Linked by Eugenia Loli on Sun 13th Nov 2005 19:03 UTC, submitted by LinuxFanBoy
Windows A story of how Microsoft went from 5% of the enterprise market to 90% in three years during 1996-1999. This story shows how they did it and reveals a little known fact that GNU/Linux has had the technology to challenge Microsoft for six years.
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a few things to add
by pjjmartin on Mon 14th Nov 2005 15:05 UTC
pjjmartin
Member since:
2005-07-08

The article was pretty dead on in describing 1996-7 as a crucial time in Microsoft expanding its footprint in the enterprise. A few things are worth remembering, too:

At one time, WordPerfect was the clear leader in Word Processing. Probably because of problems with its early windows versions, MS Word became more attractive. I don't think WP really understood the Windows paradigm; i.e. they used their own printer drivers instead of using the system's.

The clear market leader in corporate email in the mid-90s was cc:Mail. Groupwise wasn't really on the horizon (Novell was still charging for the IP protocol then). Lotus Notes was a fine product that was a bit immature and with very little following. I suspect Lotus didn't want to compete against itself, so it never really pushed Notes as a mail system as opposed to a database.

cc:Mail was godawful by 1996-7. There was no way to control storage effectively. It's internet connectivity was lousy. The remote client, while it worked, used direct dialing to the cc:mail system not PPP, so as the internet and the web became a larger part of how people used the internet, you couldn't use both at the same time. Lotus wasn't adding new features or addressing problems. Their market share plummeted by at least 50% in two years. That's not just being overwhelmed by competition, it's imploding.

Novell Netware was going through a difficult time from 1994-97. The transition from the 3.x, bindery system of management to the 4.x NDS system went very badly. It was hard to understand even for people well versed in 3.x netware. (I taught a cne course around this time, and I saw the confusion of experienced sys admins first hand.) There were some problems with 4.0 that were considerable set backs. The DSMERGE utility for merging different Trees was buggy and was withdrawn in subsequent versions. Without it, it was impossible to consildate different Organizations' NDS databases.
Banyan VINEs had had a similar system to NDS, but its network drivers were very buggy.

Novell's licensing was very simple; you bought X number of clients and when the server had X number of connections, you couldn't make anymore.

Windows NT, by 3.51, was not a great file and print server compared to Novell, but it had some distinct advantages. For licensing, it was basically an honor system. You could type in the number of maximum connections, or put "unlimited" and say you were managing connections by other means. I think MS has always left a lot of room for playing around and dishonesty because it ultimately wants you to buy its product, and MS doesn't care too much if you've paid for every single license. Windows NT server was the same as NT workstation with the abililty to have more incoming connections. If you knew Windows 3.11 for workgroups, you had many of the fundamental skills to run NT server. This allowed smaller organizations and people outside IT to look at it for themselves, play with it and see how easy it was to get it to share files. They could do this with NT workstation, and then buy the server, so it wasn't that expensive. In 1996, it was a good chance that they already had NT workstation. What happened in the firm I worked for then was that one department was fed up with IT, and started buying its own servers and set up its own infrastructure within the corporate network. It probably didn't perform as well as Novell, but the ability to bypass corporate IT with a working product was invaluable, and as Novell faltered, MS just gained more momentum.

A fine article. Although I don't know quite what any of this has to do with Linux. Linux wasn't a good option in '96 or '97 for workstation or server. And if the analogy is being drawn to today, Linux is going to have to take advantage of some MS failing as much as it plays to its stregths.

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