EDITORIAL On another earth, almost like ours

EDITORIAL On another earth, almost like ours

I turned the radio news on last Tuesday morning and heard two lead items. The first was the refusal of President Soeharto to stand down, despite an almost universal demand in Indonesia that he do so. The second item was the long-expected US Department Of Justice (DoJ) action against Microsoft over Windows 98.

How ludicrous that something as transient as a software package should be almost as important as the fate of one of the world's largest countries. In a hundred years students will study the politico- history of our region, but will they also study the comings and goings of Microsoft and the PC boom of the late 20th century? You know, they probably will!

This industry is less than 20 years old, yet it's been moving so fast it's hard to anticipate a point where it will slow down enough for things to consolidate. What sells and what doesn't; what catches the public attention; what survives long enough to become a standard - these are all important, at least inside the industry.

Apple's latest PC has taken a couple of steps towards the rest of the industry, such as adopting USB instead of ADB (yet strangely dropping SCSI). Only time will tell if this is a good move for Apple. Look back over the history of the Macintosh and you'll see a lot of slow moves towards the Intel side of the fence. It makes me wonder where Apple would be today if it had leveraged its name for high-quality, innovative products, and produced an industry standard PC.

Other things that didn't happen which would have made a big difference to the computer industry are:

If the first IBM PC had shipped with a version of CP/M from Digital Research instead of QDOSIf Zilog or another microprocessor manufacturer had taken a lead over IntelIf DR's GEM had been a little bit better and had obviated the need for Microsoft WindowsIf Microsoft Windows had died during the first few, inadequate versionsIf WordPerfect or some other word processor had taken a commanding lead over Microsoft in the "Office" arenaIf the whole WIMP interface had failed to gain acceptanceIf prices and performance of key components such as hard disks had failed to keep track with the exponential growth in system requirements of each new PC applicationIf some of the strong software and hardware companies like Ashton-Tate and Commodore hadn't made bad decisions that caused their demise.

Now somewhere in a parallel universe . . .

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