One of the reasons for the success of Microsoft Windows is the prevalence of applications for the platform. If you need a program to manipulate video, capture audio or even edit a document then you can expect to find a number of competitive options. This should make it possible to review any one of a number of options and make an informed decision about which product meets your needs.

Unfortunately, most users don’t work this way. Here is a typical scenario. A user purchases a new PC that includes Microsoft Windows, Office, and Adobe Photoshop. Later, they decide to buy a digital camera and this installs a new product for downloading and editing photos. Most of these capabilities are already part of Photoshop, but another update of Acrobat Reader manages to get Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition installed. A few months go by with the user cancelling Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition to get to the Canon photo management software, at which point Google Desktop installs Picassa.

So now in addition to the native Explorer integration for the camera there are no less than 4 programs installed that all purport to enable the user to manage their photos.

Needless to say, when the same camera is plugged into a Mac the iPhoto program provides immediate support for photo management. And you wonder why Macintosh is one of the fastest growing segments in the PC market? My Linux workstation provides similar interoperability by simply prompting me with the photos on the camera and asking me where I want to save them.

There are quite a few things that went wrong in my Windows example. The computer vendor did provide an excellent photo management program, but it’s not clear the user was aware of this when they purchased the camera. The camera vendor made the first crucial mistake, it should not have been necessary to install anything more than a driver for accessing the camera. At this point, things only got worse. Adobe proceeds to install another photo management application during an Acrobat Reader update, which should have never happened especially considering Photoshop was already installed.

Finally, the user made the last mistake by installing the Google Desktop. At this point the level of contention for the camera is such that a number of dialogs and windows must be closed before photos can be accessed. This is certainly not convenient, and the standard Microsoft dialog to open your camera photos with another program doesn’t make it any easier with the inclusion of things like Paint.