Kamis, 04 November 2010

After a quarter-century, Windows has gone from a long-awaited experiment to the dominant software product in the world. But the operating system's past isn't necessarily a prologue for what could be an uncertain future.

Marsha Collier recalls purchasing a copy of Windows 1.0 when it was first released 25 years ago. But, like many users of MS-DOS, Collier had second thoughts. Upon looking at its features, Collier wondered what she would do with it -- and she returned it right away.
"I seriously read the packaging and thought to myself, 'Why would I ever want to run more than one program at a time?'" recalls Los Angeles-based Collier, who is no tech neophyte. Today she hosts a tech radio show and is author of various books, including "Ebay for Dummies" (For Dummies, 2004). Like many at the time, she had no idea how big Microsoft Windows would become.
Indeed, it's now arguably the most dominant and influential single product -- of any kind -- of the last quarter-century. As few as 20 years ago, Windows wasn't a sure thing to succeed. But succeed it did, and beyond the imagination of most observers -- and maybe even beyond the imaginations of the creators of the OS itself.
Windows runs more than nine out of 10 of the world's computers. Huge corporations run on it; sole-proprietorship businesses get off the ground with it. It runs stock markets, media empires and governments. Go to India, China, Russia, Australia, Texas or Brazil, and almost every computer in all of those places will run on Windows. No other single product has the global reach of the Microsoft client OS. The sun never sets on the Windows empire.
Microsoft, on the back of its OS, has built one of the most recognizable brand names in the world. Bill Gates is a hero to millions and, despite his amazing charity work, still a villain to others. Windows is a target for critics, hackers, bloggers, journalists and competitors, but everybody knows which product rules the roost in its category.
Love it or hate it, there's likely no other 25-year-old as influential and pervasive as Windows. But is the mighty OS at the peak of its powers? Has it peaked already? With the nearly 10-year-old Windows XP still dominating the market worldwide, where will Windows head as the 21st century stretches into its second decade? Nobody is sure, but one thing is certain: The world sees computing through Windows ... for now.
Two Years of Waiting
Windows 1.0 got off to an auspicious start on Thursday, Nov. 10, 1983, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. That's when Microsoft founder and CEO Gates took the wraps off the first version of the OS. Gates' original name for Windows was Interface Manager, but Rowland Hanson, a Microsoft marketing guru at the time, is credited with convincing Gates to go with Windows.
Invitations to the launch were sent to the press in a box with a squeegee. The header read: "For a clear view of what's new in microcomputer software, please join Microsoft and 18 microcomputer manufactures for a press conference..."
It was by no means clear who was going to win during the period of the early '80s when the rush to GUI was on.”

William Zachmann, Consultant, Canopus Research Inc.
But like many versions of Windows that would follow it, the first release didn't ship until two years after that fateful press conference, leading many to refer to it as "vaporware." Finally, Microsoft released Windows 1.0 in November of 1985 at Comdex. William Zachmann, at the time a prominent IDC analyst and now an independent consultant with Canopus Research Inc., was at that Comdex launch.
"It was by no means clear who was going to win during the period of the early '80s when the rush to GUI was on," Zachmann says. "The success of the PC in 1981-82 was a character mode interface, and graphics were handled only by applications -- and rather tentatively."
That competitive rush included Apple Lisa (the precursor to the Macintosh), Xerox Star, VisiCorp VisiOn, IBM Top View, Compaq Computer Presentation Manager and Digital Research Graphics Environment Manager, Zachmann recalls. "It wasn't clear that Microsoft was going to be successful with its approach because there were a lot of competing alternatives," he says. "Windows was viewed as the most likely to succeed, [but] there was no guarantee of it at the time."
Besides adding a primitive graphics layer to Microsoft MS-DOS, Windows 1.0 wasn't regarded as a feature-rich environment, according to Zachmann. But in Redmond's defense, he says the weakness of Windows was more a function of the limits of hardware than of the Microsoft software.
"PC hardware, up until the early '90s, really didn't have the capability of adequately sustaining a GUI environment; it was very limited compared to what it does today," Zachmann says. "Remember, in 1990, 512MB was a lot of memory."
Microsoft released Windows 2.0 in November 1987. With improved graphics and support for dynamic data exchange, this release took advantage of 286 processors; a version called Windows 2.03 added extended memory and 386-processor support.
In May 1990, Microsoft released Windows 3.0, which most observers consider to be the first major release of the OS. Windows 3.0 offered full 386-processor support, and Microsoft introduced the File Manager and Print Manager. It was the first release to get widespread support from software developers and hardware providers.
A key fork in the road for Windows came after that release. Originally, Microsoft and IBM Corp. had agreed to co-develop the next version of DOS called OS/2. OS/2 had a character-mode and the Windows-like OS/2 Presentation Manager. But the relationship between the two companies was dicey at best. Zachmann says IBM's goal was to make OS/2 proprietary and link it to the company's Micro Channel Architecture.


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