The Computer World as We Know It

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2010-05-21 Print this article Print


It triggered an explosion of new software development. Companies had to rewrite all their existing MS-DOS applications if they wanted to stay in business. And a few weak companies ended up failing because they couldn't bear the cost of upgrading their software to Windows. New companies sprung up to produce and market a whole universe of new Windows applications.

Individuals and companies that had been working for years with the older Intel 8088 and 80286 computers decided that the time was right to upgrade to the latest 386 laptops and desktops. This added even more impetus to the PC boom of the early 90s.

The introduction also set the stage for the rise of the Internet as global computing, multimedia and communication platform for the masses. While the Internet certainly existed before Windows, it took a Windows 3.0 application, Netscape Navigator, to give people their first convenient opportunity to explore the Internet and the many new Websites that were springing up in the mid-1990s.

Microsoft continued the Hollywood-style Windows product introductions through the '90s with the release of Windows 95 and Windows 98. But by the late '90s the glitz and the novelty was starting to wear off. Windows and Microsoft had won. The operating system was running on virtually every PC that wasn't named Apple Macintosh. Microsoft had become one of the richest companies in the world and Bill Gates the richest man in the world from sales of Windows and Windows applications.

And by that time, Microsoft realized it had other issues to worry about. It had paid so much attention to selling Windows that it failed to respond quickly to the huge new opportunity and challenge of the Internet. When it looked up, the company discovered that the dominant Web browser on the Internet was from a company named Netscape, not Microsoft, and Gates wanted to fix that problem fast.

By the late '90s, Windows had become the favorite target of scammers and malicious hackers creating viruses, Trojans and worms designed to take down networks and destroy data, and later to steal data. Microsoft had to make security programming the top priority for Windows and its applications.

The introductions of future versions of Windows became less ostentatious, more businesslike and less expensive. Yes, there was plenty of media hoopla and anticipation, but Microsoft no longer had to give Windows an aura of glamour and invincibility. It just had to prove that it was secure, efficient and reliable, and that increasingly became a problem as PC users and corporate IT managers grew weary of battling constant security threats.

By the early 2000s the computer industry was also changing. The industry matured in the economic sense, not just in the sense of years or experience. The PC industry was consolidating. It had gone through the dot-com boom and bust and that had finally convinced everybody that when it came to computing and the Internet, the sky was no longer the limit. The computer industry was bound by the same economic laws as any other. There were fewer companies, fewer jobs, fewer new products-and seemingly-fewer fresh ideas.

These days there really is only one place left to experience, although in a somewhat more circumscribed way, the excitement and hype of those old Microsoft Windows introductions of the 1990s. You have to get one of those much more scarce invitations to one of Apple's latest product introductions.

John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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