Frequent Releases of Windows

October 8, 2010

Windows XP was released in 2001. Vista was released in 2006. Windows 7 was released in 2009. Microsoft is now working on Windows 8 which is slated for a 2012 release date. Microsoft wants to release a new version of Windows every 3 years. If you look back at the history of Windows releases, you’ll see that Microsoft has mostly done that. Windows 95 (released in 1995), Windows 98 (released in 1998), and XP (2001) were all 3 years apart.

Of course, that streak was broken with Vista which was released in 2006, 5 years after XP. One would think that with the extra 2 years, Vista would have been rock solid, but the opposite was true. Microsoft didn’t actually work on Vista for 5 years. After Microsoft released XP they didn’t turn around and start working on Vista right away. After three years, people started to criticize Microsoft for not following their own plan of releasing a new version of Windows every three years.

Microsoft responded to this criticism by rushing Vista out the door and released a product with a lot of problems. It was also lacking many of the promised features. Vista was so fraught with problems that it  got a very bad reputation. Microsoft was heavily criticized for releasing a product with so many problems. Also during this time, Mac sales went up. Because of that, Microsoft made sure it got the next version of Windows (7) out the door as fast as possible. The release of Windows 7 in 2009 has been extremely successful. So much so that Mac sales have started to decline again.

One question in people’s minds is: Do we need or even want a new version of Windows every 3 years?

From Microsoft’s point of view frequent releases of Windows is a good thing because it makes them a lot of money. It also allows them to add new features to stay ahead of Apple.

For consumers it’s a mixed bag. We get the new features which is nice. But are they worth the cost and pain of upgrading? For many, the answer is no. Most people just want a good solid computer that will allow them to do the things they want to do.

For businesses, frequent releases are not really a good thing. Most businesses are still using XP. Upgrading to a new version of Windows can be very costly for a company. Many new releases of Windows require new computers. Upgrading from XP to Windows 7 means you really need new computers. Many businesses have older printers, scanners, and other devices that are not compatible with the newer versions of Windows. And often times, businesses use software that is either not compatible with the new versions of Windows, or has problems on the new versions.

For those of us who work on computers for a living, it’s a mixed bag as well. People usually need help with a new version of Windows, so we stay busy and make money. But it’s much more difficult to work on new versions of Windows than it is to work on the older ones. One reason is that we just have more experience with the older versions because we have been working on them longer. But the biggest reason is tools. We use a lot of software tools to work on Windows. There are a lot of software tools available for XP. There aren’t nearly as many available for Windows 7.

You may be wondering what Microsoft has planned for Windows 8. With every release of Windows, Microsoft always says it will boot up faster and run faster and Windows 8 is no exception in that area. They also say it will be easier to use which is also something they say with every new release of Windows.

There will be more of a focus on tablet functions to try and compete with the iPad. In addition, they plan to make web cams a more integral part of Windows so that when you sit down at your computer, it uses facial recognition to log you in so that you don’t have to use a password. Another rumor is a magic button that will basically reinstall Windows without losing any of your data. I’ll believe that when I see it. Sounds like trouble to me.

You may be aware that both Vista and Windows 7 were available in both 32 bit and 64 bit versions. The 64 bit version of Windows has been gaining popularity and it is quite possible that Windows 8 will only be available in 64 bit. But that is just my own prediction.

At this point, information about Windows 8 is pretty vague. We should have more concrete information next year.

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