30 Years Ago: Windows Evolved Slowly Before Microsoft Got It Right

By Eric Lundquist  |  Posted 2013-08-21 Print this article Print

In the intervening years, there were a lot more versions as Windows had to keep evolving to become more stable and usable. Windows 3.0, which was released in May 1990, is credited as being the first truly practical and widely used version of Microsoft's graphical operating system.

But I've felt it was Windows 3.1, released in April 1992, that brought Windows to the masses. This version made the path ready for Windows 95, which was introduced in 1995 amid great fanfare and long lines of consumers worldwide anxious to get their hands on the product. Windows 95 was the highpoint for the operating system as a symbol of graphical desktop computing's mass appeal.

The greatest technology advance was Windows NT, developed by former Digital Equipment Corp. engineer David Cutler, as the portability and stability of NT (introduced in 1993) set the standard for operating systems for workstations and servers.

Windows XP (built on the NT kernel) remains widely used today despite its impending end of life next year.

However, Windows' misses were as many as its hits. Microsoft Bob (a graphical interface no one wanted) became a standard joke for PC Week's Spencer Katt cartoons. Windows 2000, Windows Vista and it is looking like Windows 8 will be remembered more for the disappointment than the excitement.

Microsoft may have had both hits and misses regarding Windows, but from those early 1980s versions of Windows on, the company developed and deployed marketing strategies that are still being followed. Microsoft and its ever present PR agency Waggener Edstrom, founded in 1983, developed (or borrowed from Apple's PR guru Regis McKenna) the concept of identifying the technology influencers and then mounting campaigns to influence the influencers. This included keeping dossiers (one famously leaked to a Wired reporter in 2007).

Windows and Microsoft remain intertwined. But the world is clearly moving on to cloud computing, mobile operating systems, smartphones and tablets—areas where Microsoft is playing catch-up yet again. Still, the company's most recently introduced cloud computing product is Windows Azure instead of Microsoft Azure. It could be time to unwind the inseparable the relationship between Windows and Microsoft.

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.



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