The Upgrade Culture

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Every new iPhone, HTC and Samsung release creates a rush of users who need to have the latest handset. Android users, who are still under contract, sometimes stick with their devices, but flash the latest flavour of the operating system, just to have the new features.

This is a relatively new phenomenon in the world of tech, but I came across a slick operating system graphic that took me back to times when new versions of software meant more than simple tweaks. Some of the Windows upgrades depicted in the graphic are great examples of how and why Windows became the platform of choice for work and play.

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Familiarity Wins the Operating System Crown

Undoubtedly, Windows has been one of the great computing success stories. Apple has a romantic underdog story that began with Wozniak and Jobs struggling to get their garage-based computer business off the ground, but the emergence of Windows 3.0 in 1990 probably contributed as much to the way we work as Tim Berners-Lee’s idea of a free internet.

I’m not old enough to remember Windows 3.0 the impact it had, but by the time Windows 95 came about, my school had accepted that accepting IT in had an important part to play the curriculum. Anyone who went to school in the 90s will feel some nostalgia when they see the screenshot in graphic linked above.

What Makes a Successful Operating System

Marketing and the resulting market penetration is obviously a key part of any successful software. Bill Gates’ ability to make a strategic relationship with IBM in the 80s was obviously a masterstroke, but no relationship has worth unless both parties bring something to the table. Microsoft would have struggled from the start if they didn’t have a reliable product with features that make life easier for users.

From Operating to Using

MS-DOS removed the effort it took for users to perform every-day functions such as printing and mounting drives before file transfers by loading the functions into memory. Fast-forward 34 years and MS Windows pre-loads a thousand functions that many of us are unaware of because we never had the displeasure of manually operating a computer. We truly are users rather than operators.

With all this progression, it would appear that Microsoft is without fault, but anyone who chose to upgrade to the first version of Windows 8 on a desktop system will tell you that the ‘upgrade culture’ can work against you occasionally. According to Tech Radar, People are tagging Windows 8 as the new Vista, which was widely demonised when it took over from the still popular, but now unsupported Windows XP. Thankfully, Microsoft are accommodating their desktop user market by giving users the option to have W8 work more like W7.

The Next Generation

It will be interesting to see if the graphic will receive an update when Windows 9 hits the desktop at some time in 2015. Will we welcome it as we did Windows 7, or will it fall into the Vista-W8 category of not quite right first time around? I for one, am keen to find out.

This piece is a guest post.

James O’Malley