A Decade Later: Windows 95 Keeps Going … and Going

Microsoft's own worst enemy for Windows Vista is the kinds of users who are still running Windows 95. What, if anything, might convince these die-hards to upgrade?

Microsoft Corp. officials have admitted one of their biggest challenges in continuing to grow the companys Windows business is the impression among some of its installed base that older Windows versions are good enough. The users of Windows 95, which turns 10 years old on Wednesday, are a case in point.

Check out any of a number of Windows support forums, and it is readily apparent there are still lots of Windows 95 die-hards out there. While some are struggling to keep their aging systems ticking, others are content to keep patching and tweaking their decade-old Windows variant for the foreseeable future. And that perception is one of the biggest hurdles Microsoft will encounter as it launches in 2006 Windows Vista—a Windows release that its executives have likened to Windows 95, in terms of significance to customers and importance to Microsofts and its partners futures.

On Aug. 24, 1995, Microsoft launched simultaneously Windows 95, Internet Explorer (IE) 1.0 and the first rev of the MSN.

Since that time, the company has released at least six new Windows client versions (and more, if you count interim updates, such as Windows 95 OSR2), including Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows 2000 desktop, Windows Millennium Edition (ME), Windows XP and Windows XP Service Pack 2. It has fielded myriad IE updates, some stand-alone and others bundled into the operating system. And it has morphed MSN from being primarily a dial-up Internet-access service to a full family of e-mail, instant-messaging, music, advertising, storage and search services.

Two months after the Windows 95 launch, more than one million copies of the product had been sold, according to Microsoft. While the companys marketing machine pulled out all the stops to convince people who had no idea what an operating system was that they needed to stand in line at midnight to buy one, the development side of the house was somewhat ambivalent about Windows 95, said Peter OKelly, a senior analyst with The Burton Group.

"Windows 9x wasnt supposed to happen—NT was supposed to be the mainstream consumer OS [operating system] long before Windows 2000," OKelly said.

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