Time for specialisation?

If you cast your mind back a few years you’d remember whole batches of small IT start-ups developing and marketing bunches of IT-based tools and diagnostics utilities. Looking back now some of these seem a little silly – a utility to compress data or defrag your system, another to help undelete files, others to search for files across your hard drives. Now, of course, pretty much all of these have been swallowed up into Windows. The lucky companies got bought out. Others just went under.

The PC market is certainly big enough to support many, many companies of different shapes and sizes. It’s sad to think, then, that so many of these pioneers have fallen by the wayside (although replaced, naturally, by newer outfits). If Microsoft hadn’t liked their products so much and hadn’t either made them an offer they couldn’t refuse, or integrated their ideas into the continuing evolvement of Windows, then quite possibly many more would still be around today. It would make for a healthier environment, I’m sure.

Now we hear that Apple may be under pressure (again) from the Seattle giant. Picture it. A couple of decades or so ago you develop a home computer, and the operating system, only for someone else to come in and steal your thunder (I won’t go into any of the legal issues or court cases here). So, after a period of great uncertainty you decide to move into a new area – portable music devices – and make a huge success of that. Then what happens? Another giant – the same one as before, as a matter of fact – comes in and announces that they will also be entering the market.

Dubbed the “iPod killer” by some, Microsoft’s ‘Zune‘ portable media player will certainly be one to watch. But why does a company with the biggest pile of money ever assembled need to go and enter another market like this? Isn’t the PC market enough to be getting on with?

Competition may be healthy, sure. Survival of the fittest, sure. But let’s be careful how we go forward. I, for one, would rather see companies specialise and stick to what they do best. And leave the others to do the same.