WARNING WARNING: The below contains a long and unnessecary rant on the nature of the Desktop OS Monopoly currently held by Microsoft. It also jumps quickly over such themes as hardware lock-in and market segmentation, usually by the power of the tangent.
As 'bad' as the MS monopoly appears to be, it is also important to remember how the company came to be in such a position in the first place, and it wasn't all down to marketing and business tacticts (but ok, it was a big part of it ;o).
It was because they made 'computers' (you know, machines that calculate things and stand in the bottom basement of science departments at colleges) easy to use for common (e.g. stupid)people and they made them do things that common people wanted (write letters, play games, look at picures of naked ladies, tax returns). Other companies did the same as well, microsofts attempt was just easier to use and cheaper.
Warning: Tangent Jump.
When it comes to the consumer market I don't really want it split up into competing factions of non-compatible software platforms.. I use linux for the more advanced things where I need to customise things the way I want (or need, depending), and it works, but I don't want to have to keep a computer running a multitide of operating systems just so I can play the games that I want or run a particular program that a company has decided to only release on one platform. At least Apple has gone over to x86 so 'everyone' are at least on the same hardware. (Apple PowerPC'ers; apple doesn't love you anymore. Apple+Intel=True; don't feel to smug, you never know when they will dump you as well for someone else)
Yes, there are plenty of places where x86 doesn't belong, and yes, there is a need for other hardware platforms in certain situations (embedded, mobile, server, in the spare room where I've set up my old favorite the C64 to play around with, etc), but I like the fact that almost all software (yes, I am aware that there are still some programs that arn't on wintel, but they are few and far between) that I can buy today will run on windows.
Personaly I am glad that linux isn't a major force on the desktop. It's a great OS (kernel + usually gnu + whatever else you have decided to add to it) that you can customise to your hearts content and get to do whatever you want. It's solid as a server software and can be customised to suit a range of applications (and devices). why does this success have to be measured against the fact that it hasn't been adopted widely on the desktop?
The major player desktop wise apart from microsoft is apple with their osx (which runs on wintel now.. so if it gets 'too big' and starts to get too much software only available on that platform at least I won't have to run a setup of duplicate hardware just to run it) and unfortunately it is starting to move into the desktop market. if you are a (insert OS of choice here) zealot then you probably will think that this is a good thing. it is not.
Sure, there could be worse scenarios... amiga could still be around... it could still be on motorola processors, apple could still be running on powerpc... and they could all have divided the desktop market between them with 33% each. software would be more expensive to develop for 3 different systems/hardware and more software would be platform/hardware specific (as in only runs on system x, ignore system z & y).
Caveat: I have nothing against Amiga, it was a brilliant architecture at the time (somewhat outdated now), and I certainly wouldn't mind if it was still around... as long as 'around' wasn't in the desktop market ;o)
In short, (aka return from tangent mode), the fact that there is a monopoly on the desktop isn't a bad thing, the fact that apple is 'starting' to move into that market isn't bad, as long as the only effect that it will have is to get the 'monopolist' to get it's act together and create a better product to regain marketshare. Segmented market with lots of incompatability = bad.
Solution to any of this? Get apple to make an OS for their hardware (most of which is very good indeed) that is machine code compatible with windows. Likelyhood of this happening? Hell, snow, Jobs showing up in a white turtle neck, you get the idea. It's not going to happen, for the same reasons that IBM in it's time decided not to go for ASCII and decided to go down the EBCDIC route back in the day; because there isn't a vendor alive today that don't love the sweet sweet smell of VLI in the morning (Vendor Lock In).
If we ARE going to be locked into just 1 vendor, please make it a 90% marketshare one.
Alien, because I dream of a world where all code runs on all hardware without needing to be re-compiled, just like in independence day.