Re: what a lot of people..
"The ubiquity of Windows' low-quality, backward interface lowered people's expectations of technology almost to the point of absurdity..."
Although I somehow doubt Linux in it's state in the 90's (or now to a lesser degree) alone would have created the consumer PC market as it stands. In which I mean the size, benefit to the global economy and the millions of jobs it's created.
Is it the very best OS for xxx? Probably not.
Is it the easiest consumer platform - both in terms of it's distribution and easy of use? You bet your ass it is.
The cost of a 5 man shop using Linux or OS X on the desktop would be significantly higher if it wasn't for Microsoft. Setting up a homegroup, or even muddling along with Small Business Server is viable through point and click. This cannot be said for Linux, and the cost for Apple kit would be higher.
Windows is not the best tool for the job in every situation. In the same way that a Ford Focus isn't the best car for transportation. But it's ease of use, versatility and price has made widespread computing possible and accessible for millions worldwide. Other OS's will be better suited to running a firewall, a high-load public web server, or a dozen other tasks - but for grandma to browse facebook and check her email, or for a small business to have the ability to have what was once enterprise features for a couple of hundred quid is something that the industry as a whole can be proud of.
Accessibility is something I take pride in, and think the community as a whole should take credit for. Windows has helped to remove the technical, expert, geeky shroud from computing, particularly in the consumer and small business markets. This has led to more people getting into it by having access to the training wheels it provides, and more devices means more jobs, more eyeballs on the web, and more people to communicate with via computers. How is that not a good thing? As much as I pine for the web as it was in the late 80's, being used by geeks, for geeky things - the Internet now would not be anything like it is today if so many people were unconnected from it. The web would have less use if there is nobody to Skype with, send emails too or share bullshit on facebook with. The more people that use it, the more resources are ploughed into it, making it a vibrant, exciting ecosystem.
Without Microsoft what would consumers be running instead? And with that answer, how easy would it be for my 60 year old mother to install a print driver, or a small business to setup an LDAP with group policy-esq effects? With Windows, this is possible without being an expert, and without dropping to CLI's - it's EASY to perform these tasks.
Competition is a wonderful thing, and I run a heterogeneous environment as a hammer isn't the best tool for tightening a screw - but for generic business workloads and consumer use Windows, for me and millions around the world, is the best fit.
Windows isn't all that. But neither is the Ford Focus.
But it's good enough for the masses, and the fact the masses can now tap into this incredible communication and content-creation world that we - as IT professionals have created - has to be a good thing.
For that Microsoft, I thank you.