, , , ,

I received a mailer from Dell today. They say it’s their back-to-school issue. At the top it says, “Dell recommends Windows.” Under the company name you read, “Be the first to get Windows 10. Buy now. Starts shipping 7/29.” I immediately thought, “Why would I want to be the first victim of a Microsoft product?” Who would admire me because I was eager to own Windows 10?

Then I remembered a friend who said that Microsoft has alternated success with its Windows products. First came MS DOS, which of course wasn’t Windows, but launched the company and established it as one company who knew what a disk operating system was supposed to do. After that came various early versions of Windows, culminating with Windows 3.1, a god-awful operating system that, if you saw it today, would send you running for cover. Then at last came Windows 95, Microsoft’s homage to Steve Jobs and the Macintosh. 95 proved that the crew in Redmond could still compete.

Does anyone remember what followed 95? It was a grab-bag of various versions of Windows, essentially updates to 95. People who were lucky managed to ignore them. We had Windows 2000, Windows Millennium, Windows ME, Windows… The more variations came out, the more customers found themselves saying, who cares? You couldn’t really tell them apart anyway, though Microsoft’s marketing people tried hard to differentiate. I have this vague idea that I liked the classic look that came with Windows 2000. I think it even sold well, which would mean Gates hit a double with 95 and 2000.

At last Microsoft introduced Windows XP, proof that if you keep trying, you’ll eventually get there. XP sold a lot of copies, and it stuck around a long time. It actually did the job. Apple and the Mac stumbled badly during this time, so XP had the field to itself. Gates went from being the world’s most famous tech millionaire-billionaire to being the government’s favorite target monopolist for anti-trust lawsuits. Bill and his lawyers fought every enemy on both sides of the Atlantic, while XP took over the world. Everyone remembers the big red X in the upper right hand corner.

The up-and-down trend continued. Do you remember what followed Windows XP? Vista. That’s right: the one everyone was waiting for. And waiting and waiting. My tech colleagues would say, “When Vista comes out, we’ll… When Vista comes out, we’ll…” People inflate their expectations if you give them enough time.

When Vista did come out, it had no staying power, mainly because you couldn’t run it with your existing software. To give a simple example, you upgrade your operating system, and your printer doesn’t work. You try to download a new driver for your printer, and the driver doesn’t exist or doesn’t work. Reliability for all of your installed applications becomes suspect. You expect some obsolescence as operating systems advance, but with Vista, the thumbs down came quickly.

Note that Microsoft introduced the ribbon for Word and Office around the same time as Vista. What a mistake. No one liked the ribbon forced on them. They weren’t going to add Vista to their troubles if they could avoid it.

Windows 7 was up next. I like Windows 7. It has a great look and feel. It’s simple and easy on the eyes. It was on the market far too short a time. I expected after XP’s success, 7 would be available on Windows machines for at least as long. Then here comes Windows 8, and you’re stuck. You have to go on Ebay or scrounge elsewhere to find a Windows 7 machine. That’s discouragement.

Reviews of Windows 8 were uniformly bad. Everyone said you don’t want to combine a tablet touchscreen with a mouse-driven desktop. Long after it arrived, I tried Windows 8 in a computer store as I thought of purchasing a laptop. i didn’t think the person-machine interaction was so bad. When you buy a desktop, though, you want to feel you have some serious computing power in front of you, not software for an overgrown tablet. I like touchscreens a lot, but in the end they’re best for mobile use.

Microsoft decided to skip 9 and charge straight for 10. The company has managed to build some anticipation without telling us what to expect. If the up-and-down pattern holds, 10 ought to do better than 8. Whether 10 is better than 7 is another matter. 7 had all the basics, and it did all the basics well. No more blue screen of death. You could search your hard drive without waiting forever. The engineers in Redmond seemed to solve Windows’ more serious security problems. I expect 10 will preserve these good qualities, and make people feel like they have the latest thing around. People do like to have the latest. To be cool, you can’t wait too long to buy.

But Dell wants me to purchase an Inspiron 15 7000 Series laptop from them, starting at $599.99, so I’ll be the first one to get Windows 10? Why would I want to do that?


I wrote this post on a Mac running OS X Version 10.9.5.


Can you identify all of the operating systems in the images above? Nothing too hard there…