Windows 7 widows Windows XP

Opinion – It was IBM’s Lee Reiswig that uttered the immortal statement about its defunct operating system  OS/2: “We’re a better Windows than Windows”.

It probably was. Windows wasn’t really any much cop at all until Microsoft co-opted David Cutler from a very defunct company called DEC to create Windows NT. OS/2 might have been better but IBM couldn’t market its way out of a paper bag, and the Seattle monster certainly could. Big Blue was out-maneuvered by Microsoft.

Before NT, Microsoft Windows wasn’t an operating system, it was an operating environment, sitting on top of a primitive thing called DOS which used – yeah it’s true – command lines.

Meaning that every time Intel designed a new microprocessor – or AMD for that matter – Microsoft felt compelled to create more software so that everything was just slow enough that eventually everyone would upgrade again.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am not anti-Microsoft. It popularized the graphical user interface even though it didn’t invent it, and made it more or less ubiquitous.

Yet it is a strange thing – Microsoft often introduces an iteration of Windows that is really pretty good, followed by one that doesn’t really catch on with the masses.

Judging from the comments seen both on TG Daily and elsewhere, it looks like Windows 7 could be the operating system Vista never was. Even Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, tacitly acknowledged that the other day to a bunch of students at Standford.

I’ve used Vista – it really is quite pretty provided you’ve got the hardware to support it – but I swapped it out, or in Microsoft’s jargon “downgraded it”, to XP. I know a lot of people who have done the same – including system administrators who just weren’t prepared to take on the overhead of training and supporting their users on a hardware base that might just support Vista. Presumably this is why the corporate market has been reluctant to switch wholesale to Vista too.

It’s the practice of every manufacturer to make different versions (SKUs – stock keeping units) based on the same brand or product but that just makes the job of the buyer that little more difficult. When Microsoft introduced XP Home and XP Professional, some of us got the feeling that we were being a little cheated. It’s a little like Celerons versus fully grown Intel chips – you get what you pay for so if you pay more you get the real product, not a crippled one.

The really big puzzle with Windows 7 is why it took Microsoft so long to bring out Vista yet seems to be managing to bring the new OS to market so quickly. I was part of an audience that heard Bill Gates tell us that it cost Microsoft the same amount of money to develop Vista as the first Moon mission.

Could it be that Windows 7 was an alterative OS developed in parallel with Vista, and that explains its speed to market?

Mike Magee co-founded the Register and founded the INQUIRER. He has seen every version of Windows that’s ever existed and installed and re-installed OSes so much when he could have just been down the pub guzzling beer.