Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Is Windows Vista, In Fact, The Next Windows ME?

I was just reading a Slashdot article saying the next version of Windows, Windows 7, is scheduled to be released in "the second half of 2009." (original story)

I remember when Windows ME was released, amid a large volume of hype and stampeding consumers, on September 14, 2000. I eventually bought into the hype and purchased an upgrade copy (that I still have somewhere). It was different. It had some interesting new features. And it crashed - A LOT!

When Windows XP was released just over a year later on October 25, 2001, amid similar hype and stampeding consumers, I figured out the purpose of Windows ME. Windows ME was not a revolutionary new operating system. Windows ME was 1) a way to bring to market the "next" Windows operating system that had already been delayed multiple times and 2) an operating system designed to provide a kinder, gentler transition from Windows 9x to Windows XP for all of those stampeding consumers. I support my second statement by pointing to the fact that Windows ME was shipped with thousands of known bugs and never had a service pack. In addition, support for Windows 98 and Windows ME ended on the same day (July 11, 2006).

Overall, Windows XP has been a successful operating system. It included some compelling security, feature, interface and back-end updates. It included a lot of backwards-compatible device and software support. What it didn't support, really needed to be updated anyway (I had a copy of MechWarrior 2 - the DOS version - that wouldn't play anymore under XP).

Then, Windows Vista emerged on January 30, 2007 amidst a great deal of hype (do we see a pattern here?) and expectation. The operating system did spend over five years in development with at least one instance of the developers scrapping the code altogether and starting from scratch. It was met, however, with lukewarm enthusiasm at best and outright seething hatred at worst. Like ME, Vista had a problem with adoption in the enterprise (business). Even though it has a business version, I've been told it is a "nightmare" to work with the networking and device support was sketchy at best. This, combined with the lack of obvious advantage to the end user, has made consumers shy away from Microsoft's latest offering. Sure, the aesthetic differences are obvious and "shiny" and there are a few of the tools that have been tweaked, but nothing revolutionary. The biggest selling point I have heard so far is increased security but the consumer doesn't see that. What they do see is their neighbor, an IT professional, lamenting the encroachment of Vista systems onto his landscape.

Now, we're starting to hear rumors that the next operating system will appear within two years of the release of the current operating system. This despite widespread rejection of the current offering. Much as I liked Vista, such as it was, I really hate to see it labeled as the next ME but if it walks like a duck...

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