A RECENT independent research report conducted in the US says about 500 companies have been founded and more than 17,300 jobs have been created because of Microsoft Windows. The study, which was carried out in the US by California-based research company Telecommunications Research Group, concludes Microsoft and the Windows operating environment have been responsible for the creation of at least US$280 million in annual revenues for new companies and more than $1.3 billion in incremental revenue for established software firms. I believe the Windows environment has been largely foisted upon us. There is no argument the additional overheads introduced by Windows inevitably demand a hardware upgrade. Windows has also produced an avaricious packaged software industry, which feeds off the hapless users. Although I never thought I would say it, perhaps now the end justifies the means. The de facto ''standardisation'' has brought about an openness that encourages smaller software operations to develop specialised application modules. While we have long had the expertise to develop software packages, the traditional mass markets of the US and Europe have not been easy to penetrate. Microsoft's Chinese Windows has changed that situation because software developers can now address markets that are far more accessible and where they have a distinct advantage because of their understanding of the idiosyncracies of those markets. Laurie Kan, country manager of Microsoft in Hong Kong, said the trend in the territory was similar to that of the US. ''Microsoft Windows is installed with 50 per cent of all new PCs in the territory and indications suggest that this will rise to beyond 60 per cent by the middle of next year,'' he said. This should not be read to mean that 50 per cent of PC users in the territory are running under Windows because that is not the situation, or is Mr Kan claiming it to be. But the trend is clear - it appears inevitable the Windows-type environment is the standard of the near future. It brings a new meaning to the phrase open systems. Four requirements of open systems' architecture are a common user interface, a common programmer interface, a common file interface and transportability of software. When one considers more than 90 per cent of the 200 million or so installed personal computers are driven by Microsoft-installed operating systems, it is clear the desktop is the most open systems environment ever seen in the computer world. Some so-called experts will argue the premise of a commonly used operating environment is not sufficient to claim as an open systems environment, but how many of them have been singing the same tune about UNIX for years? Long before the Apple/IBM alliance, Apple had been offering MS-DOS-compatible disk drives and a DOS emulator for the Macintosh, though painfully slow, was also available. Now, the two operating system philosophies are much closer. The advent of a graphical user interface such as Windows has made the impact of Microsoft's open environment even more apparent. Applications software running under Windows has the same initial look and feel to every user and it doesn't really matter what brand name of machine the user is working on. Despite the IBM/Microsoft agreement ending last week, it is unlikely that IBM will take OS/2 down an incompatible track simply due to the weight of numbers of installed Windows' systems. Without entering into the argument as to whether OS/2 or Windows is more desirable, it would make no sense at all for IBM to eliminate compatibility with the operating system it is endeavouring to replace. Some local industry analysts have expressed surprise at the growth and popularity of Windows in Hong Kong, but many major organisations seem to be prepared to withstand the substantial PC upgrade costs necessary to achieve optimum performance and are standardising on the environment. It is also true that many major software publishers are releasing Windows-only in their latest releases. This means that if a company wants to use a given software package, such as Lotus Amipro word-processing or Hewlett-Packard's New Wave, then Windows is a prerequisite. To further solidify its position as a supporter of open systems concepts, Microsoft recently announced Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) Desktop Database Drivers. Not surprisingly, ODBC requires Windows 3.0 or higher; an EGA, VGA or higher display; a hard disk with three megabytes available; and a high-density floppy disk drive.