Why the Windows Operating System is no longer king

Why the Windows Operating System is no longer king

Like most of you, I have been using the Windows operating system every day for as long as I can remember.

I remember my first reaction to seeing the user interface of Windows 2000 and marveling at how radical, clean, beautiful and fast it was.

It had a browser that was quick and when you hadn’t loaded a bunch of applications on it, it was super quick.

Fast forward to Windows XP.

Windows XP

Before all the security threats and hackers made it the worlds most hacked Operating System, Windows XP was amazing!

It extended the UI of Windows 2000 and added more color, graphics and user tweaks. It was a shadow of Windows 7 and gave us some hope that things were moving in the right direction.

Then came Windows Vista.

Windows Vista

Now, I actually seem to be one of the few who liked Windows Vista.

I thought it had it’s problems but was an honest good faith attempt to get past Windows XP. It didn’t work obviously and led to a more successful iteration of the OS called Windows 7.

Windows 7

Now Windows 7 is a solid operating system that I love. Not because of this tweak or that feature but because – it just works. It stays on, doesnt crash and is a reliable work horse. It detects drivers and new peripherals effortlessly and stays the heck out of my way for the most part.

Windows 7 is great. Windows 8 will probably be as good or better.

Here’s my beef.

Look at all the screenshots above and you can see that basically, the UI hasnt changed much since Windows 2000.

I was shocked by how similar the screen has stayed over 11 long years..

Theres a central desktop, recycle bin, start menu and a bar at the bottom. Files can be kept alone or in folders and we double click to open up files.

This is our 11th year of looking at the desktop the EXACT SAME WAY.

What has changed in the 11 years is the internet, websites, browsers, web applications, hardware prices, processing power and storage. These are all EXTERNAL to the desktop.

For that reason, I continue to believe that at this time, Microsoft is vulnerable to Apple and Google among others.

Technology history tells us that when things stay the same too long, that creates a strategic opportunity for competition.

  • For phones, things stood still and Apple changed the UI paradigm.
  • For browsers, IE and Mozilla stood still and Chrome changed the standard for speed and startup time.
  • For PC’s, the desktop and laptops stayed still and Apple invented and own the Tablet space.

I believe the Operating system is next.

For most of the world, 90% of the functions of the PC are abstracted and vague. If you dont believe me, go to my Windows 7 features page (opens in a new window) and tell me how many of those functions you use on a daily basis.

Most people use the PC to read email, browse the web, use Notepad and the Office Suite. While there are tons of other games and applications as well, these are the core functions.

Whoever can simplify this experience on the desktop will eat into that market.

It’s just a matter of time.

  • Ezlovr1a

    Heck!…Windows has been “brain dead” for many years! Ever since the CD made its presence known. How could a company who was “MASTER OF THE OS UNIVERSE” still require you to back up files using a “floppy drive?” When was the last time YOU even bought a machine with a floppy drive attached to it? This let me know MICROSOFT was asleep at the wheel! I have been using Windows eve since its introduction as “Windows 3,” in the early eighties! At that time, their competition was DR DOS which was a more stable platform than Microsoft. Then NETSCAPE bought DR DOS and scavenged all the best engineers for their networking dominance. DR DOS went by the wayside and Microsoft was king! Since Windows 98, Microsoft has been little more than a great “hype marketer” of their next system that was to be better, faster, more stable and all that crap! When they enclosed DOS inside Windows, I knew the game was over for them as they alienated more and more programmers that until then, happily developed applications for Microsoft and nearly gave them away! MICROSOFT BIT OFF MORE THAN IT COULD CHEW! I welcome a better operating system and am eyeing REDHAT.

    • George

      How could a company who was “MASTER OF THE OS UNIVERSE” still require you to back up files using a “floppy drive?”

      Microsoft is NOT the “MASTER OF THE OS UNIVERSE” . If you check for some historical factor you will see that the company name at now is IBM. I can assure you that all start with the Mainframes. This kind of OS exist form the begging of 50’s and officially from 1958’s. According to the storage device they had use tapes which are still in use. Yes it’s completely different kind for data storage but it’s older than Floppy and it’s still in use 🙂

    • Michael

      Ah yeah I remember those things now, but errm… I haven’t had a floppy drive since Win2000…….
      However I can’t agree with you, while not without its flaws Windows is still the best OS at present. Linux is no where near as professional as Win7, and as for hardware compatibility well distro after distro just don’t provide the goods……..

  • Donaldo

    Maybe a competitor could survive. But their OS would have to run Windows applications ranging from Microsoft Office to sophisticated games. And this competing OS would also need a vast library of drivers for all of the varied hardware peripherals out there.

    Perhaps attempting to supply a replacement for air, water or human spoken language would be easier at this point.

    • http://www.windows8update.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Hi Donaldo.

      Not sure I agree. Apple didnt have to take any apps into consideration when they launched the Ipads, they just depended on their faithful developers and followers to create a new app ecosystem.

      Voila, now there are ipad apps. Just like that.

      If the competitor is good enough, the apps will come.

      • Kiltie12

        It may work better though if everyone else tagged on to the 64bit version. I have tried it and must say for gaming it is superior with the graphics but alas I find that other things like plaing games and susing webcam on IE I have to revert back to the 32bit version as the rest of the stuff has not caught up..ie……Macromedia flash just won’t work on a 64 bit system….so have reverted my W7 back to 32 bit till they catch up. I love the system..Mind you I suppose I am a diehard as I still use a desktop setup. Why? It is cheaper and easier to maintain than a laptop and is expandable.

      • Apauly

        IPads are closed systems, as all things that Apple does. That’s why, at the end, the market share for Apple products is so tiny, IPad included. Have you studied HOW MANY people are using an IPad in comparison to people using a PC??

  • Avklingler

    I quite agree. I skipped XP, it was fat & sluggish & too prone to attacks & internal problems. Far too many clients & friends were ending up with very slow, crashing XP desktops. I went from 2000 right to Vista, which I loved & Beta tested. It simply worked, & looked beautiful. Most people that I know that hated Vista either didn’t actually try it, or tried running it on ancient, no muscle machines. For me, it simply did anything I asked of it & ran anything I threw at it. 7, being an extension of Vista, is the same. No crashes, lock-ups, or problems whatsoever. And, once again, pretty. But, you’re right, change, real change is overdue. Someone’s going to provide it. Just making a browser-based OS so that netbooks run well is not really going to cut it. Microsoft & Google seem to be headed that way. I’ll pass. I’ve got real work to do. The kids can simply do email, social sites & web browsing. So I’m skipping that OS iteration. Who knows, perhaps one of the Linux distros will be the next new? They’ve come a long way & have always been creative. I’ve used them in the past & they’re much more user friendly now. It’ll be interesting to see.

  • Zoran Stevanovic

    First, you are right, there is definitely a similarity (2000 … XP … Vista … W7).
    Second, changes in the world of hardware and software are becoming too fast, so I think it will be harder to track them down. Maybe it’s time for a new approach to the whole issue: who will ever submit an incompatibility of the operating system and hardware (this works, this does not works), incompatibility of the operating system and software, etc? .. Begins to resemble a Tower of Babel: everyone is talking, no one no one understands.
    To summarize: I think we should start with two lightmotifs – compatibility and simplification. The new interface will not be difficult to adjust to such a new situation, because the interface is, roughly speaking, only a guide to what major is…

    Greeting!…

  • Cwrcnn

    Like you, I have been using Windows ever since I can remember. I have Windows Vista now and it is the best yet! Any that comes after this will have to really have a lot to offer me before I would change browsers. I had Windows XP before getting this new computer and having Windows Vista installed on it. I have been…..and I believe I will be…….a permanent fan of Windows Vista! It serves me very well and it doesn’t cause me headaches! I believe that Windows Vista could outshine any other browser. Microsoft, you have a wonderful program here…..keep up the good work! CAH

    • Michael

      Yeah I never had any problems with Vista either. 

      I use Win7 now and likewise have absolutely no issues with it at all.

  • Zorna Stevanovic

    OK, this is mostly the case. But I talked to the distant future: it appears unsynchronicity between the hardware and software, software and software …

  • Infotrad

    Your assessment was lame.

    • CompUser

      If you’re going to criticize someone, you should at least let the person know what the criticism is for. Just saying “your assessment was lame” without pointing out what was lame about it, was pretty lame.

  • Gravy

    I am 83 but have had a p.c. since 1988 approx. I tend to excuse everything I don’t quite follow or understand these days by putting it down to my getting old (older). But, now I wonder? I am not interested in Facebook, or the birds tweetering, twitting, ipodding, and the like which could be my loss – but, I doubt it. I do love my p.c. However, I do not like the prompts in WORD – I prefer to have to think for myself – I have a fairly decent Scottish background and schooling especially in the use of English, grammar, spelling – how come these things are not emphasized these days? How come I keep losing my Favourites (underlined in red because the spelling is different)? Why do the headings in my emails keep changing – I guess these UPdates are responsible? I’ll get off my soapbox now – like I know I sound like I am over the hill and like coming down the other side like I know that. So just delete this if you’ve had enough like hearing and like reading from one of not so-literate Seniors! Gravy.

    • Mani Manickam

      Hope you’re honest about age, and apart from ‘WORD’ problems are there anymore you dislike?
      Cheers.

    • Mrrathomson

      Way to go Jock!

  • Darren Lomax

    I Disagree, most of my customers say how different Windows 7 is to XP, they dont like the fact that its different, they just want their machine to work, the way they know it to work. The main problem with Windows is 1: the registry and 2: .exe files.
    1: The registry is prone to go wrong, even on a brand new installation of any windows OS you will find errors in it, apple macs dont have a registry and they manage just fine.
    2: When you uninstall an application using an .exe file it only deletes what it needs to, it leaves behind all kinds of crap mostly with random names and numbers which nobody knows which is which meaning every year or so its a good idea to start afresh which takes days to get it back to the way you want it, why cant we just use .msi’s instead?

  • sonrigsanyang

    It was great for every OS. I started with 98 and now am with 7. Every OS I used was great at the time of releasing. BUT I am expecting a mind BLOWING, SUPERB from Windows8. I cant wait to feel it.

    KEEP IT UP MS, your work is great.

  • CompUser

    I don’t want my computer desktop to look like an iPad, or any other brand of tablet or smartphone. My desktop is not a tablet, and I don’t want it turned in to one. I like the functionality and layout of the Windows interface, and I prefer using a mouse and keyboard over a touch screen. You talk about the Windows interface remaining basically the same for all these years. Maybe it’s because that’s what most people are confortable with, they don’t want it changed so they have to re-learn everything they already know, and Microsoft is smart enough to not dick up a good thing. I’ve been in the IT business (network administrator/computer technician) for about 14 years, and I just don’t understand this desire people (mostly on-line IT writers it seems) have to change things just because they’ve been the same for a long time. If it isn’t broken, and there’s no functional improvement by changing it, leave it alone.

  • Jose

    What other OS is as good or better than windows?

    • xinu

      linux and osx ;).

      • Cfay12

        Linux is user unfriendly. The only thing it is better than Windows is because it is free. OS X is deliberately overpriced to cater for the seeming not so rich but believe they are rich.

        • Michael

          And it still after all these years does not support common hardware. I have yet to try a Linux distro that gives me sound and the full resolution my system is capable of and Internet and printers… out of the box – only Windows does that.

  • xinu

    I dont think the UI of windows will change any time soon. If you think about it, the OS is just a gateway to your computer, if all you need it for is email, internet and maybe Microsoft office then whats wrong with the way windows looks now? I dont think theres anything wrong with the windows UI, and this is confirmed by the test of time, its lasted over 11 years, I cant think of another family of OS’s being this successful. Its the same story with OSX, their fundamental idea of how the OS should look like has not really changed, the white bar is still on top, and the dock on the bottom, what perhaps needs changing is the way that developers design their applications and UI’s inside the applications.

    All I really want from my os is to channel all of the computers processing power to the applications currently running, I dont really want a fancy bloated os which takes up 1GB of ram just for itself. Operating systems should be small, fast, reliable and give your app 90% of all the available processing power from your computer.

  • Chaitanya

    its the most simple and user friendly ui

  • osoosaar

    The author probably isn’t very familiar with UI design conventions and why they are good. It’s all about usability/ease of use -> mental/conceptual models how things work stay the same if you don’t change the mappings/grouping/relativity of elements etc.

    Example: If you knew how to use windows 2000 then you have probably no problem using win 7 because their UI is rather similar in terms of mappings and how things work.

    There are tons of books out there about this topic.

    Based on what I said earlier -> windows 8 is going to be rather similar to win 7 in terms of UI. Their userbase is so huge that they are rather constrained in terms of UI changes.

  • zenphx

    I’m also a long time Windows user (starting with the first version (Windows 3.1, if I recall).
    I lived (and sometimes suffered) through the many releases.

    Regarding the basic metaphor of the Desktop; although it may be dated, it is still the metaphor used by Apple and Linux (Ubuntu) as well. Therefore, I think that in the Personal Computer environment, it is appropriate, and I think the evolution of the operating systems has been progressive and effective.

    The game changer came with mobile computing, abeit with it’s lack of a facile keyboard and mouse (although the mouse has been effectively replaced by our fingers 🙂
    The continuing minituriazaiton of internet capable devices has brought with it the need for leaner, more ‘ad hoc’ operating systems. These OSs make routine tasks (email, browsing, txting) Very facile.
    The younger generations have taken to this form of communication well. (Although I’m predicting a huge spike in arthritic thumbs in years to come 🙂

    However, I wouldn’t want to edit a photo, create formulas or macros for a spreadsheet, or even compose a Word form; on a tablet.

    So, for me, whether Windows is ‘king’ anymore is moot. Other OSs have their place, and maybe they’ll eventually supplant full blown Windows/IOS/Linux.

    But so be it; That’s progress 🙂

  • Mrtwobit

    I’m waiting for Win8 to put on my SmartPad.  Android is going to do a crash and burm if they don’t come with an install program!