The Beginning of the End

This entry was posted by on Wednesday, 20 June, 2007 at

Back in the 80’s, when I was in high school, I remember being introduced to PC clones. The whole PC third-party market was relatively new; IBM was the big dog, releasing new PCs (XT, AT, etc.) while a bunch of manufacturers sort of trailed behind and produced bits of cloned hardware you could use to build your own machine. I was particularly interested in tracking the progress of graphics standards. First IBM released “CGA graphics”, which was about 320×200 resolution. The manufacturers cloned it and started selling CGA cards. Then IBM later released “EGA graphics”, which was higher resolution and more colors. Again, the DIY market cloned that too… as well as the final “VGA” cards that IBM produced.

But then, something weird happened. This was the beginning of that famous shift where IBM started to fall, and lost its leadership position. I remember hobbyists starting to get impatient with the VGA standard, wanting higher resolution than 640×480. So the clone market started inventing ‘super VGA’ cards running at 1024×768 resolution… all incompatible chipsets and standards, of course… but at least there was interesting competition. Meanwhile, a year later, IBM released “XGA” as their own 1024×768 standard. And everyone ignored it. Why? It was technically inferior to the other SVGA standards (it used interlaced scanning, if I recall correctly.) I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, this is a big deal. It’s the beginning of the end for IBM.” And I was right! Many years and downsizings later, IBM managed to scrape through, but nobody thinks of them as a leading hardware manufacturer to imitate anymore. They’re lean, mean, and mostly about consulting these days. A different company.

Well, I just had that same moment again, reading this slashdot article. Microsoft releases Vista, and nothing happens. People aren’t upgrading. Nobody cares. Nobody wants it. Users are sick of the game. Microsoft is now begging users to upgrade.

Read my… er, blog: this is the beginning of the end for Microsoft.

5 Responses to “The Beginning of the End”

  1. eric h

    I’d credit you with more originality if this hadn’t appeared a while ago…

  2. nix

    I wish it was true; however there is one thing that will prevent MS from going down:

    1) All new PC’s have Vista pre-installed.

    People will buy new PC’s no matter what.

  3. eric h: what are you talking about? Paul didn’t bring up Vista at all. Paul identified a number of technologies that are competing against Microsoft’s dominance. That is one thing. Ben’s article is about people *ignoring* Microsoft technology. Very different in my mind.

    Ben: also don’t forget about IBM’s Micro-Channel Architecture. What a dud that was. (

  4. Nice post, Ben! Yeah, it’s funny, now that you put the analogy right out there it seems hard to deny. People have grumbled about past Windows upgrades, but this is the first time (IIRC) that they’ve simply decided not to bother, that there’s nothing compelling enough in the new release to make it worth the trouble. If I were Microsoft, I’d think hard about what that means :-).

  5. It is hard to know what the “end” will be for Microsoft. They are still making obscene profits. It is certainly true that no one seems to interested in what they are doing any more. I think it is largely a credibility issue. Between the regular security patches and the constant changing of direction, they just are not that interesting any more.

    On that subject, check out this video parody I just saw: