Archive for October 26, 2011

Why Windows XP is Still the Dominant Operating System

October 26, 2011 14 comments

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of Windows XPs public release and it is still, for better or worse, the dominant operating system on PCs. While some shills might talk about the imminent death of PCs in favor of smartphones and tablets or the “glorious” future of cloud computing- the reality is that PCs (desktop and laptop) are here to stay for the foreseeable future. The persistence of PCs as a type of computing platform is linked to the physical proportions and limitations of humans and even voice, eye movement and brain wave controlled user interfaces are merely augmentations for what can be done with your own hands at a visual distance of 1.5-2 feet.

So what made Windows XP so dominant and long-lasting?

The simple answer is that it was good enough, easy enough, stable enough, universal enough and inexpensive enough to displace operating systems before it and still compete with later ones- both from Microsoft and Apple. It can still do pretty much everything the latest operating systems can while preserving a familiar and easy to use interface. Its was also introduced just before mass ownership of PCs took off throughout the world, so it is effectively the only operating system many PC users have known. Did I mention that its hardware requirements, which once sounded onerous, are very modest by current standards.

But in our dystopic era of trying to wring ever-increasing amounts of profit from thin air something like Windows XP poses a real problem to bean-counters and management-types. While these ‘people’ have no capability or interest in providing real world value, they cannot resist the temptation of extracting more money out of customers by providing a newer but often inferior product. You might remember how Microsoft tried to push ‘Vista’ down the consumer’s unwilling throat in 2007-2008. They temporarily forgot that you cannot sell inferior stuff when superior alternatives are available. To their credit- they did realize their folly within a few months allowing both easy XP ‘downgrades’ and speeding up the development of Windows 7.

Windows 7, while a step in the right direction, is essentially a prettier and somewhat more secure Windows XP. Though a significant part of the code was supposedly rewritten it is rather peculiar that many device drivers and programs written for XP work flawlessly on Windows 7, unlike Vista. You might have heard about how Microsoft wants to, once again, revolutionize computing with the upcoming Windows 8. However I doubt they will do so, given what we have seen and heard about it till date. But then again- it has not yet been officially released and things could still change a lot.

So how many of you use Windows XP on your desktop or laptops? I still do.. though one of my newer laptops is a Windows 7 machine.