So he did it. Bill Gates finally said goodbye to the DOS prompt. Gates drew cheers as he ceremoniously exited from the command-based operating system during the launch party for XP, the latest version of Windows.
Somehow, I think DOS deserved a more dignified ending. After all, it was DOS, and the business deal behind acquiring it and licensing it to IBM, that put Microsoft on the map and into our lives forever.
But despite the leverage DOS provided in capturing millions of users and billions of dollars, Microsoft has been on a mission to expunge it from our computers and our memories. And not just DOS but every ancestor to Windows that walked before 95, ME, 2000 and now XP. And in that process, Gates & Co. has not seemed too worried about treading on sacred ground. Rather, what is celebrated is technologys inexorable march forward.
Considering that much of XP is merely polish, the merits of that point are debatable. Nevertheless, what undermines the credibility of every new Windows rollout is the message that past efforts were insufficient to truly liberate computer users from the humdrum of their everyday lives. Now you have XP, which can set you free.
XP may be the best ever, but what about its offspring, Longhorn and Blackcomb? Can they possibly be even better? One can only imagine what Microsoft will say about XP once its ready for the computing scrapheap. Will the company denigrate it as it did Windows 9xs “blue screen of death” in advertisements for Windows 2000?
After XPs New York debut, eWeek Technology Editor Peter Coffee asked us if anyone else had noticed how in his keynote, Gates criticized Windows 9x for DOS existing just below the surface. Six years earlier, DOS was dismissed as an insignificant part of 95.
Rather than try to erase the past and continually promise the world, only to come up short, Redmond should try a different tack: Embrace the past and learn from it. Accept the mistakes it made—and is making—and try to figure out ways to develop an operating system that is as valuable to its users as it is to its maker.