There was an article in the Wall Street Journal about the value that Microsoft provides to the computer industry for the prices it charges. One piece of evidence: based on the current cost of PCs, the article argues, 10% of the cost of each PC goes to Microsoft for its Windows operating system. From the article:
Because these prices are never disclosed, the figures here represent best guesses. But you can start to see the contours of the computer industry in that bill of fare. Specifically, you begin to understand how Microsoft could amass its $61 billion in cash and other assets. It’s easy when you collect nearly 10% of the cost of every PC that’s shipped, while having no manufacturing costs of your own.
Note that the other parts of the computer package (the chip, the hard drive, the case, etc) have significant manufacturing and material costs. The software is basically air; they could easily be made freely available on the net (just like Linux). But MS gets 10% of the cost of nearly every computer sold.
So even the mainstream media is catching on to this idea, that proprietary software in general, and Microsoft Windows in particular, makes less and less sense, especially as Free software alternatives become better and more capable. This idea isn’t new in the Free software world, but I’m glad to see our memes beginning to have a wider circulation.