The Franchise of the Windows API

By Deane Barker on April 23, 2004

Microsoft’s Most Exclusive Franchise: Included in the European Union’s report on Microsoft was a memo to Bill Gates from a Microsoft executive. In it, he talks about how hard it is to move away from the Microsoft Windows API once you’ve started using it to build your software:

It is this switching cost that has given customers the patience to stick with Windows through all our mistakes, our buggy drivers, our high TCO, our lack of a sexy vision at times, and many other difficulties. […] Customers constantly evaluate other desktop platforms, [but] it would be so much work to move over that they hope we just improve Windows rather than force them to move.

In short, without this exclusive franchise called the Windows API, we would have been dead a long time ago.

This harkens back to what Tim Bray said about software sharecropping last year:

Are You a Sharecropper? If you’re developing software for the Windows platform, yes. Or for the Apple platform, or the Oracle platform, or the SAP platform, or, well, any platform that is owned and operated by a company. They own the ground you’re building on, and if they decide they don’t like you, or they can do something better with the ground, you’re toast.

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