I love comics, especially the Marvel Universe. It has so many heroes and alternate timelines that basically any scenario you thought would have never happened, well... happened. The X-Men even met with Captain Picard for crying out loud! Imagination never ceases to amaze me. So, how about we put our heads together and think about the world without... Microsoft?
Microsoft has undoubtedly shaped the world as we know it in ways only great men or companies could ever succeed. Anyway, how about we review what the company is to us today and do a bit of backtracking? History is very important, after all
Well, this is the year 2009 and Microsoft is number two in the console market, its Xbox 360 being beaten only by the less superior but highly affordable Nintendo Wii. In other news, we have Microsoft Office, the office solution that is currently used by... well, the vast majority of the Earth's population. Oh, and let us not forget the fact that it recently presented the most impressive operating system it has created so far, namely Windows 7.
In the PMP market (that's “portable media player” for those who hate abbreviations), it also has a top place with its Zune PMP, though other more specialized companies still hold the crown. Some tend to wonder for how long however, seeing how Microsoft has a few emerging technologies that seek to give them a real fighting chance.
And since we're talking “emerging technologies,” Microsoft is definitely the company that can pride itself on pretty interesting projects. Projects such as Zune HD, meant to take the PMP crown away from Apple's iPod, or the new Project Natal that turns you into a game controller are revolutionary technologies that plan to propel the world a few steps further on the road to electronic evolution. Speaking of electronic evolution, the software giant also introduced an interesting concept earlier this year: The Home of the Future, a house where everything is interactive. A sort of Knight Rider 2000, house version. And some of the technology used there is nearing mainstream use today, by the way; technology such as Microsoft Surface or OLED screens. Sure, it does have its fair share of skeletons in its closet such as being accused of anti-competitive practices, freedom and privacy violations, copyright infringement or bad labor practices but so do all other giant companies out there.
But let us go back a few years. The year is 1975, William Henry Gates III (Bill Gates, as he likes to be called) calls MITS, the creators of the new microcomputer but they never answer. His implementation of the BASIC programming language is never presented, Altair BASIC never existed, Microsoft is not founded and Gates continues his Harvard studies.
I was planning on writing an interesting story about what goes on next but frankly, Microsoft had such a huge impact on the world of computers that I really cannot imagine how life would have looked like without it. I will tell you this, though: it would have been a lot different than it is today. Sure, there are some companies such as Apple that could have taken its place (thank God it didn't, I would hate living in a world full of Apple fanboys and fangirls) but we have to take into account that Microsoft managed to stop the advancement of some pretty interesting ideas.
DOS in its initial state wasn't Microsoft's, which means it might have seen a different type of development than the Redmond-based company envisioned. The Lotus office suite could also have created some wonderful software ideas had Microsoft Office not crushed it to the point of extinction.
Here are some other things that we wouldn't have been made if Microsoft hadn't existed (and although other incarnations could have been possible, you have to admit they wouldn't be what they are to us now). Computer games such as StarCraft, Command and Conquer, Half-Life, Quake, Doom, World of Warcraft, the FIFA and NFS series and so on. We wouldn't have the Apple and Microsoft commercials and Steve Jobs would never have reached the “all powerful” status (most Apple fans lovingly call Jobs God). And most importantly, the Internet would definitely look a lot different than it does now.
In conclusion, writing about a world without Microsoft is like writing about a world where Nikola Tesla's alternative energy is considered the best solution: you can do it but it would be so far fetched it would be called Science Fiction rather than The Gadget Tales. Isn't it funny how just one person can change history? All it takes is for that person to be in the right place at the right time. Miss that split second event and the world is changed forever. I guess Forest Gump was right, “Life Is like a Box of Chocolates... You Never Know What You're Gonna Get!”