As I watched the Windows 10 teaser from San Francisco this week, I thought back over the 20 years I've covered the platform and to what, for me, was the first real version of Windows. Windows 95 effectively launched me as an analyst. I doubt I'd have made it had I not been tied at the hip to that product.
(Note: The author has been launch analyst for Windows since Windows 95, and the Windows group has also been a client of his companies since then.)
One thing that's obvious is that Microsoft has a cadence with Windows. I hope CEO Satya Nadella will fix this so that Windows 10 joins Windows 98, XP and 7 in representing the best of what Microsoft has to offer with the platform.
Windows Cadence: Every Other Version Stinks
Microsoft's cadence with Windows is much like Apple's with its problem phones -- that is, anything without an "S" behind the name. It started with Windows 95. (I swear I had nothing to do with it.) Microsoft operating systems stink every other time. Windows 95 broke catastrophically after launch, Windows 98 was fine, Windows ME and 2000 were big problems, folks still love Windows XP, Windows Vista defined the word stinks, Windows 7 is decent, and folks hide from Windows 8.
This is because teams change significantly for every version. One team brings out a major change, focusing on the launch date, and then moves on, often getting the boot because of problems. The next team focuses on packaging up all of the fixes for the prior product into a new offering that doesn't change that much. This second team spends a lot of time listening to people whine about problems, concludes that the whining needs to be eliminated and passes this information to the next team, which doesn't listen and drops back to its prior pattern.
You get a combination of big changes, not listening and a tight focus on dates. This leads to a product that folks hate, followed by fixes bundled into a follow-on offering that folks like a ton better.
Even though Microsoft iterates the name every time, it's actually a major-minor-major release cycle. As a result, most IT folks know to avoid the major releases and implement the minor releases. As we move to a cloud based ecosystem, I expect this major-minor aggravation will die out. At least Windows 10 is on the right cadence for deployment -- and it does have some compelling features.
Above All, the Windows UI Finally Makes Sense Again
First off, Microsoft fixed the screwy Windows 8 UI that changes depending on app (not on use). This would be like air conditioner turning on or off based on the brand of clothing you're wearing (not on temperature) or a 4-wheel drive vehicle changing modes based on the type of gas you put (not on whether you're on or off road). This happened because the Office group wasn't on board with Windows 8 and represents one of the biggest screw-ups that Microsoft has ever made.
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