(This post arose from George Smith’s comment here.)
Microsoft and Apple have used two different strategies for marketshare: “lock” vs. “lure.”
Microsoft, which has never innovated anything ever, bought promising software and re-engineered it so it only worked with Microsoft products. IE and the infamous “optimized for Internet Explorer” websites were probably the most successful example of this strategy. Eventually, though, the law and the escalating complexity of the engineering caught up with them. The silly *.docx format was probably last gasp of this.
Microsoft is now reduced to trolling Android patents for revenue.
Apple hasn’t innovated anything of note, either, at least not since the Apple II. Tablets, web-enabled phones, and music players were around before iJunk, but Apple did it prettier. Despite the eulogies, Steve jobs was not a tech genius. He was a marketing genius.
Apple build an orchard full of flowering fruit trees, invited people in, then closed the gates to the orchard behind them. And the fruit trees are so pretty that most Apple fanbots don’t even realize that their garden has a wall.
In many ways, Android is similarly locked down, but Android devices typically cost half what equivalent iJunk costs and Google, for all that it’s not a paragon of web virtue, is not nearly so predatory as Apple. Google also wants an open web–open so that they can peek in the windows, true, but open nonetheless.
There are a number of reasons I’ve migrated almost completely to Linux (I do have one Windows computer, over there, in the corner, but right now it’s booted into Linux Mint, which is where it spends most of its time). Among them is that Linux, once you stop thinking in Windows, is simpler and easier to use, more configurable, and ultimately more logical than Windows.
A big one though, is cost: Not just the dollar cost for software ($0.00), but the cost translated into time and freedom.
When I set up a computer with Linux, it is mine to use as I see fit within the terms of the GPL. I am not prisoner to unreadable EULAs; no manufacturer can suddenly revoke my “license” and make legal software (which, in Windows world, I may have paid big bucks for) inaccessible to me.
I don’t kid myself that Linux will be the next big dog. Most computer users have never and will never install an OS. It’s not difficult, but they are petrified by the prospect. Most Linux installers, because their designers know that they may be used by persons who are unfamiliar with the process, are, indeed, designed to be easy to use, but how would persons new to Linux know?
Until a prospective user can see and test Linux as easily as he or she can see and test an Android phone or tablet (how many persons know that Android is Linux?), Linux for home use will continue to be the domain of software engineers, sysadmins, and knowledgeable hobbyists.