Not sure which forum this fits best in, so I'll put it here for now.
Lately I have been wondering why we have the computing technology that we do. The way I understand it, Intel was the only player in the game back in the 1980s and pushed forward with the x86 CISC processor design. Is that to say there werent other acceptable processor architectures available?
It seems too much like the VHS vs. Betamax war to me. VHS eventually won due to it's low cost. And since consumers (for the most part) had only VHS players, tape companies soon had no reason to produce betamax tapes. Likewise, Betamax decks soon fell off the production lines because there were no tapes.
So I wonder, is the x86 architecture perpetuated by Intel and Microsoft? Microsoft produces Windows to run on x86 machines, and Intel produces processors in x86 because Windows is written for it.
Perhaps there were (or still are) processor designs that could compute large amounts of data but with fewer clock cycles (perhaps great for video editors). On the contrary perhaps there are processors that can compute small amounts of data with very high clock cycles (maybe good for surfing web, word processing, office productivity).
I guess, once we accept other technologies, it is a matter of implementing an industry wide changeover which is... another topic alltogether.
This is just me coloring outside the lines again, so to speak.
You're right to chose the "BetaMax vs VHS" analogy concerning the state of affairs regarding what technology gets developed, marketed and accepted by consumers. SONY's Betamax was technically superior to the JVC Video Home Standard (VHS) and had better resolution and picture quality. But VHS had longer tape running times and was less expensive.
But the real issue on what led to the demise of Betamax was due mostly in part to SONY's licensing restrictions & costs to 3rd party manufacturers. JVC was more flexible in it's 3rd party OEM requirements. And so VHS decks were being mass produced by a margin of 3 to 1 initially (by some early accounts). Kind of sounds like the Apple vs PC wars of the early days ("Ours is [i]better[/i], but who cares PC's are cheaper and there's more software available...even if it is [i]buggier[/i].")
Just as the Gates crowd realized the real money was in licensing the O/S and not in [i]hardware[/i], so too did the folks at JVC realize the real money was in selling [i]VHS Videotape[/i] and not VHS decks. Reason? Quite simple: Everyone now knows it's a lot cheaper to produce software than hardware and the manufacturer and sales of VHS tape was easier, cheaper and less expensive to market than VCR's. Flood the market with lots and lots of VHS VCR's and you'll have to sell a lot of tape to feed the hunger. And JVC's profit plan for licensing VHS to 3rd party tape manufacturers was very far sighted in that after the VHS standard was ubiquitous, Japanese Victor Corp would get X cents per every VHS blank cassette sold in the world. That's a lot of pennies!!
Fastforward to todays PC market: There are other stories where good (some even say better) technology was developed but never realized it's full potential due to the poor business management or downright technical ignorance of the companies whose CEO's, VP's, etc...had no clue what they really had nor even knew how to market it successfully. Anyone remember the Commodore AMIGA? The multitasking capabilities of the Amiga was the one thing that started the DTV revolution, thanks in no small part to the visionairies from Wichita, KS who brought us the VIDEO TOASTER card, which made the Amiga a TV Studio on your desktop.
The Toaster along with it's Lightwave 2D & 3D graphics, built in fonts, SFX switcher, etc.; made every spare bedroom into a production studio.
Alas, the Amiga fell into a state of bad business decisions, resulting in being sold to a European company that really didn't appreciate what it had and so it fell off the radar screen. A sad end to what many reflect was a system that could've evolved into something even better than imaginable. Thankfully the NewTek Toaster team saw the road ahead and began porting their products over to the PC side of things.
There are many variables that drive one technology over another. One could look at recent histories with companies that became too entrenched in their own product lines. This is true with PC component makers, auto manufacturers, telecommunications and media companies. Money, convenience and market conditioning drive the decisions. Sometimes true innovation rises above the fray, but more often than not; it's a slow, slow process.