Microsoft did not only develop an OS, they developed some excellent office applications, some of which revolutionized . They delivered some so-called "Killer application" Programs that were specifically designed to fill a void.
A vast number of modern day GNU/Linux and Mac users were introduced to computing through some version of Windows. They used MS products before they converted to their present day OS of choice. Their basic computer skills were honed on a Windows box. If not for that prior introduction, would they now be effective computer users? and if so to what extent?
Linus Torvalds developed the Linux Kernel. It was not very useful by itself. Thanks to input from Open Source developers, The Free Software Foundation, and the GNU Project, Linux evolved into the backbone of the useful, robust system that we have today. But Linux was originally developed as a way to run a Unix-like system on the kind of commodity Intel hardware that was easily available to everyone, thanks in large part to Microsoft. Had their been no widely available, "open" PC standard, Linux would have had no foothold.
If they did not have Windows to compete with, would the Gnu project be as successful as it is? Isn't competition with Microsoft the primary driving force behind its success? Furthermore, even if the GNU Project was developed to the same level of efficiency as it currently stands, (without the existence of Microsoft) would any GNU/Linux vendor have the ability to produce the marketing power of Microsoft enabling them to bring computing to the masses?
A lot of the desktop versions of GNU/Linux we use today are Microsoft look-a-likes and function similarly to Windows. An inexperienced user may not even notice the difference between WindowsXP and distributions such as Lycoris, Linspire formerly Lindows and ELX (Everyone's Linux) These distros and several others, deliberately copy a Windows scheme. Providing similar desktop backgrounds and familiar icons to those in the Windows world. These upstart Linux distributions are therefore able to ride on Windows' coat-tails, and provide a computing experience that people are familiar with, thanks to the consolidation of the PC industry that Microsoft effected.
Like it or not The Mighty Giant known as Microsoft stood at the foot of the unknown road and blazed a trail. All of the Desktop OSes we have today owe a dept to the present monopolistic, proprietary King of the desktop. Given the fact that MS toppled Apple and squashed IBM's OS/2 before it even had a chance, no one could say with absolute certainty what desktop computing, the Internet, or the computing industry itself would look like today if not for Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Microsoft. Would it be a dry, barren, lifeless, wasteland, or would the fruits of the labor of GNU/Linux, Apple or even IBM have blossomed into a computing system we could never imagine. The world will never know.
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