane" keyboard. Designer Jay Miner had fitted these machines with impressive technology, including a custom blitter chip that could blast large sections of graphics on the screen without involving the CPU. The 400/800 could play games, like Frogger, that were indistinguishable from the arcade versions. However, Atari kept most of the details about its hardware secret in order to try and give an advantage to its in-house software developers. This limited the long-term success of the platform, which peaked at 600,000 units in 1982 and went steadily downhill.

The Atari 800 could have been much more, were it not for an accident of fate. Mighty IBM, the 800-pound gorilla of the computer industry, was starting to worry about being left behind in this new market, which had emerged at dizzying speeds.

"The worry was that we were losing the hearts and minds," IBM executive Jack Sams reminisced. "So the order came down from on high: 'Give me a machine to win back the hearts and minds.'"

At first, IBM thought about rebranding an existing computer, and had selected the Atari 800. However, after a visit to Atari headquarters, where IBM businessmen were literally put in a box and run through the assembly line by unorthodox and sometimes stoned Atari employees, the computing giant decided they would rather build their own computer.

To gain an advantage over existing personal computer models, IBM decided to use the new Intel 8088 CPU, which had a 16-bit memory model making it capable of directly addressing 1MB of memory (although unlike the fully 16-bit 8086, the 8088 chip saved money by being 8-bit externally). Bill Gates, in negotiations at the time for delivering BASIC for this new machine, was tremendously excited about the potential for a 16-bit CPU, and to this day claims that his input "tipped the balance" in favor of this chip.

Because the personal computer market was growing so rapidly, a rogue IBM design group in Boca Raton, Florida was given the go-ahead to design and build the new computer in less than a year. This necessitated a few shortcuts in the design, which unlike most IBM computers used primarily off-the-shelf chips. Even the operating system was contracted out to another company. Originally it was meant to be Digital Research, maker of the popular CP/M operating system for 8-bit computers. However, when DR took its time signing IBM's non-disclosure agreements, Microsoft seized its chance and won a deal to provide the operating system instead. A combination of off-the-shelf hardware and an operating system available from a third party made the rise of 100% compatible IBM PC clones possible, once the ROM BIOS of the PC had been successfully reverse-engineered. Compaq was the first company to do so, in 1982, but many others followed.

The original IBM PC, Model 5150. 5150 is also a police code for a severely disturbed person.

The IBM PC was released in late 1981 and retailed for US$2880, with 64k of RAM and a monitor. Despite the popularity of the IBM brand name, sales were initially sluggish, but picked up dramatically in the following year. The PC's own version of the killer app, the multi-function spreadsheet Lotus 1-2-3, drove many sales. By 1984 the PC and its innumerable clones were selling 2 million units a year, nearly as many as the Commodore 64 and eclipsing older machines like the Apple ][. Many personal computer companies saw the PC as a threat. Their answer was to try and beat the giant with superior technology. It almost worked.

Personal computer marketshare during the 8-bit era

The 16-bit era (1984-1987)

The original, 128k Macintosh, with optional extra 400k floppy drive

In January 1984, Apple announced the Macintosh, a distinctive computer with a built-in 9-inch monochrome screen. Attached to the keyboard was a curious device called a mouse, invented in 1966 by pioneer Doug Engelbart. While Apple had introduced a mouse-driven computer with a graphical user interface the year before with the Lisa, its US$10,000 price tag drove away all but the most enthusiastic early adopters. The Macintosh sold for US$2,495, still quite expensive for 1984 but much more within the reach of ordinary mortals.

The history of the graphical user interface is a long and fascinating tale. By the mid-1980s, almost everyone agreed that windows, icons, a mouse, and a pointer (affectionately referred to as WIMP) was the way of the future. Bill Gates announced the development of Windows in 1983, and many other projects were already underway to combine the power of new 16-bit microprocessors (including the amazing new Motorola 68000) with the flash of WIMP.

The Amiga 1000 came with 256k of RAM, expandable to 512k

Commodore released its powerful Amiga 1000 computer, designed by ex-Atari guru Jay Miner, in 1985. Selling for US$1,495, its 4,096-color graphics, 4-voice stereo sampled sound and preemptive multitasking operating system made it seem like it came from ten years in the future. You could pull down any screen, including the Workbench, to reveal running screens behind, even if they were in different resolutions. Unfortunately, Commodore was in financial difficulties at the time and was unable to properly market the machine. They also took it off the market prematurely and cancelled all advertising, thinking that the advanced 2000 and cheaper 500 models were imminent. Sadly, these were delayed until 1987.

The Atari 520 ST. Later models would double the RAM to 1MB

In addition, Commodore was fighting one of their own. Jack Tramiel had left the company in a dispute with his financial backer, and had purchased Atari's computer division. He spearheaded the rapid development of the Atari ST, sometimes called the "Jackintosh." It also used a 68000 but lacked the Amiga's advanced custom chips and multitasking operating system. Nevertheless, it was still capable of playing great games, and its cheaper price (it originally retailed for US$799 with a monochrome monitor) hurt Amiga sales.

Apple's Macintosh sold reasonably well in 1984 but sales actually went down in the following year, mostly due to limitations with the original 128KB hardware and competition from Commodore and Atari. It too needed a killer app to survive, and it found one in Aldus' PageMaker, released in July 1985. PageMaker jump started the desktop publishing industry. Even though a PC version came out in 1986 and DTP packages Calamus and Pagestream were later released for the Atari and Amiga respectively, the Macintosh had already won the DTP market. This was enough to lift Macintosh sales above both the Amiga and Atari by the end of 1987.

The redoubtable Commodore 64 enjoyed its greatest sales during this era. The combination of low price and a wide variety of software titles made the little machine irresistible, with over 2 million units being sold each year. Software products like Geos brought a graphical user interface to the platform, and Commodore continued to release newer, cheaper models. However, by 1987, 8-bit computers were widely regarded as being behind the times technologically, and sales began to fall.

In the meantime, sales of IBM PCs and clones continued to relentlessly march ahead. Despite the fact that competing platforms were more powerful and, in the case of the Amiga and Atari ST, less expensive, the PC became acknowledged as the industry standard. By the end of 1986, the PC platform had, for the first time, passed the 50 percent market share mark. It would never look back.

Personal computer market share during the 16-bit era

The rise of the PC (1987-1990)

In 1985, Bill Gates wrote an amazing memo to Apple management. In the memo, he praised the Macintosh for its innovative design, but noted that it had failed to become a standard, like the IBM PC was becoming. He correctly deduced that it was the advent of inexpensive, 100%-compatible clone computers that was propelling the PC ahead, and that any defects in the design of the computer would eventually be remedied by the combined force of the many companies selling PCs and PC add-on products, such as new graphics cards. He proposed a plan, which Microsoft would help bring to fruition, whereby Apple would license their operating system and hardware design to a number of other computer companies. Microsoft had been an early supporter and promoter of the Macintosh, but Gates feared that without compatible machines, it would fail to become a "second standard."

Apple management ignored the memo, and decided to concentrate instead on making better computers themselves. The Macintosh II, introduced in 1987 for US$5,500, eschewed the original's all-in-one design in favor of a standard desktop chassis that supported add-in cards, and could be connected to a color monitor. Professional users loved it, although the price kept it out of the hands of most buyers.

The Macintosh II. Users could add their own video cards using the NuBus slots

Commodore finally introduced the more-powerful and -expandable Amiga 2000 (US$1495) and the cheaper Amiga 500 (US$595) with integrated keyboard, in 1987. The latter was expected to take over the Commodore 64's place as a cheap yet powerful home computer for the masses, and sales rose, peaking at over 1 million units in 1991.

Top: Amiga 2000. Bottom: Amiga 500

Meanwhile, the Atari ST's momentum tailed off, with sales slowly declining as better games started coming out designed specifically for the Amiga 500. Atari did not release any new models of the ST except for a version with extra RAM preinstalled. Thanks to the inclusion of a MIDI port with every model, however, the ST became the computer of choice for digital musicians.

But the real winner of this era was the IBM PC platform. Sales kept increasing, and by 1990 PCs and clone sales had more than tripled to over 16 million a year, leaving all of its competitors behind. The platform went from a 55 market share in 1986 to an 84% share in 1990. The Macintosh stabilized at about 6% market share and the Amiga and Atari ST at around 3% each.

Bill Gates' predictions were coming true, as new, inexpensive graphics cards that cloned the new IBM VGA standard were starting to make the PC a credible game platform. In 1990, Origin released the first Wing Commander game. Its 256-color, scaled, and rotated bitmaps gave the illusion of 3D and made existing 2D space shooters on other computers, game consoles and arcades seem instantly outdated and quaint by comparison. 3D came to role playing games with Ultima Underworld in 1992 and fast-action first-person shooters with Wolfenstein 3D the same year. Now it was the PC that was setting the standard for new games, instead of the Amiga.

Personal computer market share during the late 80s

The end of eras (1990-1994)

The golden age of PC gaming had arrived, with classics like Wing Commander, DOOM, Ultima 7 and System Shock pushing the boundaries of computer entertainment. At the same time, the PC became easier to use with the release of Windows 3 in 1990 and 3.1 in 1992. The latter operating system proved incredibly popular, pushing PC sales back from their minislump in 1991. By 1994 PCs and clones were selling at the incredible rate of 37 million units per year.

The Macintosh was also doing well, rising from 1.3 million units in 1990 to its all-time high of 4.5 million units in 1995. Macintosh market share peaked at 12% in 1993. It was a boom time for Apple, with the future looking bright.

Other companies were not so lucky. Sales of the Atari ST tailed off and only 30,000 units were sold in 1993. Atari itself fell into a severe cashflow crisis as Nintendo had taken all of its console market share, and the company was sold to hard drive manufacturer JTS in 1996.

The venerable Commodore 64 also fell off sharply, dropping from 1.25 million units in 1989 to only 175,000 units in 1993. This sudden loss of revenue hurt the company greatly. Sales of Amigas had also fallen drastically as new management cancelled best-selling units like the 500 and replaced them with the more expensive yet feature-poor 600, while delaying the next generation of AGA machines that would have competed with the PC's VGA chipset. Stuck with tons of old machines that couldn't sell and unable to build enough new machines for the Christmas '93 season, the company fell into a downward financial spiral which led inevitably to its bankruptcy in April 1994.

The NeXT cube, displaying all four of its brilliant shades of grey

Steve Jobs, exiled from Apple in 1985 because of poor sales of the original Macintosh, had built a new company called NeXT out of his personal fortune. The first NeXT cubes shipped in 1988, but their US$10,000 price tag doomed them to the same fate as the Lisa. NeXT never shipped more than 16,000 computers in a single year, and in 1993 the company laid off many of their employees and dropped all of their hardware to focus entirely on an Intel version of their operating system called NEXTSTEP/486. The company still failed to make money, however, and wound up being sold to Apple in 1996.

The PC kept soldiering on relentlessly, rising from 84% marketshare in 1990 to over 90% in 1994. However, there was still a chance for alternative operating systems to rise to dominance on that platform. The release of OS/2 2.0 by IBM in 1992 was briefly seen as a legitimate challenger to Windows, selling over two million copies. A new open-source, enthusiast operating system called Linux, first released in 1991, was starting to take shape and slowly gained popularity in academic circles. There was even GeoWorks Ensemble, a version of the GEOS GUI for the Commodore 64 that was much faster on low-end hardware than Windows due to it being written largely in assembly language. However, everything would change the following year.

Personal computer market share during the end of eras

The Mac stands alone (1994-2001)

The release of Windows 95 in August 1995 was a huge media event, unprecedented in personal computer history. People lined up around the block at midnight to be one of the first to receive the new software, and Tonight Show host Jay Leno emceed the launch party, with "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones playing as the official theme song of the event.

Many Macintosh, Amiga and OS/2 users wondered what all the fuss was about. Windows 95 contained many "new" features, like long filenames and preemptive multitasking, which had been a part of these operating systems since their inception (with the exception of Mac OS, which did not have preemptive multitasking). However, Windows 95 brought all these features to the mainstream, and third-party software developers flocked to it. Strong developer support by Microsoft and an eagerness by OEMs to bundle it with their machines ensured its success. Meanwhile, sales of OS/2 fell off the ends of the earth and IBM eventually stopped updating it in 2001.

PC sales shot up, and Macintosh sales slumped. By 1998, PCs were closing in on sales rates of 100 million units per year, while Macintosh sales fell from 4.5 million in 1995 to just 2.7 million in 1998. Many industry analysts started to predict that the Macintosh was doomed, and that Apple was set to follow Commodore into oblivion. However, Apple was able to float a junk bond in 1997 that kept them financially above water, despite losing over US$700 million in 2Q 1996 and again in 2Q 1997.

Bill Gates and Jay Leno share jokes about things that are Micro and Soft

Apple was at loose ends trying to complete a major update to their operating system, called Copland. Eventually Copland was cancelled, and Apple had to go shopping for a new operating system, one that could support preemptive multitasking and memory protection. Originally Apple had decided to purchase BeOS, which had been started on its own custom hardware then ported to PPC and x86 computers by ex-Apple employee Jean-Louis Gassee. But the flamboyant CEO of Be, Inc. held out for too much money and ultimately overplayed his hand. Steve Jobs jumped at his chance, and sold NeXT, Inc. outright to Apple for US$400 million in December 1996.

The new strategy for Apple was to have two operating systems, one based on NeXTSTEP and aimed at high-end users, and the other based on the now-creaky Classic Mac OS with bits of Copland's corpse bolted on. The latter OS shipped as Mac OS 8, and proved popular with Macintosh users. The former, now called Rhapsody, shipped only in Developer Preview releases, which confused developers completely. What should they develop for, Mac OS or Rhapsody? The two OSes had completely different APIs and programs from one could not work on another. This confusion, combined with more staggering financial losses in 1997, allowed Steve Jobs to stage a coup d'etat, seizing control of the company from the flailing Gil Amelio in July of 1997. Jobs placed most of his former NeXT engineers in charge of the operating system division, with their job no longer to enhance the Classic Mac OS, but to replace it completely.

This was to become Mac OS X, which added a subset of the Classic Mac OS API, called "Carbon," to the existing NeXTSTEP/Rhapsody API, which was now called "Cocoa." With the gradual phasing out of Classic Mac OS and its replacement by Mac OS X, Steve Jobs achieved two of his greatest goals: saving the Macintosh and replacing it with the NeXT Big Thing, all at the same time. The release of the colorful "gumdrop" iMac computer in 1998 revived Apple's fortunes, and with Mac OS X on the horizon, the Macintosh enjoyed a bump in sales to 3.8 million units in both 1999 and 2000.

Personal computer market share during the late 90s

The new era (2001- )

2001 saw many changes in the computer industry. Windows XP was released, finally combining the core and stability of the corporate version of Windows (Windows NT) with the consumer-friendly face of Windows 95, 98 and ME. The first shipping version of Mac OS X, 10.0, was also released, and although the initial version was slow and feature-incomplete, the 10.1 update later that year addressed many of those issues. Now the two remaining platforms, the PC and the Macintosh, were on roughly equal technical footing. Both operating systems supported not only preemptive multitasking but full protected memory for all applications.

Macintosh market share slowly declined from 3.2% in 1999 to 1.98% in 2004 as sales of Macintoshes remained flat, despite the new operating system and several flashy new models, including the Cube and the new, lamp-like, flat-panel iMac. However, with the release and overwhelming sales success of the iPod in 2001, positive buzz began surrounding Apple again and Macintosh sales started to creep up again in late 2004.

The loser in the replacement Mac OS sweepstakes, Be, Inc. ran out of money and closed operations in 2001. Its assets were sold to Palm, Inc., but a new German company called YellowTab bundled together the unfinished bits of BeOS, which would eventually be released as Zeta 1.0 in 2005.

While IBM officially dropped all support of OS/2 in 2005, a company called Serenity Systems continues to sell and update it, rebranded as eComStation. A new version is planned for 2006.

Even GeoWorks Ensemble got into the rebranding game, rereleased as New Deal Office from New Deal Inc. in 1996. Updates continued to be released as late as 2000.

And in an event that has to rank as the most surprising comeback in the entire history of personal computing, a new official Amiga computer, based on a PowerPC CPU, and a new version of AmigaOS for PPC, called AmigaOS4, were released in 2004. While the Amiga market had virtually disappeared after over ten years in the wilderness, enthusiasm for the new platform ran high among those who had not forgotten their fondness for the old computer. While sales figures are in the low thousands and not enough to even show up on a market share graph, this release showed that almost nothing can really kill an operating system. Despite the PC and Windows gaining a completely dominant 97% market share, alternatives like Linux, the Macintosh and even OS/2, Zeta, and the Amiga continue to exist.

Personal computer market share during the recent era


The story of the personal computer is a fascinating tale, and I can't help but get excited every time I read a new book or article that uncovers some new secret about this wild and wooly history. The lack of reliable information about the sales figures and market share for early computers compelled me to stay up all night a few years back, scouring the Internet and flipping through all my computer history books in the hope of compiling a complete set of figures.

It was not an easy job. Many sources are incomplete, and some are contradictory. Before IDC came along to count up all personal computers being sold every quarter, it was difficult to figure out the exact numbers for total machines sold. In the end, I had to combine and cross-reference many sources, canceling out those that contradicted each other and filling in the gaps with interpolation. There are undoubtedly some errors in the figures, but overall I believe they represent the most complete picture available for the industry as a whole over the last thirty years.

When you step back and look at the big picture, the overall dominance of the PC becomes clear. However, this was not always the case, and in fact it wasn't until 1986 that the PC platform first surpassed 50% market share. This was more than a decade after the first personal computer was sold.

What caused the rise of the PC platform? Undoubtedly, it was the clones. No other platform was ever cloned to the extent that the PC was. (The Apple ][ was cloned by Franklin computers and others before Apple sued them out of existence, and Apple did briefly flirt with licensed Macintosh clones from 1995 until 1997). If IBM hadn't come late to the personal computer party, and hadn't rushed its first PC from off-the-shelf parts and a third-party operating system, this story might have read very differently today.

The only person who predicted the Attack of the Clones was Bill Gates, who recalled that many mainframe computers had spawned work-alike clones in the past. It was this foresight that enabled him to get IBM to agree to a contract whereby Microsoft could license MS-DOS to third parties. IBM, thinking in mainframe timelines and assuming that clones would be perpetually years behind the originals, thought nothing of this stipulation. They were only concerned with getting the lowest possible flat rate for MS-DOS (which they mistakenly called PC-DOS) in the first place.

A combination of extreme foresight and even better luck enabled Microsoft's rise to dominance along with the PC platform. While some may look at this story as having a sad ending, I prefer to see things differently. While alternative platforms may be marginalized today, they still exist, and each platform contributed something of importance to the overall rise of the personal computer, which was the real triumph in this tale.

Before 1975, people could only dream of owning a personal computer. A handful of geeks and enthusiasts turned that dream into reality, and today personal computers are everywhere. Over 173 million computers were sold in 2004, and the figures are expected to continue to rise, as falling prices enable people all over the world to enjoy the benefits of personal computing.

Personal computer market share as percentages: 1975-2005

25 October 2005

Why Is Microsoft Afraid of Google?

In the few short years of its existence, Google has come a long way, simultaneously striking fear in the hearts of major players in the computer industry and also arousing their curiosity.

Its search engine is so ubiquitous that “to Google” somebody or something is now part of the lexicon of hard-core knowledge workers and casual web users alike. Google also has become a gateway to the Internet and taken steps to develop desktop applications, such as Google Toolbar and Google Desktop, not to mention other products like Gmail and Google Earth. The company's initial public offering was a big success and its stock has risen ever since. What, everyone wonders, will Google be up to next?

While Google, of Mountain View, Calif., is keeping all competitors on their toes, it poses a special threat to one particular company — Microsoft. Why? Because Google's existing and potential products — as well as those of other firms — raise the specter that the behemoth of Redmond, Wash., may witness the erosion of its control over the platform for the next generation of software application development, according to Wharton faculty members who follow the technology sector.

“What Google wants to do is strategically decrease people's reliance on Microsoft. It's as simple as that,” says Wharton management professor Raphael Amit.

But being a threat — even a formidable threat — is one thing. Actually beating Microsoft would be a different accomplishment altogether, the Wharton experts agree, and only time will tell how this David-and-Goliath-style rivalry will fully shake out.

Microsoft's concern over Google has been evident recently on several fronts. Microsoft recently announced a major reorganization designed to streamline the company's huge bureaucracy and make the firm more nimble — a move that the Wharton scholars say was in direct response to fear of continued inroads made by competitors, especially Google, on Microsoft's turf. Microsoft has also suffered the embarrassment of watching key employees defect to Google. Most recently, on Oct. 4, Sun Microsystems and Google announced a partnership to distribute each other's software, a deal that is viewed as another assault on Microsoft. Among other things, the Google Toolbar for web browsers will be a standard component of the software that computer users receive when they download Sun's Java software.

But the central challenge to Microsoft goes beyond corporate reorganizations, defecting employees or the popularity of Google's search engine as a gateway to the web, according to Kendall Whitehouse, senior director of information technology at Wharton. Microsoft's success has been due in large part to its realization two decades ago that control of the operating system on personal computers would give it a great amount of leverage over PCs, he says. Most companies in the 1980s saw the operating system as a pure commodity product, but Microsoft understood that it held the keys to the kingdom.

“It's because of the dominance of the Windows operating system that Microsoft has been able to become so strong,” Whitehouse notes. “The dominance of Windows means that if you're a developer of a major software application, you need to deliver a product for Windows. This means software developers must use the programming capabilities provided by Windows — its application programming interface, or API.”

But many in the computer business have long believed that the core platform could be moved to a higher level, that technology gurus could establish a web-based platform that runs in the browser and is written in the language of the browser rather than the language of the operating system.

“This was the dream of Marc Andreessen [co-founder of browser company Netscape Communications] and others back in the mid-1990s when Andreessen boasted that the web would reduce computer operating systems to nothing more than 'a poorly debugged set of device drivers,'” Whitehouse recalls. “And this is why Microsoft responded so aggressively to the threat of Netscape after [Microsoft Chairman] Bill Gates issued his famous memo warning of an Internet 'tidal wave' that threatened Windows. Netscape didn't succeed. Microsoft managed to thwart Netscape's attempt to establish a new platform on the web.”

How, specifically, do innovations at Google threaten Microsoft? Whitehouse points, for example, to Google Maps. The API of Google Maps lets developers embed Google Maps in their own web pages using JavaScript. A visit to — which bills itself as an unofficial Google Maps blog tracking the websites, ideas and tools being influenced by Google Maps — shows a long list of applications built using Google Maps as the underlying engine.

Google is not the only company offering products and services that run on a web platform. Feeling the heat, Microsoft has already announced products to compete with those of Adobe (developer of the PDF document format) and Macromedia (developer of Flash and ShockWave software for video and animation), which announced a merger earlier this year. “To the extent that PDF and the Flash SWF file format could be an emerging platform for web application development,” Whitehouse notes, “Microsoft has to be worried.”

A Commodity Product?

It is important to note, Whitehouse adds, that “all the applications I have talked about are written in the web browser. They work equally well on Windows, Mac or Linux. Your computer still needs an operating system to run — but it doesn't matter which one. The operating system may eventually become the commodity that people in the 1980s thought it would be, and that's bad news for Microsoft.”

Thomas Y. Lee, professor of operations and information management, sees Google's challenge to Microsoft in broader terms. “I don't know that I would say Google is a threat to the operating system, per se, but it is a threat to Microsoft's business model. Microsoft has software [such as Office] that they use to leverage the operating system.”

Lee says Google benefits from two key strengths. The company gives free rein to talented people to innovate and it encourages program developers to use Google as the basis for products of their own. “Google has hired really, really smart people. Some of the smartest graduates coming out of the top computer science programs are going to Google. When you put that many smart people in one place, neat things happen. Google also has not been threatened by people working off their products. Look at all the product extensions that are tied to Google Maps.”

Balaji Padmanabhan, professor of operations and information management at Wharton, agrees with Whitehouse that “there is a move toward PCs that don't have a lot of software installed on them, where most applications can run off a network.” Padmanabhan notes that Sun Microsystems and Oracle developed such a system, in which people using nothing more than a simple PC would wirelessly communicate with a central computer.

“But that idea never really took off, to a large extent because the network was not as large and as fast as it is today,” says Padmanabhan. “Yet there are advantages to that concept — less software to update for users, for one thing, and that's exactly what Google would capitalize on. The second advantage is PC users get better security, since apps can be constantly updated on a server to fix errors and add patches. The big challenge is the reliability of the network. You don't want to get into a situation where users want to open a spreadsheet program but can't because the network isn't up right now. That is certainly an issue that will have to get resolved down the road.”

Legal studies professor Kevin Werbach asserts that the competitive issues facing Microsoft go beyond Google. “At some level, any successful Internet and software company is a threat to Microsoft,” he says. “Microsoft is in a uniquely dominant position in the computing ecosystem. Anything that attracts a significant amount of use or activity is potentially a threat to them. Microsoft is a threat to, in some ways, virtually everyone in the industry and likewise everyone is a threat to Microsoft.”

Werbach says that Microsoft is in such a powerful position because the PC operating system is at the center of most users' experiences with computers. As the Internet becomes more of an essential part of the computing experience, if anything else from a network becomes a central link in the user's experience, that poses a challenge to Windows and software programs like Office, which has higher profit margins than Windows itself. “Google does not prevent people from using any particular operating system on a PC,” he says, “but if the functionality that users engage with is driven through a Google experience rather than something controlled by Microsoft, that harms Microsoft.”

The Task Ahead

“The big challenge for Microsoft is the law of large numbers,” Werbach notes. “It's harder and harder for the company, as it gets bigger, to keep growing as it historically did. The computer industry is a mature industry. In the developed world, virtually everyone has a computer. So Microsoft, to continue growing, needs to find new ways to expand its market, which is why they want to get into games, wireless and business-software markets. In these areas they're generating substantial losses. To the extent that Google becomes a dominant player in the Internet market, it blocks an opportunity for Microsoft to expand.”

But Microsoft did not achieve the position it enjoys today by rolling over in the face of adversity. Microsoft executives “aren't sitting on their laurels; they see the threat,” according to Lee. “They see a future revenue stream in web advertising and desktop search functions and in better knowing the consumer. So they are organizing their own formidable brainpower to attack the competition. And there are plenty of people who like Microsoft and its products just fine.”

“If you ask me why I didn't buy Google shares at the IPO, I'd say Google at the time had one product — its search engine,” says Amit. “As it expands its base, it might harm Microsoft. But Microsoft has a much broader product line. It's sitting on 90% of all computers around the world and Google has a long way to catch up.”

Marketing professor Peter S. Fader says Google's threat is a tune Microsoft has heard before. “It's history repeating itself over and over and over. Every time a new threat emerges to Microsoft, people think, 'Oh, this is it — the one that's going to knock Microsoft off the block.' There's no reason to believe it will play out any differently this time. Google is a different kind of competitor, but Microsoft has dealt with a pretty wide range of competitors before. It's a tortoise-and-hare scenario. And Microsoft is a very good tortoise. What the company will do is figure out a way to replicate the features of competitors' products. The products won't necessarily be better, but they will be adequate.”

Whitehouse suggests that Microsoft may have to change its philosophy if it truly wishes to compete with Google. “Microsoft has tremendous resources, and it performed a similar turnaround once before when it took on Netscape in the 'browser wars' of the late 1990s. Microsoft, however, tends to focus on stopping the onslaught of the web — which it did very well with Internet Explorer in the late 90s — but then falls back and refocuses on its core operating system and desktop application businesses. So, for example, in recent years we've seen a major push to develop Vista [the long-delayed operating system, once code-named Longhorn, that is scheduled to replace Windows XP in 2006], but there have been no major new improvements in Internet Explorer in years.

“It's not clear how much Microsoft actually believes that the web is the platform of the future. After conquering its immediate adversary, the company tends to retrench and fall back on developing its core assets. That may work again this time. But, eventually, it may not be enough to forestall the Internet tidal wave that will eventually arrive.”

Country Profile: Malaysia

Map of Malaysia
Malaysia boasts one of south-east Asia's most vibrant economies, the fruit of decades of industrial growth and political stability.

Its multi-ethnic and multi-religious society encompasses a majority Muslim population and an economically-powerful Chinese community.



Consisting of two regions separated by some 640 miles of the South China Sea, Malaysia is a federation of 13 states and three federal territories. It is one of the region's key tourist destinations, offering excellent beaches, brilliant scenery and spectacular wildlife.

Ethnic Malays comprise some 60% of the population. Chinese constitute around 26%; Indians and indigenous tribes make up the rest. The communities coexist in relative harmony, although there is little racial interaction.

Although since 1971 Malays have benefited from positive discrimination in business, education and the civil service, ethnic Chinese continue to hold economic power and are the wealthiest community. The Malays remain the dominant group in politics while the Indians are among the poorest.

Malaysia's economic prospects remain relatively good. It is among the world's biggest producers of computer disk drives, palm oil, rubber and timber. It manufactures a "national" car - the Proton - and its tourism industry retains considerable room for expansion.

But it also faces serious challenges - politically, in the form of sustaining stability in the face of religious differences and the ethnic wealth gap, and, environmentally, in preserving its valuable forests.

Malaysia's human rights record has come in for international criticism. Internal security laws allow suspects to be detained without charge or trial.



  • Population: 25.3 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Kuala Lumpur
  • Area: 329,847 sq km (127,355 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese dialects, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam
  • Major religions: Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism
  • Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 75 years (women)
  • Monetary unit: 1 ringgit = 100 sen
  • Main exports: Electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, chemicals, palm oil, wood and wood products, rubber, textiles
  • GNI per capita: US $4,650 (World Bank, 2005)
  • Internet domain: .my
  • International dialling code: +60



Head of state: Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin

Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail was installed as Malaysia's 12th king during a glittering ceremony in 2002.

Malaysian king
King Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin
He is the traditional ruler of Malaysia's smallest state, Perlis, a rural province in the far north bordering on Thailand. He is a former student at Sandhurst military academy in Britain and a keen supporter of Tottenham Hotspur football club.

The king's role is largely ceremonial, although he is nominal head of the armed forces and all laws and the appointment of every cabinet minister require his assent.

Under Malaysia's constitutional monarchy, the position of king is rotated every five years.

Malaysia's first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, himself a prince, devised the system after independence in 1957 to spread power among the sultans and rajas who had ruled over fiefdoms on the Malay peninsula for hundreds of years.

Prime minister: Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi succeeded Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister in October 2003, when Asia's longest-serving elected leader retired after 22 years in power.

Malaysian premier
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Mr Abdullah is a former deputy premier who held defence, foreign affairs and education portfolios under Dr Mahathir. He promised to continue the policies of his predecessor.

On taking office he faced a strong political challenge from opposition Islamic fundamentalists and inherited the task of overseeing one of the region's most vibrant economies.

In March 2004 Mr Abdullah was sworn in for a new, five-year term after his coalition government won a landslide victory in parliamentary and regional elections. Correspondents said the victory boosted the prime minister's chances of pushing through his package of reforms, including a promise to stamp out corruption.

In contrast to his predecessor, Mr Abdullah has been described as self-effacing. He has been called the "Mr Nice Guy" of Malaysian politics.

Mr Abdullah was born in 1939 in Penang. His father was a founding member of Umno, Malaysia's ruling party. After gaining a degree in Islamic studies he worked in the civil service before being elected to parliament in 1978.

Malaysia has been ruled by a coalition, the National Front, since independence. The United Malays National Organisation (Umno) is the biggest grouping in the alliance, which includes Chinese and Indian parties.

  • Deputy prime minister, defence minister: Najib Razak
  • Finance minister: Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
  • Foreign minister: Syed Hamid Albar



    Malaysia has some of the toughest censorship laws in the world. The authorities exert substantial control over the media and restrictions may be imposed in the name of national security.

    The government is keen to insulate the largely-Muslim population from what it considers harmful foreign influences on TV. News is subject to censorship, entertainment shows and music videos regularly fall foul of the censors, and scenes featuring swearing and kissing are routinely removed from TV programmes and films.

    The TV sector comprises commercial networks and pay-TV operations. Around a quarter of TV households subscribe to the Astro multichannel service. A second pay-TV operator, MiTV, launched in 2005. TV3 is a leading national private, terrestrial broadcaster.

    State-owned Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) operates two channels and many of the country's radio services. Private stations are on the air, broadcasting in Malay, Tamil, Chinese and English.

    Newspapers must renew their publication licences annually, and the home minister can suspend or revoke publishing permits.

    Some web sites, such as Laman Reformasi, close to former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, freeMalaysia or Malaysiakini, have come in for official criticism.

    The press

  • New Straits Times - English-language daily
  • The Star - English-language daily
  • Business Times - English-language daily
  • The Malay Mail - English-language daily
  • Malaysiakini - English-language, online news service


  • Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) - state-run, operates TV1 and TV2 networks
  • TV3 - commercial network
  • ntv7 - commercial network


  • Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) - state-run, operates some 30 radio stations across the country and external service Voice of Malaysia
  • Time Highway Radio - private Kuala Lumpur FM station
  • Era FM - private FM station

    News agency

  • Bernama - state-run
  • 20 October 2005

    Isteri PM Endon Mahmood meninggal dunia

    KUALA LUMPUR 20 Okt - Isteri Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Datin Seri Endon Mahmood meninggal dunia di kediaman rasminya Seri Perdana di Putrajaya jam 7.55 pagi ini setelah beberapa tahun bertarung dengan kanser payu dara.

    Allahyarham Endon, 64, menghembus nafas terakhir kira-kira 18 hari selepas kembali daripada menjalani rawatan di Los Angeles, Amerika Syarikat.

    Allahyarham meninggalkan dua orang anak.

    Pejabat Perdana Menteri mengumumkan orang ramai boleh menziarahi jenazah Allahyarham untuk memberi penghormatan terakhir di Seri Perdana mulai jam 11 pagi melalui pintu utama kediaman rasmi itu.

    Jenazah Allahyarham kemudian akan dibawa ke Masjid Putrajaya untuk disembahyangkan pada waktu Asar, sebelum dikebumikan di Tanah Perkuburan Islam di Precint 20, Putrajaya.

    Abdullah bersama-sama dua anaknya, Kamaluddin dan Nori, menantu Azrene Abdullah dan Khairy Jamaluddin serta empat cucu, anak kepada Kamaluddin berada di sisi Allahyarham ketika beliau menghembus nafas terakhirnya.

    Ibu Allahyarham, Datin Mariam Abdullah juga berada di sisinya.

    Berita kematian Endon, ketika orang ramai hendak memulakan urusan harian, mengejutkan negara yang kemudiannya diselubungi dengan suasana duka cita.

    Cuaca di Lembah Klang, termasuk di Putrajaya mendung seolah-olah turut merasai pemergian beliau ke rahmatullah.

    Orang kenamaan, wakil-wakil negara asing mula menziarahi jenazah Allahyarham di Seri Perdana pada pukul 9.30 pagi.

    Antara yang tiba awal ialah Menteri Luar Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar yang kelihatan sibuk mengelolakan keadaan.

    Ratusan orang ramai juga berduyun-duyun tiba untuk memberi penghormatan terakhir mereka.

    Pegawai-pegawai kanan kerajaan termasuk ketua setiausaha dan ketua pengarah yang berpejabat di Putrajaya juga turut bergegas ke Seri Perdana.

    Orang ramai terdiri daripada pelbagai kaum semakin ramai tiba di Seri Perdana menjelang waktu menziarah pada pukul 11 pagi.

    Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak dan isteri, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor tiba di Seri Perdana pada kira-kira pukul 10.30 pagi.

    Tidak lama kemudian Perdana Menteri keluar dengan berbaju Melayu biru serta bersampin bertemu dan bersalaman dengan para hadirin.

    Abdullah kelihatan tenang, walaupun mata berlinangan ketika didakap beberapa hadirin.

    Beliau kemudian dilihat berkata-kata dengan Najib dan juga Syed Hamid.

    Menurut seorang pembantunya, Abdullah kelihatan tenang menerima kematian Endon malah sebaik sahaja isterinya menghembuskan nafas terakhir, Perdana Menteri terus mengatur urusan mengendalikan jenazah. -

    19 October 2005

    Stopping Linux desktop adoption sabotage

    Rujukan menarik bagi peminat Sumber Perisian Terbuka (Open Source Software). Adakah syarikat Microsoft merupakan dalang di sebalik penyekatan kemajuan OSS ni??


    Many IT professionals ask me when Linux will finally "make it" on the desktop. How will they know when Linux has made it? What's holding it back? In what ways is Microsoft working behind the scenes to inhibit the adoption of Linux desktops?

    John H. Terpstra

    For some time, I have pondered and researched these questions. Then, a recent experience lifted the clouds of uncertainty. In part one of this column, I'll relate a true story of two Linux desktop purchasers who ran into multiple roadblocks. Then, in part two, I'll analyze those problems and discuss how Microsoft and electronics manufacturers and retailers created them. Finally, in part three, I'll predict a future that could happen, one in which a monopoly leads the U.S. IT industry to second-class citizenship, and the opportunity that could change that scenario.

    Most people think that application availability drives adoption of a computing platform. While applications are very important, there are more factors at work, as the following story of two Linux newbies demonstrates.

    A recent adventure

    Recently, Joe purchased a new laptop computer. Because he had an older laptop that still functioned more or less adequately, he decided to purchase a machine that had Linux installed from the factory. He had heard that Linux does not suffer many of the problems with viruses, worms and malware, and his Norton AntiVirus subscription had expired, so there was nothing to lose in trying Linux.

    Joe figured that since Linux is free, the cost of a laptop computer pre-loaded with Linux would cost less than one that shipped with Microsoft Windows. Wrong! The cost estimates he came up with were between $300 and $500 more for a system with Linux than for one with Windows.

    Joe did a Google search to find Linux on laptop suppliers and obtained five price offers. Many Windows laptop specials offered a free bundled LCD monitor or a free bundled printer. No such offer was found for a Linux pre-loaded laptop.

    Although Joe could not understand why it should cost more to purchase a laptop that has no bundled licensed Windows operating system than one supplied with it, he decided that it made sense to purchase the lower-priced system and just junk the bundled Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition.

    After shopping around, Joe stumbled across a sweet deal and purchased an HP Pavilion dv1000 laptop. Joe's friend Dennis was with him that day and was suckered into ordering a customized HP zv6000 series laptop direct from HP.

    Both Joe and Dennis were determined to try Linux and agreed that if Linux is ready for the desktop, they were ready to climb onboard. Dennis' laptop arrived 10 days after Joe had gone home with his purchase.

    Joe installed SuSE Linux 10.0, while Dennis purchased SuSE Linux Professional 9.3. Dennis chose the 9.3 because he wanted the 64-bit support that was available with the AMD Athlon 64 CPU. At the time, a 64-bit version of SuSE Linux 10.0 was not yet available.

    Joe's installation of SuSE Linux 10.0 was an immediate success. The built-in PRO/Wireless 2200BG network card worked perfectly. Well, it had one little problem: If he pressed the built-in function key to turn off the wireless card, it would not restart without a reboot. Even so, the video card and LCD display operated at the full 1200x768 resolution. Another small problem occurred when Joe tried to use the built-in digital media slots. He found they did not work, but he figured that was a small sacrifice.

    Generally, Joe was impressed. His HP DeskJet printer worked the first time he plugged it in. SuSE Linux 10.0 instantly recognized the printer, asked him if he wanted to configure it, and in seconds he was able to print a test page.

    Dennis was not so fortunate. He has been unable to get X-Windows working. It seems that the video chip set is not supported in SuSE 9.3, and he has not been able to get the built-in Broadcom wireless card to function (not even with the ndiswrapper drivers).

    Needless to say, Dennis is not a happy camper. He will most likely reinstall Microsoft Windows XP Home from the recovery disk that came with the system. He feels forced to use Windows and believes Linux is simply not ready for prime-time use. He has seen a sad outcome to a project that started with great promise and expectation.

    The plot thickens

    Joe was so happy with his new Linux laptop that he decided it was time to install Linux on his old Windows laptop. This laptop has no built-in wireless card, so he purchased a Netgear RangeMax Wireless Router with a Netgear RangeMax wireless PC card.

    Joe's installation of SuSE Linux 10.0 on the old 15-inch Sony Vaio RPG600, 1.8 GHz P4 laptop was another flawless installation. The screen worked perfectly at 1600x1200 video resolution. Joe was delighted with his second Linux laptop.

    Unfortunately, Joe's story now takes a bad turn. The Netgear RangeMax wireless card could not be recognized by SuSE Linux 10.0. Joe called Netgear, which explained that the company does not support Linux. Joe was told that Netgear had no plan to provide Linux drivers for Netgear RangeMax wireless cards.

    After returning the Netgear wireless network card to the store, Joe purchased a Belkin Pre-N F5D8010 Notebook Network card. The new card was able to recognize that an Ethernet controller had been inserted into the computer, but it could not find a suitable driver. Joe then found out that Belkin does not support Linux and that no suitable driver is available.

    Joe did an Internet search, which revealed that Belkin's wireless card chip set is manufactured by Airgo Networks Inc. He found a link on the Airgo Networks Web site that offered hope. (You can see why by visiting Alas, this was a blind alley, because the General Public License Linux package only contains open source software (OSS) that Airgo Networks has modified and for which it has made the source code available.

    Joe felt that Airgo Networks should be commended for its honorable handling of OSS, but he still had no luck there. When he called the company, he found out that no Linux drivers will be available for the Airgo chip set until late 2005 or early 2006.

    Joe went back to the store to return another useless wireless card. Not one wireless card that was on the shelves at CompUSA or Best Buy listed Linux driver support, so Joe gave up. That's right: Not one wireless card currently sold at CompUSA and at Best Buy mentions that it is suitable for use with Linux.

    The good news is that there is one wireless card that does work with Linux. A friend gave Joe a Linksys Wireless-G Notebook adaptor V3.0 card that works perfectly in his Sony Vaio laptop with SuSE Linux 10.0.

    Digging deeper

    So Linux desktop computers cost more than Microsoft Windows PCs do, and it's hard to find devices and drivers for Linux. Is that such a big deal? Well, in this story of just two Linux PC buyers, such difficulties stopped one from using Linux and the other only succeeded by being very persistent. Multiply that by millions of PC users, and you have a big deal.

    Joe had to pay for Microsoft Windows when he had no desire to use it, because he would have paid more for a machine without it. Why should consumers suffer cost increases to use a free operating system? Why are governments around the world so silent on this matter? Isn't it time for the consumer to be better informed of the graft and corruption in the IT retail industry?

    There are layers upon layers of roadblocks being placed in the path of Linux. In the next installment, I name some of those participating in the blockade and how they're hurting consumers and businesses.

    The open source software (OSS) movement started as a result of dissatisfaction with the proprietary software world. It is a global initiative that is correcting a seriously broken system in which vendors are taking undue advantage of consumers and depriving the consumer of choice.

    Clearly, many players in the IT world have roles in blockading Linux. In part one of this column, I described the barriers placed before Linux adopters Joe and Dennis. Let's drill deeper and find the roots of this anti-Linux conspiracy.

    PCs for the rich only, thanks to IP laws

    The IT consumer market caters to a mere 10% of the global population. Unix and Linux are the only platforms that provide desktop support for many countries and languages that would otherwise not be able to use modern computing tools in the consumer's native language character set. Most consumer software available in the world today is suitable only for use in English-speaking parts of the world.

    So-called intellectual property (IP) protection keeps software in the English-only category. Proprietary licenses built on IP laws make it unprofitable to create software for minority language areas. In other words, there are some customers that the incumbent solution providers do not want.

    Non-proprietary, low-cost OSS could bridge the commercial chasm between profitable and unprofitable markets. To make this happen, however, the companies selling IT products to the masses worldwide need to support Linux and OSS. Also, the interoperability problems presented by proprietary devices, drivers and software need to be erased. Otherwise, every OSS user could face the problems that plagued Joe and Dennis.

    Who isn't onboard for widespread access to PCs & IT?

    Despite the illusionary problem of commercial viability for commercial software vendors, there is a deeper problem in the IT industry. It's apparent that the commercial IT retail market has no desire to provide real consumer choice. Let's look at the situation:

    • CompUSA, Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry's Electronics and other major consumer electronics retailers do not offer Linux pre-loaded PCs for sale. These stores do sell some PCs that will work with Linux, if consumers download Linux themselves; they only sell PCs bundled with Microsoft and Apple operating systems.

      Stores could sell a lower cost desktop, or laptop, computer at a lower price and with higher margins, thus making it possible to attract a larger consumer base into the active market. Why are these retailers not interested in doing this?

      A desktop computer can be purchased for as little as $400. A laptop computer can be purchased at a price point below $550. Linux is free. Microsoft Windows, coupled with its bundled software, must cost at least $40 per machine. So, if Linux were to be pre-loaded, the retailer could offer the device at the same price and make an additional 5% to 10% gross margin.

      Obviously, there are forces at work in the IT industry that cause retailers to choose not to participate in being more profitable. These stores don't offer the consumer the choice of a desktop platform other than Microsoft Windows and Apple. Why?

    • The aforementioned stores don't carry peripheral hardware suitable for use with Linux. This forces the consumer who wishes to use Linux to shop elsewhere. Clearly, these stores have made a decision that they are not interested in having Linux users as customers. Why?
    • A few smart vendors offer limited support for Linux. Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM offer a very minor selection of laptop PCs, desktop systems and servers that are compatible with Linux.

      If companies really seek to attract the largest number of potential consumers, why are their practices so restrictive? What commercial arrangements have been made behind closed doors so as to keep Linux out of the public eye?

    • Server, PC and peripheral hardware vendors today introduce products that lack any form of Linux support, thereby delaying the availability of Linux drivers for these products. Linux developers have to rush to build drivers after major vendors' products are first shipped. This is a major deterrent to Linux adoption by users, as demonstrated by Dennis having to revert to using Microsoft Windows.

      How is it possible then for the consumer even to try Linux without significant added costs, and with radically limited choice of supported hardware?

    • A store manager of one of the major consumer electronics retailers told me that his store had received complaints from customers because it had sold a network card for which the Microsoft Windows driver had not been certified by Microsoft. When he contacted the peripheral hardware vendor/manufacturer in question, he was told that Microsoft certification for the driver would require a royalty payment to Microsoft. The royalty would add as much as to $10 to the cost of each unit sold.

      There are no certification or license fees for Linux drivers. Assuming that Microsoft does charge a royalty or any type of certification fee, why do vendors choose to pay for the privilege of providing a driver for Windows, when there are no such costs for a Linux driver?

    Linspire, take a bow

    Michael Robertson, CEO of Linspire, deserves public credit for his initiative over the past few years to make Linux pre-loaded laptops and desktop PCs available in the retail channel. Wal-Mart was among the first to sell Linspire-equipped systems to consumers. It would be unjust of me to criticize the IT retailers and OEMs, without giving credit where it is due.

    However, I am astounded that consumers know little about Linux, largely because they don't see Linux when they go shopping. It's not like Linux was born yesterday. Linux has a stable track record over 14 years, already accounts for up to 35% of the installed server operating system market and is ready for the desktop with many free desktop applications that outperform the Microsoft Windows platform equivalents. Linux makes it financially feasible for more people in the world to use modern computing tools.

    The fact that Linspire's Robertson has had to fight, and fight hard, to convince a few retailers to carry Linux pre-loaded PCs is clear evidence of the stranglehold Microsoft has on that channel. Major retailers are not interested in giving customers a less expensive, more reliable PC platform. They more interested in not damaging the relationship with Microsoft. This layer of the anti-Linux movement has wide repercussions, as I'll discuss in the concluding installment of this column.

    The open source software (OSS) initiative has already created a highly productive, globally supported alternative software platform. The choice of free applications for Linux is growing daily. Smart application software vendors are already reaping a financial reward from the sale of their applications. Companies that have not yet embraced OSS, by porting their application to Linux, are likely to go the way of the dinosaur.

    Software vendors are getting onboard. Hardware vendors are playing on the sidelines, and electronics retailers are out in the peanut gallery, still hogtied to Microsoft. Considering this situation, I think it is time for Open Hardware Manufacturing (OHM) and for the creation of a new global IT solutions retail infrastructure. Yet, I fear that U.S. players are still making enough money from their Microsoft connections that they feel comfortable with the status quo.

    It's a good possibility, however, that a new-styled OHM will emerge out of China, where labor costs are low, and the desire to forge ahead is stronger than it is today in America. I've heard rumblings that Chinese manufacturers might establish new retail operations throughout North America, Europe and Asia, resulting in even more of the U.S. domestic technology market being sacrificed to the scrap-heap of history. Consider this: China has already stolen the march on the U.S. textile industry.

    Will China use Linux to kick some U.S. butt?

    The question we must answer is this, "Will China be the hub of future IT innovation and consumerism?" If the answer is yes, Linux is the tool that is waiting for the right Chinese entrepreneur who has a vision for creating the future.

    I do see some inkling that U.S. players will play the Linux/OSS card and do it well. I'll wager a bet that Novell understands the dynamics of the market. Novell purchased SuSE, a major Linux development house. Recently, Novell released OpenSuSE, which means that the professional Linux desktop is now free. Novell sells a fully supported version, but the core product is freely available from This is a smart and timely move.

    If I understand Novell's strategy correctly and my anticipation of the market is correct, Novell is positioned for a meteoric rise. That success could come through local OHM regenerative growth. Or, Novell could even take advantage of the entry of Asian competitors, whose OSS/OHM- oriented consumer retail channel would make the advantages of OSS and Linux desktops famous.

    Widespread adoption of Linux desktops and OSS is going to happen. It's going to happen with or without the help of U.S. IT vendors and electronics retailers. Surely, there must be someone in North America with the entrepreneurship, the vision and the determination to take advantage of this opportunity before it is too late. I cannot believe that the current consumer IT retail industry is willing to fall on its sword without reconnecting with a profitable and loyal customer base. I wonder who will step forward.

    Users, IT pros: Speak out now

    Consumers and IT professionals, this is your call to action. If you want freedom of choice, please write to the managers of your local electronics stores, advising them that you want the choice of Linux on your next desktop or laptop computer purchase. Tell the store manager that if they refuse to be more consumer choice oriented, you will no longer purchase from them. Retail stores value consumer feedback. The few store managers I polled told me that no consumer had ever requested a Linux system, and until at least a dozen do, it does not make sense to offer such systems.

    Why should IT pros join this battle? Your users buy their PCs from retailers. If they're only familiar with Microsoft products, then you'll encounter great resistance to any effort bring the lower costs and greater reliability of Linux desktops to your company. Many of you have already fought and lost that battle … for the time being.

    You and I are consumers. We have the right and the responsibility to make our wishes known. If enough consumers speak up, retailers will jump to attention faster than you can imagine.

    Windows problems with viruses, worms and malware exist because consumers failed to tell Microsoft that they had had enough. Instead of making our dissatisfaction known to the company that could do most to solve the problem, we delighted in complaining to each other. Make your wishes known to your IT retailers now. Remember that your actions, when properly directed, can change the world.

    About the author: John H. Terpstra is chief technology officer of PrimaStasys Inc., an IT consulting firm, and a member of's Editorial Advisory Board. He is author of Samba-3 by Example: Practical Exercises to Successful Deployment, 2nd Edition and The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide, 2nd Edition.