We should make a clarification here. By 'democratize' I mean taking computers out of the realm of specialists and giving them to the average guy. If by 'democratize' you mean the choice of several GUIs on the same platform, then no, that did not happen. The GUI was specific to the HW.
There were plenty of options for GUIs before MS WIndows.
There were some. How many were viable for use on a PC is another question. But it was the GUI that brought computing to the masses, and MS won that battle.
If anything, their grip on the market slowed down the adoption of Windowing OSes. I cannot find a reference for this right now, but I have read that MS accelerated work on Windows because other software companies were close to launching GUI shells for MS-DOS and they feared losing control.
Why would you blame a corporation for accelerating work to compete with other companies? You seem to be blaming MS because you wish Windows hadn't happened.
Non-MS-DOS users had lots of options.
Not really. The GUI was wedded to the HW platform. So yeah, there were choices, but it meant buying different HW.
I had an Atari ST before Windows was usable (have you ever tried using Windows 2? I switched straight back to DOS).
I wrote imaging software with a Windows 2 front. Yeah, it sucked. But I'm not talking about the technical worth of Windows. Clearly, its lacking.
Then there was MacOS (the first mass market windowing OS), Atari GEM, Amiga, RiscOS, X-WIndows, Andrew, etc. These all preceded Windows 1, and were many years ahead of the first version of WIndows that was good enough for the average user to use (by which I mean 3.0).
X, Andrew, etc, were high-end software that the average user would have had no reason to adopt, unless he went out and bought a workstation. I'm not sure the PC even had the power to run these interfaces at that time. The MAC interface was good, but the MAC was closed/proprietary, and Apple overcharged for it, so more people bought PCs. Atari and Amiga were considered gaming machines, and not in the same class as PCs and MACs.
If MS had not launched Windows, we would have used one (or more) of the above.
Ahh, maybe. I'm not sure though, about any of those you mention, outside of the MAC. But something would have come along. What you seem to be saying, though, is that if Ford just hadn't built cars, we could all be driving something else. True, but that's true of anything. Your argument seems to be that you WISH it had been something better than Windows that had claimed the desktop. I won't argue with you there.
If MS-DOS had not dominated corporate desktops, we would have adopted them much quicker than we eventually adopted Windows.
I don't see that connection, between the average user and corporate desktops. The handwriting was already pretty much on the wall that Windows (or, to put it another way, DOSs successor) would be the home desktop OS, before Windows was adopted in the corporate world. The only real question was OS/2. You can decide for yourself whether it was IBM or MS that messed that up. But then, OS/2 was effectively Windows.
I don't like MS business practices, either. Nor do I like it that their software is written by the marketing department. There were several questionable things MS did to make Windows the dominant software platform on PCs. But it was Windows that brought computers to the average guy.