Windows Vista represented Microsoft’s first major operating system revamp since Windows 95 (Windows 98 and XP, while popular amongst PC users, simply built on the 95 platform). While Windows 95 changed the world of personal computing, Windows Vista landed with a major dud. It took less than 2 years for Microsoft to scrap the system altogether and revamp it into Windows 7. Microsoft is one of the largest companies in the world – where did it go wrong?
Windows Vista hit the market for public consumption in early 2007. It was marketed around a modern graphical interface, greater security and firewalls, and improved integration of search features and multimedia tools. The latter two options were clearly an acknowledgement that competitors Google (in search) and Apple (with the Mac) had products with features that the market preferred over those offered by Microsoft. The mere existence of Vista was one of the first acknowledgements by the giant company in Redmond, Washington that Apple was a legitimate threat as a competitor (something the computing world had known long before).
Perhaps the downfall began with the “I’m a Mac” commercials that feature Justin Long. Upon the release of Windows Vista, a commercial was run in which the PC states that Vista will have none of the problems of previous Microsoft operating systems, but this is combined with flashbacks where he says the same thing about Windows XP, 98, 95, etc. So when Vista’s problems did start becoming public knowledge, the Apple commercial both highlighted them and appeared prophetic. What were these problems? The first big one was implementation of popular third party software often proved difficult or even impossible. Installation of alien drivers was often inadvertently (or intentionally if you are a conspiracy theorist) blocked by the Vista security system. Users of Adobe reader (two of the most popular programs on the net) and iTunes had many difficulties getting their programs to work correctly. Itunes users even had instances where Vista would corrupt their IPods after downloading songs. It is never pretty when digital media attacks itself. Another major problem was that VPN users had all kinds of users. If user wanted to be able to work from home on occasion, this is a critical program and vista made VPN use very difficult. For a company with the size, balance sheet, and reputation of Microsoft, problems regarding these relatively simple (and common) aspects of modern day computing are just completely unacceptable.
The good news for Microsoft is that Windows 7 has remedied many of the issues that Vista created. It is almost unanimously hailed as the best operating system Microsoft has created in years (which may not be saying much, but the point still remains). For a company that is often accused of resting on its laurels (it is probably fair to say that Microsoft has ceased to be an industry leader since 1995, reacting to the market instead of dictating it like it once did), this is a major achievement. Windows 7 is a cleaner operating system, more user friendly, offers an even better graphical interface, and does not seem to have the problems with third party software (at least not on commonly used programs) that Vista did. One small step for an operating system…one giant leap for Microsoft.
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