Let’s do a little timeline study on operating systems. Windows 3.1 came out in 1993, and was succeeded by Windows 95 in… take a wild guess. 95 was followed by 98… again take a wild guess… and then by ME in 2000, but long term support for windows 95 wasn’t cut off until 2001, giving it a six year “lifespan” so to speak.
Then we have Windows XP which stuck for a very, very long time in the grand scheme of computer operating systems. It was succeeded by Vista, which pretty much everybody skipped, in 2007. Not only that, but ongoing support for the operating system is still happening. Extended support for the system itself ended on April 8th this year, and extended support for XP Embedded, a simpler version of the OS meant for things like ATMs, cash registers, and the like, won’t have support for it dropped until 2016!
So nobody cared about Windows Vista, and then Windows 7 came out two years after as a sort of way to say, “Hey guys look! It’s like a better Vista!” and it was! Windows 8 came out shortly thereafter in 2012 which changed everything to look like a tablet interface. Now we are on the verge of Windows 10, which is set to come out in 2015.
Now tell me, how many of these operating systems did you use?
If you were like the rest of the populace, you probably hopped, skipped, and jumped around. In fact, the most common story I hear is Windows 95, Windows XP, Windows 7. That’s three operating systems over the span of seven or eight operating system releases. There was this old joke that people used to tell, that you always skip an operating system when it comes to windows.
But… why? Why does it have to be this way? Why flood the market with new operating systems that people just won’t adopt? The problems associated with new operating systems are many and varied. Games and programs might encounter new problems. Known and used coding libraries may become invalid. Existing frameworks might just go down the tubes. Not to mention everyone has to re-learn how to use the damn thing. Microsoft recently allowed us to upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 8 while still keeping all of our programs installed, which is great, except doing so STILL introduces a whole host of problems.
The obvious answer is progress. Microsoft keeps updating its OS and it keeps getting better, and we understand that. But look at perhaps what was the most successful windows OS on the market, Windows XP. That OS had a MUCH longer lifespan than other windows OSs, and for good reason. It worked! It didn’t need an upgrade.
Perhaps OS manufacturers need to look at OSs more like consoles. We should look at OSs in generations. Windows 95,98, and ME were all similar to each other. Windows 7 and Vista were the same, as are Windows 8 and 10. It appears as if one OS in each “generation” is adopted more than the rest (95, XP, 7, so on so forth). So maybe if OS developers kept things on a 6 or 7 year schedule, things would be a bit easier to handle.
And by easier to handle I don’t mean allowing the populace to keep up with OS changes or anything like that. I mean allowing programmers to keep up with OS changes. Allowing computers to operate somewhat similar to each other from one generation to the next. Allowing the laptop I buy now, to be compatible with the desktop I buy two years from now, not just in function but in form.
What do you think? Is the 2 Year OS development cycle too fast? Let us know in the comments.
Former Contributing Writer