14 Classic Tech Rivalries

Launched in 2000 and priced at $300 per unit, the PS2 become the fastest-selling console of all time, quickly overshadowed 1999's Sega Dreamcast, and later it outsold two challengers launched in 2001, the Nintendo GameCube and the Microsoft Xbox. Even today, slimmed-down PS2 units sell in greater numbers each month than Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, or PlayStation 3 consoles. Only the Nintendo DS handheld comes close to the PS2 in the size of its user base. Crucial to the PS2's original success were its built-in DVD (foreshadowing the inclusion of the Sony-backed Blu-ray format in the PS3) and its ability to play games designed for the original PlayStation and make them look better. Among the noteworthy add-ons available for the PlayStation 2's were a DVD remote, a hard disk, a mouse, a keyboard, a Linux kit, a headset/microphone, an Eye Toy camera, and game-specific peripherals such as the Singstar microphone and the Guitar Hero guitar. In 2005, PC World ranked the PlayStation 2 in 11th place on our list of the 50 greatest gadgets of the past 50 years.

What's So Great About the Microsoft Xbox?

After supplying the operating system for Sega's Dreamcast console, Microsoft ventured directly into the console race--with the PlayStation 2 squarely in its sights. Unlike the PS2, the $300 Xbox boasted a built-in 8GB hard drive and was broadband-ready out of the box (the Xbox Live Online gaming service launched a year later). The powerful Xbox had a PC-like design and used a modified 733-MHz Pentium III processor. One of its launch titles, Halo: Combat Evolved, emerged as the best-selling game of 2001. Microsoft slowly gained traction with its original Xbox. The company got quicker off the mark, too: In 2005, the original Xbox's successor, the Xbox 360, reached stores a full year before Sony countered with its PlayStation 3 and Nintendo unveiled its Wii.

Ballmer vs. Torvalds

What's So Great About Steve Ballmer?

When Steve Ballmer, aka Goliath, sets his sights on something, he gets it. Or he throws a chair (allegedly). Or he just goes crazy. He thinks Linux is for commies. Much of Microsoft's tremendous growth has occurred under Steve's watch as CEO, which began in 2000. His tenure has been marked by the acquisition of other companies, including Visio, Great Plains, and Groove Networks. Along the way, he became a billionaire. And with a couple of Microsoft compatriots, Steve appeared as one of the very few PC World centerfolds. But with software as we know it moving off of PCs and onto the Web, Ballmer desperately needs to acquire something new (like Yahoo or Facebook) to avoid being gnawed to death by Google.

What's So Great About Linus Torvalds?

Courtesy of Martin Streicher, Linuxmag.comLinus Torvalds, aka David, isn't against Microsoft products; he's just not interested in them. He began tinkering with the free, open-source operating system named after him while working on his master's degree in computer science. He doesn't throw things (even allegedly) or go crazy. Though he has final say over which programmers' contributions gain entry into the Linux operating system kernel, he is essentially a lowly programmer working for the Linux Foundation. Still, thanks to Torvalds, open-source software--and Linux in particular--may eventually eat Microsoft's lunch. And remember, David won his battle.

What's So Great About an Eraserhead?

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