It was in May 2015 that Microsoft confirmed Windows 10 would be its last version of windows. Was this the right move, and why did they do it?
The History of Microsoft Windows
The first attempt Microsoft made of launching an operating system based on Windows was in 1985, which was Windows version 1.0. However, this was not a true operating system and was simply a program that you executed from MS-DOS, which was the command prompt operating system Microsoft first launched in 1981. The problem with this was that although the program executed into something that looked like a windows style operating system; it was in fact just a program designed and coded to run from the MS-DOS operating system. This meant any flaws MS-DOS had would have been visible in Windows version 1.0.
Microsoft had tough competition at the time from Apple who had already provided its users with a window based operating system. This competition was a great thing, as it meant both companies continued to thrive on providing the best windows based operating system for its users. Microsoft launched Windows 2, and then Windows 3 to keep up with the competition, but neither of these operating systems could be seen as truly independent from MS-DOS. Windows 3.1 provided some necessary updates and this was when Microsoft Windows started to take shape, and people started to pay attention. However, it still wasn’t a truly independent operating system.
Launch of the first truly independent windows based operating system
The first launch of a Windows Based operating system that did not rely on MS-DOS was Windows NT, which was launched in 1993. Windows NT was not aimed at the consumer market, and was designed for servers used in business. Windows NT was a truly independent operating system, which introduced the file system NTFS, which was a far more secure file system, and was more suitable to larger hard disks that were being introduced compared to the older more unstable FAT based file system.
Windows 95 was launched to target the consumer market
At the same time Microsoft was working on a Windows operating system for the consumer, and this was Windows 95. Windows 95 was launched in 1995 and was the first consumer based operating system that was truly independent. However, the Windows 95 operating system still worked in conjunction with an MS-DOS style operating system, which would boot first in order for Windows 95 to run as its own operating system. Anyone who used Windows 95 intensively could easily see that although to the untrained eye it was a Windows based operating system, it was still working in conjunction with MS-DOS. This could be seen in the filename structure; Windows 95 might have given the impression you could save filenames longer than 8 characters long, they were in fact saved as an 8 character filename in the actual file system.
Windows 95 was able to handle much larger file sizes, and RAM compared to previous operating systems, which was necessary due to Windows 95 itself taking up more RAM than any of the previous operating systems. However, most of the extra RAM was in fact virtual memory, but it did manage this virtual memory more effectively than any of the previous operating systems. Windows 95 was a huge success with the consumer market and was the operating system that got users hooked to Microsoft and its Windows based operating system.
Windows 98, Windows ME and Windows 2000
Windows 98 was launched in 1998 and this operating system included the FAT32 file system, which means the operating system could now support a larger hard disk, or hard disk partitions over 2GB. Further operating systems launched after this date were Windows 2000, which was essentially Windows NT 5.0. Windows ME was launched in 2000 and this was the last operating system that was MS-DOS Based. The ME operating system took advantage of the ever moving technology at the time, as consumers started to use their computers to run media applications such as video editing software.
The launch of the much beloved Windows XP
In October 2001 Microsoft launched Windows XP, which was the first operating system to no longer run with MS-DOS as a requirement. Windows XP was created with the knowledge gathered from previous operating systems such as Windows 95/98 and Windows 2000, which was also known as Windows NT. Windows XP was the most successful Windows based operating system for Microsoft, but this wasn’t until they had dealt with all the issues users at first encountered. It wasn’t until a major update with Service Pack 2, which was available in late 2004, that got Windows XP a loyal following, as was seen as an operating system that meant business.
Windows XP Service Pack 2 dealt with all the security concerns that had been raised about the initial launch, and it was soon adopted by businesses and consumers alike. There was a further update with Service Pack 3 in April 2008, but this was merely to provide users who had fallen in love with Windows XP the necessary updates to keep their operating system secure and stable.
It took many years for consumers to move from Windows 95, and many consumers ignored the updates available such as Windows 98/ME and 2000. The launch of Windows XP and the Service Packs that followed slowly started to see consumers move over to Windows XP.
The launch of the visually pleasing Windows Vista
In January 2007 Microsoft launched Windows Vista to the consumer market. Windows Vista had a dramatic change in how it looked compared to Windows XP, and many people made the move to Windows Vista because it looked nicer than Windows XP. However, Windows Vista had some major flaws, and people who decided to not make the jump to Windows Vista stayed with Windows XP. The news stories and reviews for Windows Vista was so damning that people were not about to leave the Windows XP operating system for something that looked nice, but under performed.
Windows Vista was a vanity project for Microsoft, and it was about making the operating system look more pretty to the user. It was the very fact that they concentrated on the visuals, and how it worked and performed second, that made Windows Vista a complete flop. Most people who moved to Windows Vista quickly realised the error they had made and removed back to Windows XP.
The problem Microsoft now faced was people was putting off buying a new PC because it was preinstalled with Windows Vista as standard. Anyone who understood the difference between Windows XP and Windows Vista were not prepared to part with their money for a brand new computer, which run an operating system that was inferior to its predecessor.
Microsoft knew there was a problem and understood to make an operating system truly successful; they needed to get the people on board who are really passionate about the operating systems they use. These passionate users were happy with Windows XP, and they were not prepared to move forward if Windows Vista was the only option available.
Many computer manufacturers dealt with this by selling brand new computers using Windows XP rather than Windows Vista. That didn’t say much about the latest operating system Microsoft had hoped would attract users because of how pretty it was.
Microsoft knew the only way to resolve this problem was to launch a new operating system, and this new operating system had to do away with looking overly glamorous, as consumers were more interested in how it performed.
Windows 7 was launched
In July 2009 Microsoft launched Windows 7, which went back to performing like a true operating system, and they cut back on the visual aspects that Vista was known for. Windows 7 was a seriously stable operating system compared to Windows Vista. This could be seen by the seamless upgrade from a previous windows operating system to Windows 7. Unlike previous operating systems you could update to Windows 7 and sit back. Windows 7 dealt with installing all the drivers you had installed on your previous operating system, and the public was sold on the new operating system almost immediately.
The first people to move to Windows 7 were mainly people who had upgraded to Windows Vista, and didn’t really like it, but couldn’t be bothered with the effort of reinstalling Windows XP. The reviews for Windows 7 helped to make Windows 7 the success it truly deserved. It wasn’t just the consumer market who upgraded to Windows 7 the business market around the world finally had a stable operating system they could upgrade to. Most businesses around the globe were still using Windows XP, and upgrading to Windows Vista was not a viable option. So the business world was desperate for an operating system they could upgrade to, and this operating system was Windows 7.
As the reviews for Windows 7 were so praising of the new operating system it didn’t take long for people who were afraid to upgrade from Windows XP to make the move. Microsoft had provided an operating system they could be proud of and computer sales started to rise again.
So why did Microsoft launch Windows 8?
You would have thought with the fiasco that was Windows Vista, and the issues surrounding users not willing to upgrade upwards from Windows XP, would have meant Microsoft would have stuck with the Windows 7 operating system for longer. After facing the storm of criticism it faced over not having a stable operating system with Windows Vista; Microsoft would not have dared to try launching a new operating system. After all, Windows 7 worked so well it wasn’t necessary to launch a new operating system. However, this would have only been true if technology stood still, but it wasn’t as simple as that.
People were moving to mobile devices in their droves
The problem Microsoft faced was that Apple had launched the tablet, and people were sold. They could finally access the internet with a device that just worked. It wasn’t long before Google realised it couldn’t be left behind, and started to plan the Android Operating system to compete with Apple. Whilst all this developing was going on Microsoft were more interested in how they were going to deal with the disaster that was Windows Vista.
Microsoft made the right move to develop Windows 7, but they also realised whilst doing this they took their eye off the market around them, and they had no operating system that was compatible with mobiles devices such as mobile phones and tablets. As great as Windows 7 was it wasn’t designed for use with mobile devices in mind. Microsoft had to act quickly unless they wanted to be left out in the cold, whilst Apple and Google fought it out for being number one in mobile computing.
Microsoft were forced to Launch Windows 8
Microsoft had no alternative but to start developing an operating system that could be used with mobile devices. However, unlike Apple and Google; Microsoft wanted an operating system that worked for both mobile devices and desktop devices at the same time. They were hoping people would move back to Microsoft for mobile computing if the operating system was something they were familiar with. This saw the launch of Windows 8 which was launched in October 2012.
However, Windows 8 is arguably the biggest disaster Microsoft had ever faced. The operating system was completely different from any Windows operating system previously launched. They removed the famous start menu, and tried to make the operating system appeal to both desktop users and mobile computing users at the same time. The problem was nobody was about to move from using Apple or Google who both had already established their mobile operating systems.
Microsoft also faced a bigger problem with its desktop users. They had assumed people would have liked change, but looking back I am sure they realise trying to get people to change when they’ve been using an operating system of a certain type for so many years was destined to fail. Users simply did not take to Windows 8, and Microsoft found itself in the position they were in when people upgraded to Windows Vista, only to downgrade to Windows 7. The amount of people who upgraded to Windows 8, only to downgrade to Windows 7 must have created great concern for Microsoft.
However, the problem was worse than what they faced when people were not willing to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista. As back then there was no true mobile computing happening, the tablet wasn’t launched, and nobody really had a choice of moving to another way of connecting to the internet, unless they wanted to move over to using an Apple MAC.
People now had a choice
This was a major problem for Microsoft as people had simply had enough. Whereas previously people would just downgrade to the previous version of windows, this wasn’t the case on this occasion. Yes it’s true that businesses around the world decided to stick with Windows 7, and they had no intention of upgrading to Windows 8. It’s also true that many window users just moved back to using Windows 7.
However, there was far too many people who had enough of Microsoft, people felt betrayed, and they felt Microsoft had completely lost its mind by launching Windows 8. People now had options, and the options they had were much more appealing than Microsoft Windows. Microsoft lost millions of users who decided to throw their computer in the tip and go out and buy themselves an Apple or Android tablet.
So unlike the problem Microsoft had with the Windows Vista operating system, on this occasion they had to deal with people not only downgrading back to Windows 7, but millions of people around the world moving over to tablet devices. This wouldn’t have been too much of a problem if Microsoft had a true mobile computing device to offer, but they didn’t. They had to just watch as people who had been loyal to Microsoft for years left to rivals Apple and Google.
Microsoft was a company that was dying
Microsoft knew they had to do something drastic to stop people leaving their Windows operating system, and they very quickly launched a stop gap, which was Windows 8.1. Windows 8.1 was launched in October 2013 just one year after Windows 8 was launched. This clearly showed that Microsoft knew they had to do something quick if they were to stop the hordes of customers moving to Apple and Google. Windows 8.1 was launched as a free upgrade to Windows 8, and although it was a slight improvement on Windows 8 it was never going to be taken seriously. By now most people had already moved back to Windows 7 or migrated over to an Apple PC, or an Apple or Google tablet device. Microsoft was dying and they simply didn’t know what to do.
Between 2012 and still continuing today confirming you use a Microsoft Windows based computer is something you would rather not admit. Microsoft had become a laughing stock in the technology world, and people were extremely unforgiving about the situation. Microsoft had for years cornered the market when it come to the computer of choice, and over 90% of computer users were using Microsoft. The only real challenge they had was Apple, and Apple was seen as an alternative choice.
The fact that Microsoft had completely got the public wrong with the launch of Windows 8, gave the public the chance to realise you don’t need an over complicated operating system to do what most people want to do with their computer. The fact that the majority of people only use a computer to surf the internet, or to book a holiday, or do some online shopping means they can do all this with a tablet.
Microsoft still have the biggest market share when it comes to people using an operating system for desktop computers, and this market share is still huge in comparison to the competition. However, Microsoft had lost valuable and loyal customers because of the mistakes they made with Windows 8.
Microsoft launched Windows 10
In September 2014 Microsoft announced they were going to launch Windows 10 to be the successor of Windows 8 and 8.1. Microsoft Windows 10 was launched in July 2015 and it was the shock announcement from Microsoft that Windows 10 would be the last ever version of Microsoft Windows.
This at first sounded ludicrous, why would Microsoft lose the chance of launching a new operating system every couple of years, as this was a great source of revenue for Microsoft. However, when you look back at some of the disasters Microsoft had to deal with when launching a new Windows operating system, which simply didn’t catch on. Makes it a bit easier to understand why they decided launching a new windows operating system every couple of years was far too risky.
Windows 10 was available to anyone using Windows 8 and Windows 7 as a free upgrade, and this free upgrade was available for 12 months. This was a good move by Microsoft because they desperately had to detach themselves from Windows 8, but they also needed people to upgrade from Windows 7. This wasn’t, and still isn’t an easy task, as people still feel Windows 7 provides a sleek and stable operating system.
In the business world most companies are still using Windows 7, and it’s unlikely this will change any time soon. This also goes for the consumer market. It’s true that people have upgraded from Windows 7, but this migration has been gradual. People who were using Windows 8 or 8.1 were more than happy to upgrade to Windows 10, but there is no surprise there.
Microsoft has made a very brave decision by confirming Windows 10 will be the very last version of Windows. After all the Windows operating system goes back over thirty years. The fortunate thing for Microsoft is that Windows 10 is actually a very good operating system, it definitely had its issues in the first six months of launch, and people were moving back to Windows 7. However, the move over to Windows 10 will eventually happen, as the support for previous operating systems such as Windows 7 and Windows 8, will not last forever, and running an operating system without critical updates with the viruses we have to deal with on the internet today is too much of a risk to take.
Whether the decision to stop launching a windows based operating systems after Windows 10 is a good idea, time will only tell. It’s most likely, however, that it is a smart move Microsoft has done here because Windows 10 will still upgrade over the years. Providing Microsoft make a big deal about upgrades that will drastically change Windows 10, then they should still get the media coverage they need to keep people interested. Also, by concentrating on just one operating system should mean Windows 10 becomes an extremely stable and fantastic operating system to use in the future. It also works for both mobile computing and desktop computing. It’s just a shame when it comes to mobile computing; Microsoft have got a lot of work to do to catch up with Google and Apple.