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Microsoft’s seven year itch

January 30, 2014


There’s a clear pattern here: three times in a row now, or every seven years, Microsoft appears to have thrown a mediocre-to-bad version of Windows onto the market to buy time while it finishes the “good” version.

Today the problem is with Windows 8. Seven years ago it was with Windows Vista, and seven years before that the problem was with Windows ME.

Windows’ “good cop/bad cop” routine

Back in 2000, while Microsoft was obviously working on what would become Windows XP, they rushed out Windows Millennium Edition (ME) to market, a deliberately cut-down version for home users. It’s many flaws led PCWorld Magazine to label it the “Mistake Edition” and in 2006 ranked it the fourth all-time worst tech product.

Less than a year later Windows XP came to the rescue. As good as XP was, it looked even better following Windows ME.

In 2007, while work on a major new release of Windows, codenamed Blackcomb dragged on, Microsoft rushed out an interim Windows OS named Vista, mainly to quickly replace XP and it’s glaring security flaws.

Vista was a failure, so much so that it had the unintended consequence of giving the aging XP an extended lease on life.

Less than two years later, in 2009, Blackcomb, properly named Windows 7 was released to glowing reviews; many saying just how much better it was than Vista.

Windows 8: history in the making or just repeating itself?

Released in 2012, Windows 8 may be repeating the pattern. Not only does it look like another rushed-out work-in-progress, but it’s been a flop with Windows users.

And then we find out that a major Windows version codenamed Windows Blue is far enough along in development that it might be ready for release in early 2015 as Windows 9.

One writer has suggested that rather trying to kill Windows XP as they are trying to do, Microsoft should just repackage XP as Windows 9 and be done with it.

I think that’s plain silly. I think they should re-market it as a premium legacy OS called Windows unXPired with full support for an annual subscription fee. And they could bundle it with another operating system called D.O.S. (Do Old Stuff).

Losing the war of OS succession

Operating systems have to be among the most complicated of software programs, so it.s no surprise that Microsoft would have trouble rolling out new versions of Windows. Back in the 1990s, Apple had even more trouble than Microsoft. Apple’s inability to finish a next generation OS helped nearly killed the company.

But Apple 2.0, under Steve Jobs’ second tenure as CEO, appears to have learned how to organically grow the Macintosh OS.

During the same time period Microsoft, under CEO Steve Ballmer, has repeatedly tried to ambitiously reinvent the wheel where Windows is concerned. And he seems to have been alarmingly unconcerned about his customers; almost as if he’s been counting on Microsoft’s effective monopoly on the desktop to carry the company through.

It’s led to the current weird situation where, in addition to an aging version of Windows most people are using, Microsoft has a new version of Windows people are refusing to use, along with a really old version of Windows people are refusing to stop using.

The management culture that has led to this predicament has to be one of the things Microsoft is looking to change when they settle on a new CEO to replace the outgoing Steve Ballmer. But picking the right new CEO is probably the only thing trickier to do than creating a new operating system.

From → Apple, Windows

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