Windows 8 should be coming out in a couple of years, bringing to light the question of whether its release will be all that relevant. In one sense it will be relevant because the Windows OS is the current standard and that’s unlikely to change. But will the upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 be a relevant one?

But here’s the thing: I’m sure that Windows 8 will be an improvement over Windows 7 but can’t imagine who’s going to rush out to buy it. We’re long past the days when a new Windows meant a massive change in the user experience. Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 was a sea change. Since then, however, it’s been pretty ho hum. Windows 98 was mostly a tweak. Windows XP was a pretty noticeable improvement, although most of us just waited until we bought a new box to get it. Vista was widely panned. Windows 7 was what Vista should have been.

Joyner passes right over Windows 2000, which I would also mark as a sea change. Yeah, the interface wasn’t all that different, but the changes on the backend were enormous as they switched to the NT-based platform. This caused problems with compatibility, but also produced the first really stable Windows. The Blue Screen of Death became, if not a thing of the past, more “What the hell” rather than “not again. XP was a mild upgrade, but only became really worth it when hardware caught up to the point that it wasn’t taking a hit on resources. Vista was relevant only to the extent that it was Microsoft’s first widespread disaster (Windows ME was a disaster, but not a widespread one).

The Windows 2000 oversight aside, I think that Joyner is essentially correct. Windows 8 will matter only insofar as it will be installed on new computers from that point forward. That makes it worth keeping an eye on, but not much more than that since Vista has demonstrated that if it’s really bad then Microsoft can be forced to go back to the drawing board. Ultimately, though, Windows is where it needs to be. It’s perhaps not as good as it should be, but it’s good enough. So I agree with those questioning whether they should be taking so long to try to knock our socks off. Windows doesn’t really do “wow” anymore and I am of the mind that they should shift gears towards a more evolutionary rather than revolutionary track.

Despite its many flaws, Windows Vista did some things quite right. The thing is, all of the things that I really like about Vista are either superficial or really small tweaks. For example, I likt e the fact that I can click on a directory at the top of an explorer window and it will backtrack to that directory. I like that if I place a shortcut to a folder that it shows the folder structure on the left side of the window. I like that if I have extensions showing and click to rename a file that it doesn’t highlight the extension. I like the increased control in copying/moving files. These are all really small things that I really miss whenever I go back to XP.

I would much prefer it if this was the kind of thing that Microsoft focused on with future OSes. Annual releases of mostly tweaks with an attractively-priced upgrade package would probably have me upgrading every year. It would have me looking forward to what they’re doing next. It would make each change to the OS more apparent. There are so many differences between Vista and XP that a lot of them end up going unnoticed. And often, rather than being a benefit, they’re a pain because you have to learn all of these changes at once. There’s also the hefty price tag, both in terms of cost and hardware requirements.

Of course, sometimes you have to make sweeping changes. For instance, one big change that Vista/Win7 do that needed to be done is to allow for greater RAM capacity. The transition from 32-bit to 64-bit was also necessary. So I do recognize that you do need revolutionary changes every now and again even if they mean that people are going to have to spend more on hardware and deal with compatibility issues. I don’t know what big changes Win8 will require, though I am open to being convinced. In the meantime, though, I think that they should be working on relatively small upgrades and do like they did with Windows 98 Second Edition. If nothing else, it will give them a good feel for which changes are positively received and which ones are not so that Microsoft doesn’t spend too much time developing something that proves initially to be very unpopular.


Category: Server Room

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

6 Responses to Will Windows 8 Matter?

  1. Brandon Berg says:

    I don’t think that was an oversight. Windows 2000 was never supposed to be a consumer operating system. Most home users went from 98 or ME to XP. Granted that most probably would have been better off going from 98 to 2000 rather than waiting for XP, but that wasn’t the intended upgrade path.

  2. trumwill says:

    Odd. It appears you’re right or at least it was somewhere between 98/XP and NT in terms of distribution (which makes sense as a dry-run for XP). I figured that since my ThinkPad came with 2000 and because most of my friends (none of whom messed with NT4) upgraded to 2000 once the 10,000 bugs hysteria faded that it was more widespread among home users than it was (and I thought I remember 2000 being considered the first consumer-release NT-based OS). Maybe I bought the laptop after ME was a bust and so there was a brief window when they were installing 2000. Or maybe IBM being IBM, they went with the far better OS while Gateway and the others were sticking with the worse one.

  3. Samson says:

    *shrug*

    I think Vista is pretty awesome. Windows 7?

  4. trumwill says:

    Windows 7 is like Vista but without the problems (and, sadly, without nearly the Quicklaunch flexibility. Mutter, mutter.

  5. no more mr nice guy says:

    I’m using XP and I intend to use it as long as possible (and I’m not alone) so I suppose I will upgrade from XP to windows 8.

  6. Nanani says:

    I still haven’t seen a hint of the problems people complain about regarding Vista (which I use at home).
    My work machine is XP but that’s out of my hands.

    7? No interest.

    I’ve been on the “upgrade when buying a new computer” model as long as I’ve been buying computers.

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