14 Classic Tech Rivalries

After a North American release through Atari fell through, Nintendo went it alone, unveiling its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) at the 1985 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Nintendo's Mario, the Mario Brothers sibling originally known as Jumpman, is arguably the best-known and most beloved video-game character in history. By 1990, the NES was the best-selling video game console in the United States, thanks to titles like Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt (with Zapper gun), The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong Jr. In 1989, Nintendo began to lose market share in North America to Sega's 16-bit Genesis console--a circumstance that Nintendo sought to reverse in 1991 with the release of its own 16-bit console, the Super NES. These two 16-bit rivals were the key combatants in the notorious console wars of that era--a conflict that stirred more-intense schoolyard and media debate than today's Xbox 360 vs. PlayStation 3 rivalry. Were you a Mario maniac or a Sonic the Hedgehog kid?

What's So Great About Sega?

Sega launched its Master System in the United States only a few months after Nintendo's original NES became widely available. But Nintendo had a trump card to play against Sega: Its strict game developer contracts prohibited developers from releasing any NES game on any other console for two years. Because the NES had emerged as the dominant console, a developer had to decide between maximizing its game's sales and gambling on the success of a new console. This stark choice helped limit the game offerings Sega could muster. In 1989, Sega hit back with its Genesis console (known outside North America as the Mega Drive), the first true 16-bit console. The Genesis pushed the NEC TurboGrafx-16 into obscurity and quickly began eating into sales of Nintendo's original NES. Nintendo took two years to achieve parity on a technical level with the Genesis, via the 16-bit Super NES. Sega's blue-spiked mascot Sonic is a relative newcomer to the video-game scene (born in 1991). Though Sonic is a freedom-loving and independent super-hedgehog (faster than the speed of sound!) who can be counted on to come to the aid of his friends, he can be testy, and doesn't do well in water without a good running start.

Microsoft vs. Google

What's So Great About Microsoft?

In just 30 years, Microsoft has produced an array of successful products--notably, the Windows operating systems--that not only dominate, but in some cases define how the world does business. Microsoft has shown that it knows how to create and sell software better than any other company in history. So far. But as businesses gradually switch to open-source and Web-hosted services, Microsoft could see that dominance wither. The company's inability to win large audiences for its online products and services, plus the steady growth in popularity of Macs and Linux-based PCs, may not bode well. Microsoft sometimes seems to be its own worst enemy, too. Many people in the target audience for Windows Vista are convinced that running Windows XP on their existing PCs is just fine for now. Desperate to sell new versions of Office every couple of years, Microsoft develops innovations like ribbon menus and XML file formats--but lots of users say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

What's So Great About Google?

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