I need to go back and do a true link aggregation with prior posts on the subject, but in the past month or two, I've seen too many "Mac" bloggers -- and there's a community that I enjoy that seems to include John Gruber, Marco Arment, and, recently, Ben Thompson -- say that Microsoft has been eating hardware manufacturers' lunches for years.

They're not wrong (warning: youtube vid with cursing), they've just gone waaaay too far down the Apple rabbit hole.  Sure, Apple won for several years, but what's the true cost of using Microsoft?  And what's the value?

How much has HP, Dell, and friends had to know about creating and updating operating systems for the last twenty-plus years?  How to burn an image to a hard drive.  That's right.  Essentially nothing.

How much has HP, Dell, and friends had to spend to create an operating system?  Yes, billions to license one (and, okay, very little to use the other when they've bothered), but essentially much closer to nothing to develop Windows.  There's a ton of obvious user maintenance, but R and D?  Relatively speaking, zero.

How big of a risk was it for Apple/NeXT to continue to develop their own OS?  That's an interesting question that deserves more investigation.  Let's not talk so much about OS 9.  That OS played itself out.  It essentially failed.  Apple took FreeBSD and started essentially over, building in NeXT/Cocoa and OS 9/Carbon layers on top.

How difficult is it to pull off creating an OS from scratch, or, more accurately, on top of a stable *NIX kernal?  Enter exhibit WebOS.  Ask Palm, Blackberry, Nokia, and HP how creating OSes contributes to the bottom line.

How can Microsoft be eating HP's lunch if HP can't cook on its on?

To quickly turn the metaphor, if you're not willing to take on the risk of creating an OS (or decided it's a dumb risk not worth taking), I guess you're stuck with cooks that are 70% pure.  There's a company that's able to create cooks that are 99.1% pure (as I catch up on my DVR'd Breaking Bad Marathon), and they're proving difficult to kill.

Actually, Breaking Bad metaphors work better for Microsoft.  They're like the cartel's chemist complaining about Jesse's, um, artistic approach to cooking meth (warning: more cursing from youtube).  What matters is that Jesse gets to 96% purity and the cartel's team is, hrm, doing much worse.  A few years ago, Ballmer was the chemist putting down the iPhone.  Microsoft knows how to synthesize phenylacetic acid, but they can't cook.

The point is that hardware manufacturers were unable to commoditize their complements -- nor was Microsoft able to make more than mobile equivalents to those manufacturers' beige boxes to put their OS on -- and Linux and OSS  have been unable to create a replacement-level OS alternative.  Unless you count Android.  For today, let's leave Google out of it.  Google's eating everyone's advertising lunch.

Microsoft has earned the money they're collecting on Windows.  It's not extortion when you're the only risk-reducing game in town.

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