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As in the early 80s, when Microsoft were instrumental in the first truly personal computer - the mass-market computer, Microsoft truly brought computing to the masses. For the first time, the elderly, the young, and the technically illiterate were empowered to use computers. Although computers still betrayed some of their arcane origins of a time when computing was the real of those with genius IQs and degrees in mathematics, the computer was now almost as much a part of the home as the television and the microwave. This was achieved by always providing what the market needed. The Microsoft formula was to pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap. This formula was applied again and again over the years, slashing the price of software until everyone could afford it. Microsoft's success came through out-maneuvering the competition. Revolutionary was the approach that said that a spreadsheet, which at one would have cost over a thousand dollars, could be sold for a fraction of the price. This approach drove the computing revolution of the 80s and the net revolution of the 90s. Microsoft's aggressive approach made computing far more affordable, leading to today's society, where we truly can afford to have a computer on every desk. While competitors floundered - as IBM pursued their lumbering corporate path, as Apple chose to marginalize themselves by charging a premium for their product, and as the Unix vendors were tied to standardization committees and relics from the 60s - Microsoft recognized the potential of computing for the masses. By the launch of Windows 95 (at which time Linux was little more accessible to the masses than the punch-card computers of the 1950s), Microsoft's approach of providing the product the market wanted right now had made Bill Gates richer than Croesus, and the youngest billionare in history. Since that time Microsoft have continued to pursue their agenda of expedient computing, empowering thousands of small businesses, often without the funds to employ dedicated IT admin staff, to manage their own computer networks and to sell themselves on the web, via Microsoft's standardized point and click administration interface. Similarly, Microsoft's masterful integration of the internet within Windows means that for most people the internet MEANS Internet Explorer. This typifies the Microsoft approach - to first bring down the cost for the consumer (in this case to zero - it is now bizarre to think that web browsers could cost money), and to subsequently consolidate their position by making their product vastly superior to the competition. This brilliant formula has never failed - the consumer sees that he is benefiting and is happy to acquiesce. Over the past two decades, Microsoft have driven the computing revolution, generating billions of dollars in revenue, not just for themselves, but for the companies, small and large, who were able to compete thanks to the low barrier to entry erected by Microsoft. Fast forwarding to the present day and the imminent launch of Microsoft's new product, Windows XP, described as an end to frustration for the millions of computer users, who, unlike most of the readers of this article, have neither the time nor the inclination to discover the highly logical (but also deeply complicated) way that computing systems such as Windows or (especially) the *nix family of operating systems, work. Millions of dollars of research, of observation, funded by Microsoft's amazing success and commitment to research and development (currently four billion dollars a year), have gone to create an operating system that is the most intuitive yet, especially for people new to computing. For instance, Microsoft's testing uncovered the fact that 80% of users never discovered the functionality of the right mouse button, which has, since Windows 95, offered a variety of useful shortcuts to expedite common tasks. As such, the new operating system provides a new menu system replicating this...
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