Hello everyone, next week Windows 8 will be officially launched. Its been a long road getting to this point for the Microsoft team. This week we take a trip down memory lane and look at the history of the operating system.
The very first version of Microsoft Windows was released on November 20, 1985. It was designed to be geared towards graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Microsoft created Windows as an extra component for its MS-DOS operating system, and Windows totally changed the landscape for personal computers. The first version of Windows used very simple graphics and it was more of a front end to MS-DOS than a real operating system.
From Windows 3.1 to 32-bit
Almost seven years passed after the first version was introduced before Windows 3.1 was released in March 1992. This 16-bit operating system allowed multitasking – in an environment where users were not used to seeing it. The new version of Windows contained virtual device drivers that could be shared between DOS applications.
Released in August 1995, Windows 95 was a 32-bit operating system that supported pre-emptive multitasking – in other words, the operating system was capable of interrupting a task without any active contribution by the task. Windows 95 no longer was an add-on for MS-DOS, but now represented a full-fledged operating system. A few other Windows versions followed (specifically, Windows 98 and Windows Me), before Windows XP was released in October 2001.
With its famous logo shown below, Windows XP became the most popular version of Windows. This success (in terms of its huge installed base) was only partly because of the new user experience (XP stands for “eXPerience”) it offered when it was released. The primary boost to XP’s success was the unpopularity of Windows Vista – its successor.
Released in November 2006, Windows Vista appeared with a brand-new design, and it offered a very improved security – in contrast to XP, which required three service packs to remove its security issues and pains. Although this could have been enough to achieve a greater popularity that its predecessor, Vista required improved hardware as a price for its new features. Most enterprises that had spent a significant part of their IT budget stabilizing XP – after Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) – simply did not deem it reasonable to migrate to Vista. Vista soon became the shortest-living operating system in the Windows family.
As Steven Sinofsky (the president of Microsoft’s Windows division) confessed several times, Microsoft had learned its lesson even before it started to design Windows 7, which was released in July 2009, two years and eight months after Vista.
Windows 7 contains significant performance improvements over Windows XP and Vista, including boot time, shutdown time, better task scheduling on multi-core CPUs, search and much more.
Windows 7 definitely provided a successful way to blot out the Vista fiasco. For the Windows team, it would have been easy to follow the direction designated by Windows 7, but the team undertook a most compelling challenge.
The Paradigm Shift of Windows 8
Although Windows was born in an era where personal computer became part of everyday life, it still remained an operating system created with enterprises and information workers in mind.
Apple’s consumer-centric products such as iPhone and iPad showed the world that there was another approach making it possible to interact with computer software in an intuitive way. Microsoft seemed to not understand this approach for a long time, but the sales figures of the market forced the company to shift its focus to consumer-centric devices and operating systems.
So that’s it for this week. Next week I will be featuring Windows 8 exclusively. It is important to pay attention when Microsoft closes rank as it did with the .NET platform. When the next 3 years end, Microsoft will either have won or lost the war!