normaly you try to ask a question and after that someone answers you, but where is the point in doing it in the oposite order?which is why microsoft has resorted to underhanded anti-competitive tactics to keep Linux out of the desktop market
And why Windows was successful at that time is easy to explain, because nearly nobody had internet but everybody who bought a pc got a windows with it. Everybody used at that time 99.99999% of the people that os that came with the hardware, today its not that much better but at least 5-20% do install something different, or buy a pc without os.
Today thats the problem number one for linux, pre-installed systems. 99% have still windows pre-installed. And then Microsoft maybe accidentialy pushed some else mechanic in the head of the people... because their System was so bad and especialy Buggy as hell (Blue Screens on daily basis), yes the newer windowses are better but pre xp it was like that. People just dont mess with their pc, they want to take 0 risk because they learned that it get punished hard. Many of them have 0 confidence in their pc skills.
As example it was also absolutly impossible for a non-geek to install a windows again even xp was to hard for 99% of the users to install. because ok in xp it was better but still not that good, and before xp it was the hell, you had to download or find 1000 drivers you had to install after it. Than the software, you sit there a day to install your windows + drivers + some basic programms.
Most people had that in their backhead, they dont understand that they only have to start installation with a good linux and go away for 20 minutes and back and they are at the same point. And they dont even risk anything because of dualboot.
So basicly I think you nearly cant make that experience of "dont mess with a pc or a os or your pc explodes" that at least windows < xp did give the users cant be reversed.
And even the real experience of installing linux is for many people to much, even its no big deal. So there is only one solution, peole must be able to buy them in computer stores... and not 1 dell pc from 1000 or so. And theres the next point, whenever that seems to happen, netbooks, Microsoft just makes illegal prices so they give their windows away at that point for free. What again did hurt netbooks because microsoft said then, that netbooks are not allowed to use other hardware than the first release basicly. or they dont give thier windows version for free to it...
So long explanation. in a market that is free as in the stronger wins and you basicly have no laws and if you shoot somebody thats a ok because its freedom in that sense... for linux its difficult to success. But if there would be any laws to have a even field, as example you could forbit hardware-sellers to combine it with a os. Belive me the windows installer would become better than fast too.
Yes than most people would instead of activly buyng windows in a seperate store somewhere or in the internet go to a supermarket and buy a linux-magazine with a linux on it. and install that.
And if that would have happend 20 years ago, they would have more users then more companies would have switched because of that users, that would again had brought more users etc.
So in a somewhat even playing field yes linux would today be the mainstresm desktop.
And thats no extreme claim to have such free market, Stallman even wants that countries forbit unfree closed source software.
What I also can understand but in todays world with dominant anti-feature-spyware-propriatary world with seen wrongly software as products, it would be a very big step. And many would fight that hard.
So forget about that, just evening the playing field would be a big step and windows would be no big problem in a few years.