Thursday, May 27, 2004

So Here's an Actual Blog-Like Entry... 

...since you're all complaining that I put actual content on my blog.

Macneil posted a comment wondering about the quality of "included software." Amusingly enough, that same day, Raymond Chen posted an article about almost the same topic.

One thing I've noticed in Windows XP, but almost didn't notice at all, is that I don't need WinZip anymore: Windows can handle .zips just like directories now, and can even compress for you too. Perhaps WinZip, as a shareware company (don't know the company's real name; just as people refer to a non-existant company named "Mac"), just didn't have the sway to keep Microsoft from including it.

Anyway, one would think that by now the OSes would keep trying to one up each other over what comes included. But I guess maybe it's just another sign that there's no competition. (Damn you Apple, switch to Intel and maybe then you'll see some users.)

Apparently Windows XP comes with some voice recognition, but I never got a working microphone to test it out. I wonder if Apple gave up on "Casper".
Actually, the company's name is WinZip Computing. But yeah, they don't have the sway. This is why I find the software industry so bleak from a programmer's perspective. If you manage to gain any traction and start making money, someone upstream, with better distribution (ie, the OS vendor), will start to compete with you. Microsoft isn't even the worst at this, that prize definitely goes to Apple.

So as an independent software developer, you really have to either stick to a market that is too small for Microsoft to care about, or be able to compete once your market takes off. It's not impossible to survive, but it is damn hard. WinZip was particularly vulnerable, since it was providing software that did a really simple task, when you get down to it.

This is probably why games are such a hot market right now. You can be an independent developer and actually make tons of money without fear of being driven out by the OS vendor. The value in games isn't their functionality, and so they can't just be copied and distributed by default with an OS. The most Microsoft can do is compete along with them.

But also, I think OS vendors don't want to include every single application someone could possibly want to use. Everyone wants to use their computer in a different way, and if you include everything, then almost everyone gets stuck with a ton of software they don't use. That raises their costs and doesn't particularly help them. People will go out and seek the software they want, and be willing to pay for it. Providing very high quality functionality in the small applications by default is basically doing the same thing as throwing in the kitchen sink.

Oh yeah, and Apple used to include the iLife applications for free with their OS. Didn't seem to help, so now they charge for it separately. (Still didn't seem to help, but at least now they're making money from the users who actually want them).
Oh yes, that reminds me of how Apple totally killed HyperCard. It used to be out of the box your Mac would include a special version of HyperCard that you could go to the right page and type in "magic" to turn it into the full programming environment. For a time, it looked like many new apps would be developed in HyperCard, calling to C library 'CMDS' resources when necessary.

Soon, Apple gave only the run-time for HyperCard and then failed to upgrade it in time to do obvious things like color and multimedia. Had Apple played their cards right (and also made it for Windows) HyperCard would have completely replaced Java and Flash combined.

One wonders why Microsoft doesn't try to make VB .NET more popular by making a development environment come as default on Windows (or free for download). But I guess Solaris and other unix's are really the only systems that come by default with compilers and interpretters and (in some sense) IDEs.
Myst, at one point the highest-selling game of all time, was written in Hypercard. That's the only app I'm aware of, though (I'm not saying there weren't others, that's just the only one I know about).

Actually, Microsoft releases the .NET SDK for free download, as Sun does with Java. That includes compilers for managed C++, C#, and VB.NET. Microsoft has also released the command line version of their optimizing C++ compiler for download. (And, I think making it a free download is a perfectly fine alternative to shipping it with the OS).
the bitch is, apple at one time *DID* make the mac os to run on the pentium architecture.

if i recall right, it took 3 weeks and 15 employees to port the *entire* mac os 7.1 to run fully native (including the ROM-toolbox!) on the intel pentium chipset back in the early nineties. the project was shitcanned by the ceo at the time (spindler i think) even after r&d showed him the working example and explained to him they could have gained a huge market segment by having a cross platform os.

hooray for poor business management!
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