Should PC makers and other hardware players each cook up their own operating systems in an effort to emulate Apple's success? The short answer: Yes. The more operating systems the merrier we'll be.
John Gruber at Daring Fireball makes the argument for a land of multiple operating systems and the idea isn't as crazy as it sounds. Gruber recaps a post where he argued that there should be multiple operating systems to choose from and then addresses the feedback. The biggest argument for having 35 operating systems instead of three big ones (Windows, Mac and Linux) is the incompatibility argument.
The argument goes like this: It was a mess when there were a bunch of operating systems. Gruber's reply:
First, it may have been a mess, but it was a beautiful mess. It was glorious. It was fun. The Apple II, the IBM PC and DOS, Commodore, Atari, Acorn. The TI-99/4A.
Gruber argues that we need a beautiful mess again in the PC market. I agree. After all, it's been fun watching the smartphone industry, which is arguably an operating system mess. There's Android, iPhone, Research in Motion, Palm, Windows Mobile and Symbian. There's no clear winner yet---and it's fun. The OS scrum in the mobile industry is a beautiful mess.
Gruber's argument to counter all the hand-wringing over a world with a bunch of operating systems: The Web is the glue that will bridge these operating systems. Many of the incompatibility root causes---file formats, various CPUs and storage set-ups---have been solved. Simply put, the industry is better equipped to allow 1,000 operating systems to bloom.
He's right. And the multiple OS argument is something to keep in mind today as Google dishes out a little more information about the Chrome OS.