Windows “version 8” is upon us. Bringing changes to the old and safe, the familiar. Some say the changes are for the best, others dread them, swear to keep the Seven for a long time yet (some even say they will never abandon XP as long as there’s hardware to support it). That is how changing things works. But, the awful truth is, that, what seems new and daunting will undoubtedly after a while seem like the most natural thing in the world, something you just can’t imagine life without. Do you think that the changes in “Version 8” are overwhelming ? Then try imagine being back when Windows was first introduced…
This is Part 2 of this feature post, did you miss part 1?
1995 was the year we got the Start-Button. The button we all depend on and cannot live without . The release did not go as smooth as Microsoft might have thought. People were confused, not knowing how to find their programs or how to use Windows. The weird new button in the corner, named “Start” was not as intuitive as one might have expected. Microsoft’s simple solution was to introduce the bouncing “Click here to Start” animation, teaching people the new ways of Windows. Not before long Windows 95 proved an instant success, in just 4 days they sold an impressive 1 million copies.
Wicked tongues claim that Bill Gates never saw the potential of the Internet, calling it a fluke or a MayFly – here today, gone tomorrow. In fact Mr. Gates told the opposite. Microsoft acquired an Internet browser (from a small company called Spyglass) which was released in the AddOn package called Windows 95 Plus! The package added color themes, sound schemes and their brand new Internet Explorer. The number one browser for years to come, incorporated in every version of Windows since.
In 1998 Microsoft introduced an upgrade to 95 with added support for the newer filesystem FAT32, Internet Explorer, better driver and USB-support. I call it an upgrade because there was little else new about it. Windows 98 proved to be a stable successor and was loved by many as the true PC OS. Thou it was still merely a shell on top of MSDOS.
Windows 2000 and ME
According to many: perhaps the best Windows ever. And for good reason. Proving to be the most stable and powerful of all Windows ever released. Windows 2000 was primarily intended for corporate use and brought many improvements to server and workstation platforms. Connecting Windows 2000 computers to a network became a whole lot easier with tools like Active Directory and Terminal Services. Microsoft also introduced DirectX which offered better support for multimedia, movies, and games. Features that made Windows 2000 a great tool for Desktop Computers as well. Because Windows 2000 was thought to be too “high-tech” for the average home user (not in need of all the networking features) Microsoft released what was to be their biggest flop up until then: Windows ME (Millennium Edition).
Windows ME was to most people nothing more than a re-polished Windows 98 with better internet Experience. However it also introduced System Restore (which to me is an invaluable tool) which makes it possible to revert your Windows to an earlier state (in case of driver failure or other system problems). Windows ME suffered massive criticism for its lack of driver support and being unstable. The product was discontinued rather quickly.
Windows XP – hail the king
Learning from their mistakes, Microsoft released their new OS in two versions: Home Edition and Professional Edition. This Windows introduced several new features, such as the Internet Connection Firewall. It was disabled by default due to concerns with backward compatibility, and its configuration were buried somewhere deep in the network configuration screens. The more familiar Windows Firewall was first introduced as part of Windows XP Service Pack 2. Now every network connection (wired, wireless, VPN, or even FireWire) had the firewall enabled by default, with some built-in exceptions to allow connections from the local network. XP also introduced the Activation service, demanding users to register their copy within 30 days of installation. Windows XP has since been hailed as Microsoft’s best OS ever. Even today after the release of (soon to be) 3 newer versions – people still use it or swear by it. Microsoft listen to their users and extended the support life-cycle by several years. It is rumored to be extended until 2020, though still unconfirmed.
Windows received a totally new makeover, with its rounded corners, blue taskbar and green Start-Button. Personally I never liked it – and was overjoyed when I found tools allowing me to hack that awful theme more to my liking. But there are those who praise the design – and please do. After all; Re-designing the interface was long overdue. Little to none had been done to change the looks of Windows from version 3 through 2000. A trend Microsoft seem to be continuing for a long time to come.
Windows XP Media Center Edition
Microsoft released a third version of XP called Media Center Edition, intended for home owners wanting to create a Multimedia Center, connecting TV, Video Recording etc. A good idea, perhaps. But maybe, just maybe a bit too ahead of its time.
Windows Vista – the minor(?) flop
With Vista Microsoft tried to do something different. And different they did. Big time. To bad it didn’t win people over.
20 Million sold copies the first month – not bad. If only it had lived up to its expectations. Design-wise I loved it. Performance wise… disaster. It was not because Microsoft didn’t try to do something new. Problem was the lack of drivers and hardware support for the new features. Features that intended to enhance user experience, improve safety and performance, made Vista sluggish at best. Aero Glass, and Desktop Widgets made Vista look pretty, but few (if any) saw Vista as more than a new GUI (Graphical User Interface) for Windows XP.
UAC: Protecting users against themselves
The UAC ( User Account Control ) was created to prevent unauthorized changes or installation of software without your knowledge or consent. Problem was that instead of providing people with more security, it provided people with tons of annoying pop-ups demanding confirmation for every single task that could to some degree represent some “danger” – essentially every running Windows Process. Instead, it became the “User ANNOYANCE Control“, resulting in people disabling the feature all together. A quick search on Google, shows about 7,9 million hits on how to do it. Others clicked “YES” no matter what the UAC asked them – thus actually decreasing the security it was supposed to bring. Things like improved Firewall, built-in DVD burning feature and SuperFetch (collecting data about programs you usually run, making them boot faster) – drowned in the User Annoyance Control pop-ups.
The result: People actually reverted back to XP. Well, those of us that could anyway: Serious gamers who had grown dependent on DirectX 10 had to keep using Vista as XP did not support it.