What if Microsoft's David Weise had not created the "protected mode" that let Windows programs blow past the 640K memory barrier back in the late 1980s?
Larry Osterman suggests that OS/2 would have dominated Windows, that IBM would have dominated that ecosystem, and thus the Linux boom might never have happened.
The "reasons" we give for events -- the community, the license, etc. -- may just be rationalizations.
But two can play at that game.
If IBM were driving the PC world, would Microsoft be content to follow its lead? It would be a much smaller company, remember. Bill Gates' fortune might be on parallel with that of Steve Jobs, not Singapore. Perhaps it would have been Gates embracing the penguin, perhaps Lou Gerstner would be drawn in the Borg suit.
But what do you think? Let us know in Trackback. Is history driven by real trends, or by chance? Would Microsoft have taken up Linux if that were its chance at dominance, or would it have refused? And what might the open source world look like without IBM's endorsement?