Hear, hear... One of my favorite sayings is "Linux is free if your time is worth nothing" [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/ohmy.png[/img])
Now, I do respect OS X and Linux, but few people acknowledge the tremendous contribution to de facto standards that Microsoft has made over the years. The growth and proliferation of personal computing since 1983 is largely due to innovations in hardware, network speed, etc. This in turn has only been feasible because of a large market ready to pay cheaply for these innovations. The innovations are only affordable if they can be cranked out in large numbers, which requires standards.
Just like the Internet grew because of standards like TCP/IP, HTTP, etc., personal computing grew because Microsoft imposed hardware interface standards like GDI (that's Graphical Device Interface, not GUI) and many others. (Yes, I realize RFCs are democratic and developed by neutral committees, whereas Microsoft is a corporation, that's not the point.)
How many people have heard of WinHEC, much less attended one? Every year, Microsoft organizes the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, where hardware developers are thrown into an arena to test each other's products against the latest version of Windows. Microsoft engineers are on deck to answer questions, execute tests, etc. in a huge effort to get all that stuff to work right before it hits the consumer's home. Extensive technical documentation is available. This is the kind of thing that has insured that Windows works pretty good over the years, and continues to satisfy consumer and corporate needs.
I attended the 2003 WinHEC, and got within pie-throwing distance of Bill Gates. I was blown away by the scope and extent of the conference.
There's a lot to be said in favor of Apple's "black box" model, where all the hardware is produced by one single vendor. A lot of money that would have been spent on hardware compatibility testing, is instead spent on perfecting the software. Not many people seem to appreciate this enough to pay for it, however.