The other day my brother became the proud owner of a brand new Mac-Book Pro. He very excitedly messaged me and we had a bit of a chat and I asked if he had installed Skype yet. This lead to an interesting discussion.
James believes that Skype support for platforms other than Windows is poor. He stated that Skype probably had loads more developers for Windows development and few for other operating systems including Mac and Linux. This was in reference to the Video feature of Skype not being supported in Mac and certainly not in Linux. Linux have only just had an update (version 1.3 beta) released, the last iteration came out at the end of last year. While us folks with Windows systems have been enjoying Skype with video support for a while now and we have had a number of updates as well as version 2.5 coming out recently. So I can see his point somewhat.
James also went onto make a number of other points in regards to this issue. Such as the Linux community asking for ALSA support in the Linux version, which I might add has been addressed in the latest beta version of Skype. It was also suggested that developers failed to recognise other operating systems for fear of upsetting Microsoft. The case in point being that the development currently being predominantly in the Windows arena and the fact that Windows programs tend to be very operating system dependant. This then increases the exclusivity of Microsoft, strengthening their market share and market dominance. In turn this threatens the neutrality of the Internet as a platform and communication medium. He also felt that this unfairly skewed people’s ability to choose the operating system they want to. Regardless of what might be superior.
I thought about this whole issue and came to the conclusion that it it is basic economics and market forces here. If you had 1000 Windows users and 100 Mac users then it makes economic sense to develop for the users of Windows. That is the biggest area for profit making. The economies of scale are drastically reduced. So you get a product out there for your biggest user base and start making profit. It is that same profit that enables companies like Skype to be able to deliver a product to a minority of users on other platforms.
James believes however that there should be parity and equality in features and releases between versions for different systems. He feels that the current state of affairs is such that it is the equivalent of selling the same car in say Australia and the US and one has airbags and the other does not and the reason the company gives is that we drive on the left side of the road. I guess this is in reference to the features not being present across the versions of Skype. To that I can see his point as I said earlier. But perhaps this is a way that they have used to market their product and attract users from the largest group based on operating system. I really do not know.
Another analagy that James used was that Windows users are being offered a BMW and the rest are being offered a clapped out Hyundai! Well I can see his point again. However, maket forces are very strong and I suggest that this is what we are seeing. I don’t know what he would say if the shoe had been on the other foot. Anyway it looks like the video solution for Mac will be here soon enough, but as James said they have been saying that for a long time.
I have used Skype in my post to reflect something that may be true across all types of applications, but only because our conversation was about Skype. But are we seeing a trend that will continue and how will it play out in the long term? Mac is certainly gaining in user base recently and perhaps we might see more specific support and development for it. In addition to that I think that there is a great divide between Mac and Windows users. Personally, I see advantages to both systems. I have never rubbished Mac and I have never said that Windows and Microsoft have the best operating system. As far as disparity between applications is concerned I think that it is a valid argument to a point but hard economics is difficult to fight against in the corporate world of profit and loss.