For decades every new Windows OS release was a true happening. Today there is only Windows 10, the “last” big Windows release which will be kept fresh through updates. But does anyone still care?
In the end Bill Gates was still the coolest one of them all. It was 2006 and I had just started at Microsoft Germany for a few months when I fount the German version of his book “Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy” laying around in the office of the Windows Marketing Team. No one cared about it, so I did put it in an envelope kindly asking Bill to sign it and dropped it into internal mail. Several weeks later it returned: “To Christian, Best wishes, Bill Gates“.
When the CEO of an American Blue Chip with (back then) more than seventy thousand employees takes the time to sign a book for an intern from Germany, I think that is pretty cool.
Many times I asked myself: What would have happened with Microsoft in general and Windows in particular, if Bill had not decided to resign and focus on his foundation in 2008. If half-baked releases like Windows Vista or disappointments like Windows 8 could have been avoided?
I have to admit that I have been a huge fans of Windows for most of my life. When I finally got the chance to become a Full Time Employee in the Windows Core Operating Systems Division, that was almost like a dream coming true.
Windows Vista and Windows 7
And boy, we had a great time. Unfortunately epic launches like the one of Windows 95 with the Rolling Stones and their “Start me up” were way before I joined the company. But at least I was lucky enough to experience all the releases from Windows Vista up to Windows 10. Back then a lot of marketing budget was spent on launching Windows Vista and Windows 7 with big events in Germany. Later these were more and more cut. In collaboration with partners like Acer, Asus, Intel, Nvidia and many others even a few celebrities were invited to the launch events to clear the bulk of the dust and add some glamour (see photo gallery below). FC Bayern Munich instead of bytes.
For many Windows was a concern of the heart. At Microsoft Germany there were great colleagues with a special focus on Windows, like for example the Windows SPM role. This Subsidiary Program Manager was so to say the Inhouse technical Windows Guru. There was also a team with multiple employees covering the big German Windows communities like WinFuture or Dr.Windows. But all of these vanished or were merged with other responsibilities in the following years.
In my spare time Windows frequently caused an uproar by those who were experiencing bluescreens and were moaning about slow Windows machines (especially the ones who didn’t understand the meaning of the word malware). At every new release people would reach out to me asking “Is it worth it, should I upgrade?”. Priceless, how two guys looking like real rockers came to our Microsoft booth on the big German fair CeBIT in Hannover and started a hot discussion about how much proprietary software sucks and why open source had so many advantages. Or this lovely old man who started with punch cards and praised his move to Windows and “Off-fitze” (he meant Office). In short, Windows caused quite a stir. But the iPad changed everything.
Tablets, Ultra-Mobile PCs and Windows 8
Shortly after Apple released the first version of the iPad in April 2010 me and a couple of colleagues checked it out one evening. To me it is symptomatic that even experienced guys with more than ten years experience in the industry underestimated the iPad at first (“How am I supposed to write e-mails with this thing?”). Super thin, almost no ports, only a touchscreen – it was too extraordinary what Steve Jobs created.
As a reminder, Microsoft started looking into similar things several years before Apple launched the iPad. “Ultra-Mobile PCs” were small but chunky devices with a mix of input through touchscreens, keyboards and stylus pens. If I hadn’t worked for Microsoft back then, chances are high I would never touched such a device because they were really expensive. Using them was quite a hassle, since Windows was just squeezed into a small screen but the graphical user interface of the OS was not designed for this small form factor. And the hardware wasn’t ready for this idea either.
Did you every try to calibrate the display of your iPad? This function doesn’t even exist. And you wouldn’t need it either, because since day one the iPads touchscreens work very precisely. In comparison the first notebooks with touchscreens were really poor, as one frequently needed to re-adjust the screen settings by calibration software. If you ever used one of these early and ultra expensive devices, you know what I mean. Taking this into account and also the insane potential of controlling an own Store with apps it becomes clear why the iPad was such a game changer and Steve Jobs a real mastermind.
Windows 8 and its new Start screen with live tiles were Microsofts answer to this challenge. But as everybody knows this OS never met the expectations.
While Apple continued to sell a lot of iPads and established the completely new segment of Tablets these apples were given away to employees and customers in Germany.
Apple survived the attack of Windows 8 and Microsoft at least released a reasonable OS again. Satya Nadella turned the whole company upside down, opened Windows for Android and iOs apps and shifted the whole culture of Microsoft. This success reflects in both the stock chart as well as market share of Windows 10. But the big cash cows are increasingly the Office and Cloud units, while Windows stagnates.
Nobody I know still makes fun of bluescreens anymore or even asks for an opinion about Windows. The people I know simply just don’t care anymore. Most got rid of their big desktops and notebooks and are using iPads or Smartphones with big displays instead. Those who still own machines running Windows OS use fairly old devices, the majority of people I know is only using Windows at work.
And who would spend a lot of money on an OS anyway these days? Insane, considering estimated retail prices of $399,00 for Windows Vista Ultimate and $319,99 and Windows 7 Ultimate back in the day.
Due to all of this Windows today is as appealing to me as the paper in the printer in the office. You use it, but it is far from being exciting. And even though I own a couple of license keys for Windows, all of my four PCs at home are still running Windows 7.