Driving Windows in new

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2005-11-13 Print this article Print

directions"> New demands and form factors also drove Windows in new directions. Gateways Elsasser pointed to the push for three-dimensional capabilities and the development of tablet PCs as examples where the operating system evolved to fit the needs of OEMs.

In addition, Moores Law—which states that chip transistor counts will double every two years—has impacted the operating system, McClintock said. "Much more memory, much more storage and much more processing capabilities," he said.

During Windows 20-year history, there have been a number of milestones for OEMs. The first came in 1990, with the release of Windows 3.0 for the desktop. It offered a strong GUI and really began to exploit the underlying power of the processors. "People gave big wow reactions when they saw it," said Curt Jones, director of storage software for HPs ISS group, in Houston.

Gateways Elsasser said the GUI—with its more intuitive operating environment—brought consumers to the PC, giving them confidence in their ability to learn how to use the machines.

"You couldnt just walk up to a computer with a DOS prompt and have any success," Elsasser said. "Youd fail, and someone would have to train you. If you walked up to a Windows machine, the chance of success was high."

Features such as the volume control that looked like a knob youd see on a radio fueled that feeling. "Youd look at it and say, I know what it is; Ive seen it before. Ive had success with it, and I can do it again," Elsasser said.

The releases of Windows NT 3.5 for servers and workstations in 1993 and Windows 2000 seven years later were big jumps forward for enterprise hardware. The latter introduced "a fundamental set of changes" that helped Windows grow from a PC operating system to a strong one for servers, including the ability to support systems with more than four processors, said IBMs Brown in Armonk, N.Y.

Click here to read an overview of Windows first 20 years. Each one of the major releases has also meant a lot of work—and stress—for the OEMs leading up to the release date, particularly since there were times when the release dates were changed at the last minute.

Elsasser, who was then with eMachines Inc.—which was bought last year by Gateway—recalled the months leading up to the release of Windows XP in October 2001. eMachines, which sold its PCs through retail stores, ran on a cycle where it would sell all its PCs during a fiscal quarter and then bring new ones to the retailers for the next quarter. The release of XP coincided with the beginning of the holiday buying season, a crucial time of the year for PC vendors.

The release of the XP disks to OEMs was running late, and eMachines, desperate to get the disks to start loading XP onto its holiday PCs, brought a helicopter to Microsofts Redmond, Wash., campus. When the disks were finally released, the helicopter flew them back to eMachines manufacturing sites, where employees, working day and night, used them to create images to load onto the PCs.

The company also flew employees to Asia to oversee the shipping schedule of the systems in that region.

"We were only one of two vendors to have systems ready for retail on the day [XP] was launched," Elsasser said. "When you get to one of these [major] refreshes, it really becomes a macro project."

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