When I realized Windows Operating System was turning another year older, it made me pause for reflection. For the better part of the past 20 years, I’ve been a Microsoft certified trainer, and Windows has been a big part of my life. So why not celebrate Windows OS’ birthday by recounting my personal history and thoughts on the OS’ major highs and lows?
1985 – Windows 1.0 is born
On November 20, 1985 Windows 1.0 was released to the public. I was just 15 years old and remember very little about Windows 1. But, I do remember the excitement of visiting an older cousin who had bought her first computer and her trying to teach me Reversi. I may not remember how to play Reversi, but that exciting feeling of using a computer for the first time is one I’ll never forget.
1992 – Windows 3.1
Between the release of Windows 1.0 and Windows 3.1 in 1992 I grew up, but I still had the same enthusiasm for computers. I attended college and earned my degree in computer systems. I remember going out and looking for a job, armed with my brand new diploma, and during my first job interview the owner asked me if I knew about Windows 3.11. The inquiry caught me off guard as we had mostly studied Novell in school, but I confidently asserted that if I was given the chance, “I would be his best Windows guy!” The stars must have aligned because he gave me the job on the spot and I spent the next couple of years building networks for small businesses using Windows for Workgroups 3.11. I remember how easy it was and how much my boss charged because everyone thought that networking was difficult. At the time, I was thanking Microsoft for making it so easy a kid out of college could do it.
1995 – Windows 95
August 24, 1995 was another big day because Windows 95 was released and the PC came of age. The Rolling Stones even endorsed it by allowing Microsoft to use their song “Start Me Up” in their ads. Windows 95 had built-in Internet support, dial-up networking and most importantly for a tech guy like me: Plug and Play. No more messing around with jumpers! The other thing I remember is that my PCs hard drive ran out of space and I had to buy a couple of boxes of diskettes that gave me just as much space as a new hard drive. Those were the days. Microsoft went on, largely because of Windows 95, to take over the desktop OS market and from that point forward has been the OS that businesses have commonly adopted. With few exceptions, Microsoft currently stands at roughly 90 percent of the market share and most experts would credit Windows 95 for this success.
The year after NT 4.0 was released, a buddy of mine convinced me that the future for guys like us was in getting certified and getting our Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) designation, which we did. I was lucky enough to land a job with the school I took my training with setting up the networks in their corporate offices and classrooms. That eventually led me to my present career as a certified trainer at Global Knowledge. As great a combination as Windows 95 and NT 4.0 was, time moved on and by the late ‘90s it was inadequate for what big businesses needed.
1999 – Windows 2000
In December 1999, Windows 2000 was released and Windows started to dominate the IT world. Windows 95 had given us a desktop OS that was easy for both personal and business use. The NT 4.0 server was taking big chunks of business from its main competitor Novell. Windows 2000 was Microsoft’s opportunity to keep the momentum going and with the introduction of Active Directory it did just that. Although the server edition was great, I remember being disappointed with the desktop version, Windows Professional. Don’t get me wrong it had issues, but overall it was a great product. The problem was that it looked and felt like the server, a very utilitarian UI that did nothing to get the end user excited. So you can imagine how happy I was when on August 24, 2001, Microsoft gave us something I will never forget: Windows XP.
With Windows XP, what Microsoft did was to fix some underlying problems and tweak the user interface. That was enough to get everyone excited and everyone did. XP took over the home and business PC markets. At this point XP had no real competition, no one was making a product that could integrate with the server OS so seamlessly and take advantage of all it had to offer. XP was literally seen as the only game in town. As a matter of fact, it was such a huge success that when its predecessor Windows Vista came around in early 2007, its biggest competition was its predecessor and it lost badly. There were other factors of course, like the resurgence of Apple. But Vista bombed big time, partly because people just loved their XP.
2009 – Windows 7
July 22, 2009 was another big milestone because it was the day Microsoft released Windows 7. Like I said before, its predecessor Windows Vista was not a success. A lot of people where happy with XP and saw Windows 7 as a money grab by Microsoft. But in reality what they tried to do was fix a lot of the security issues of an aging XP. There was a lot of talk at the time about Microsoft losing its grip on the OS market and competitors taking over. But, the truth is that businesses just stuck with XP. On the home side Apple had taken a small bite out of the bottom line and the feeling was that Microsoft had to get the next one right. With Windows 7 they gave us another smashing success, they took a page out of their own playbook. Similar to what they did with Windows 2000, they fixed the underlying issues and tweaked the UI making Windows 7 the same kind of success that XP was, Windows 7 is still the most used desktop OS in the world sitting at about 55 percent of market share.
2012 – Windows 8
Just like XP hindered the success of the OS, Windows 7 had much of the same effect on Windows 8. Windows 8 was radical in many ways when it hit the market in late 2012. But the thing that I believe really hurt it the most, was its revolutionary interface. The start menu was replaced with a start screen and the whole thing had a much simpler look, foregoing the slick glassy effects of its predecessors. All this so the OS could compete in the ever growing tablet market. Microsoft gambled and lost with this one. Once more they tried the same trick that worked so well with 2000 and Vista. They tweaked the UI and released it in August 2013. Although it worked to some extent, people didn’t respond well to the new interface.
2015 – Windows 10
This brings us to present day, Windows 10 was released July 29, 2015. Microsoft listened to its customers and gave us what we wanted – a modern OS that remembers its roots but also embraces the future. We got the start menu back but with new live tiles and we have modern applications, but they are windowed. All over the OS we find touches of the old but with a new modern twist.
Microsoft tells us that this is the last version of Windows with no new number or version changes every couple of years, just steady updates. When I first heard of this plan I was skeptical, I thought that they were trying to mimic what their competitors were doing. Maybe rightly so, but then again the industry has always fought the introduction of new desktop operating systems. Because to them it represents the added costs of testing and deployment and to the home user it usually meant buying a new PC. Maybe steady updates is the way to go?
I’ve been asked many times over the years if I’m tired of doing training and if I’ve ever thought of moving on to something other than Windows products. The truth is I train with Windows ’cause I love it. So although I’ve flirted with the idea of moving on, I’ve stuck with what I love. Windows in my opinion is still the way of the future. No other OS can even compete to be a viable solution for our business needs because of its integration with the backend, its familiarity and its features. I truly believe in the product and what it has to offer but maybe my decades-old relationship with Windows has me looking at it through rose-colored glasses? Only time will tell, but if we will be using any version of Windows for the next decade or so I’m happy it’s Windows 10.