In 1982 Microsoft licensed a version of a flight simulation game from a company subLOGIC Corporation and called it Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0. Not only did the game become popular, but in those early days of PCs, the ability to run Microsoft Flight Simulator (and Lotus 1-2-3) was often used to test whether a machine was 100 percent compatible with the IBM PC.
Through the years, Microsoft has had media winners and losers. The Zune media player was a notable flop, but the Xbox 360 video game platform and community has become a rousing success, along with the Halo and Age of Empires series of games. Microsoft seems to be holding its own with its Windows Phone mobile devices, but there are a lot of people wondering whether its Surface tablets -- especially the lower-end Surface RT -- are innovative or a mistake.
Still, Microsoft's media system is a work in progress, being very strong in some areas such as gaming, and very weak in others, such as shopping and books.
Books and magazines
Predictions of the demise of printed books and magazines, brought on by digital media, have been premature -- but still, there's no denying that e-books and digital magazines are big business. An annual report from the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group found that the entire consumer book market was $15.12 billion in 2012, of which $3.042 billion were e-books. And according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, by 2017 consumer e-book sales will overtake consumer print book sales, with a predicted $8.2 billion in sales. Here's how the ecosystems stack up.
When you think of Amazon, you think of books, and with good reason: It's the foundation upon which the entire Amazon empire was built. Amazon is the world's largest book retailer. Just consider the numbers: Amazon has an estimated 60 percent of the e-book market and an estimated 25 percent of the market for printed books, according to its competitor Barnes & Noble. Whether you're looking to buy physical books or e-books, Amazon is the place to go. And it sells magazines on its e-reader the Kindle, as well as from its website.
The ecosystem includes the Kindle e-reader hardware, but you're not limited to reading e-books purchased through Amazon on that. There are also Kindle reader apps for the PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices. And Amazon is more than just a bookseller; it's a publisher as well, with seven imprints that cover everything from science fiction to mysteries, romance, nonfiction and literary fiction. It's this simple: Amazon's ecosystem rules the book world.
Apple made a late entry into digital book sales in January 2010, with the introduction of iBooks. This free iOS app functions as a gateway for the iBookstore -- where e-books are available both for free and for purchase -- and is also used for storing these books, and for reading on Apple's mobile hardware lineup. The iBookstore carries over 1.75 million books in 155 countries, and prices start at free and don't often go higher than $14.99. These e-book files contain DRM, but follow the same rules as video: That is, you can share these books among up to five computers authorized to iTunes, and an unlimited number of iOS devices can be used as they're synced up to any one of the five computers.