So, it's noticeably after midnight, and I'm rolling on in home, and I'm reflecting on differences. I sure as hell can't drink like I used to - good god, when I was in the Navy, it took a six-pack downed in an hour or two just to let me know I had a buzz; and now four or five drinks is plenty for the night. On the other hand, there's a certain someone that can't drink 1/4 of what I can even now. But you know... that's fine. I don't really *want* her to be able to. I *like* that she gets tipsy really easily, but generally chooses not to get really tipsy. She gets all my jokes, she makes more jokes in the same vein, she laughs at most of the things I laugh at, and tolerates the stuff that's different - and so do I. I can tell her about my day, and even the most hardcore ubergeeky shit I throw at her, she understands enough to appreciate the point of what I'm trying to relate - and she's got her own hardcore ubergeeky shit that I just understand enough of to relate to, when it comes right down to it.
She's not perfect - thank god, because I sure as hell wouldn't deserve her if she was - but she, and what we have, is/are something I've never had before, that's for sure. For that matter, whatever the heck "it" is still seems to be up for grabs; definitions are hard to pin down. But whatever "it" is, I'm awfully glad I have it. And I hope I still have it for a long time to come.
I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about whether or not Microsoft is a monopoly, and if so, why. Yes, they are a monopoly - but not because they develop both applications and operating systems. They're REALLY a monopoly because they've gotten enough third-party developers in the habit of only developing their programs for Windows that the average user would have to change nearly every single application he uses in order to switch operating systems.
Nearly every Windows program you can think of that *isn't* written by Microsoft still isn't available for other operating systems - or if it is, it's only available for Macintosh, and probably doesn't really work the same way. Worse, the Mac is also a closed platform - so in this case, you have a developer that's spending double the development cost to cover those two platforms, but *only* those two platforms. But why should they have to? Answer: they shouldn't.
In this day and age, writing an ABI (Application Binary Interface) to run another operating system's programs under your own operating system is relatively trivial - they're used all the time in the Unix world for one Unix to run another Unix's compiled code. Some of them are so good that you can even run *device drivers* under them (I've personally used video drivers compiled for Linux under the Linux ABI for FreeBSD). But the one thing that's necessary for this to happen is for there to be some kind of published standard for the ABI writer to adhere to. In the Unix world, there is one - it's called POSIX, and all of the Unixes conform to it closely enough that their remaining differences can be pretty easily ironed out.
Microsoft, however, runs to no standard and doesn't like to publish standards. Microsoft instead *destroys* standards whenever possible, by deliberately making their own operating system and applications respond to them in unexpected ways - realizing that since they have such an overwhelming percentage of the mass market desktop mindshare, the inevitable perception is going to largely be that "nothing works right unless you make sure it's *all* Microsoft." Microsoft calls this policy "embrace and extend", which sounds friendly and progressive - but the problem is, they don't submit their "extensions" to standards committees or publish them; they just quietly make them work *in their own programs and nobody else's.*
These are two flip sides of the same coin, and together they're a textbook example of monopolistic abuse. Microsoft is more focused now on leveraging the work of third parties to keep their monopoly afloat and on subverting open standards that allow open competition than they are on actually improving their own product. The focus is no longer on offering the best product, it's on maintaining monopoly conditions *in spite* of problems with their product.
Don't believe me? Stop and think about it - what are the biggest differences between Windows 2000 and Windows XP? Digital Rights Management. Forced product registration. Hardware checks that disable the OS if too many components have changed since last boot. Service packs that disable the operating system if applied to one with a "bad" registration key.
Ask yourself - are these the kinds of changes a company makes to win consumers over by offering a better product, or are they the kinds of changes a company makes to lock down consumers they figure have no place to go?