back to article Midlife crisis, suck ingenuity? Microsoft turns 40; does the dad dance

It's 40 years to the day since computer software company Microsoft started life under Bill Gates and Paul Allen. On Friday, Redmondians were apparently greeted with a memo from co-founder Gates, who these days – besides from being the world's richest man – acts as a technical advisor to current MS chief Satya Nadella. In the …

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    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      I don't know, I wouldn't mind it if my notebook skittered over a few inches to the inductive charging pad when the cat knocks it askew...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A multi-platform world?

    Quote

    I believe computing will evolve faster in the next 10 years than it ever has before. We already live in a multi-platform world, and computing will become even more pervasive.

    What he didn't say that in Microsoft's eyes, a multi-platform world is one that only has Windows 10 running in Phones, Tablets, PC's and Servers. Different platforms... Different WINDOWS Platforms more like.

    {This was brought to you by from a Windows free establishment}

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. P. Lee Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: A multi-platform world?

        >Well I interpreted it as an acceptance that other platforms already exist...

        Well yes, Windows Phone, Windows xp, Vista, 7 and 8 are all different platforms. That's why they are introducing Windows 10 as the new, er, standard platform.

        Tux to Bill, in modern parlance:

        So don't be dumb

        I got 99 problems

        But you won't be one

        Like what!

        Yeah, I'm slightly bitter. Trying to install W7 + Office + Lync + all patches from scratch into a VM by DVD & download took several days of slow downloads, failed updates, reboots and blue screens. Not all MS' fault, vmplayer 7.1 would lock far too often, but even so - cache those updates! It shouldn't be that hard! I've used over 15G (excluding Office + lync) since 1st April nearly all on one installation. This wasn't anything clever, install W7 sp1, patch (patch, patch) install Office (patch patch) etc. Only VLC+Firefox were non-MS installs.

        Bah!

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. lucki bstard

          Re: A multi-platform world?

          Should have become a plumber and never worked in IT... That'll fix your install

    2. Dave Lawton

      Re: A multi-platform world?

      We HAD a multi-platform world, until Gates came along and did his best to bury it.

      So you could say that he set computing back by 40 years, and a bit, since we still don't have the diversity we had, although we are approaching it.

  3. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    WTF?

    Gott im Himmel!

    Paul looks about forty, and Bill looks about nine!

  4. SVV Silver badge

    First law of robotics

    is in fact : Whenever you hear someone going on about how robots are going to become a part of our daily lives much more , they are talking nonsense.

    Sure, they are good for repetetive tasks in manufacturing, and various rail based transport applications. They can even mow the lawn if you're prepared to deal with something that's not 100% infallible and you're too lazy to do do that yourself. But "talking to each other" and "making decisions around my house in order to do all my chores"? Yeh, I remember reading that sort of stuff in the school library back in the 1970s.

    And the reason why? You need humans to create interfaces and define strictly how stuff talks to other stuff if you want interoperability, and that takes serious work (e.g. how you manage sudden unavailabilty of the stuff you were trying to talk to)

    Given the way Windows has evolved over the last 15 years, Bill's not really the go-to person for this advice. Unless floundering around from partial-but-bloated success to misguided failure really is technological Nirvana..

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: First law of robotics

      > Whenever you hear someone going on about how robots are going to become a part of our daily lives much more , they are talking nonsense.

      I have a robot that washes clothes, another that washes dishes, I go to work on a robot train

    2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: First law of robotics

      They can even mow the lawn if you're prepared to deal with something that's not 100% infallible and you're too lazy to do do that yourself.

      Sounds like an easy business model to follow. Nothing is 100% infallible, so no problem there, and there are plenty of lazy people to target as customers. I honestly think that we will have a lot more automation in our lives, even if it isn't distilled down to a single robot butler but is instead a robot for each chore, give or take.

  5. Mage Silver badge
    Unhappy

    computing will evolve faster in the next 10 years

    Nonsense.

    It's become a commodity and embedded.

    Phones as PDAs / Computers / Music players are better than Nokia Communicator of 2002, but arguably worse as phones.

    A new laptop has more eye candy, cpu, HDD, GPU, RAM than 2002, but often a poorer screen and more aggravating OS, less privacy.

    Actually we are stagnating and shinier "gadgets" is no evidence of "Computing evolving".

    Certainly we won't see anything significant from Apple or MS. They are just polishing what they have.

    1. king of foo

      Re: computing will evolve faster in the next 10 years

      first!

    2. Sandtitz Silver badge

      Re: computing will evolve faster in the next 10 years

      I disagree.

      1. I don't think the Communicator is 'arguably' better than modern phones in any way. It may equal new phones in call quality since GSM codec is still the lowest common denominator and voice if of course just voice.

      2. A new laptop (in same price category) has a better screen than something from 2002 unless your requirement is "4:3"

      Your points aside, everyone expects smalle evolutionary updates in hardware. The 2002 Communicator is ancient and after that we've seen a paradigm shift in the user interface (touch), easy extendability through app stores, wireless charging and data exchange. Built-in cameras have replaced the point-and-click digital cameras. TomTom and other dedicated GPS devices had a great decade but I their unit sales have been declining for years since smart phones can handle navigation reasonably well.

      But I don't think it's about hardware only what Gates is talking about.

      In 2002 no-one expected the social media sites like Myspace or Facebook to boom (and fade) as they did. Kickstarter, ride-sharing/travel/accommodation services, what have you. Google Earth and Street View were astounding when they were debuted.

      Coding is being taught in some elementary schools, and I'm not expecting things to slow down. More people more ideas.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Sandtitz Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: computing will evolve faster in the next 10 years

          "Touch screens are wonderful - but for no technical reason that has been coupled with the removal of real keyboards from touch devices. The Nokia E90 keyboard was much easier to type on than the stupid on-screen keyboard on my Samsung handset. I could cut and paste with character accuracy with a couple of key presses. Try doing that on a touch-screen android. Easy? OK, now try to select a large passage of text when posting to El Reg forums using an android device and you'll find that the text input window scrolls like mad instead of slowly, when you try to select above the visible text. One step forward, one step back. Don't even suggest that I download an alternative web browser from the play store to fix the problem."

          The problem in your example is not in the concept but execution. How did you zoom in and browse the zoomed page on E90? Much harder than with your touch screen. My last two Symbian phone were E65 and E72, I was there.

          With your E90 you were limited to the disastrously awful Nokia browser or Opera. I was there too - had E65 and E72. The first thing I did was to download Opera. I'm sure glad that was an option.

          BTW, I'm not against physical keyboards, I'm writing this with one. Smartphone covers with keyboards are available and I have an Android tablet which also has a touchpad+trackpoint with physical keys.

          "Learn that some of us don't want app stores,

          Don't use it then. Let it sit there.

          and that their existence is a massive excuse for the manufacturers to bundle buggy, limited apps with the phones themselves. [...} Why would you need extensibility if a decent collection of apps, (email, message client, browser, ftp and ssh client, text editor), were built in to the firmware an maintained by the manufacturer?"

          Because not everyone is fully satisfied with the built-in applications.

          Youre fantasizing. How long do you think manufactures would maintain their devices anyway? How many no-name Androids can be patched up-to-date?

          "My Nokia handsets had IR connections 12 years ago."

          My pocketed phone streams music to the speaker via BT. I consider this a big improvement. Some people are pay-by-bonking using NFC.

          "There is still a considerable market for low end digital cameras and dedicated GPS devices."

          I believe there's still market for CRT monitors too.

          How many businesses do you think are going to start in any of those businesses?

          "Those are all examples of things that a lot of technically minded people consider irritating, and more importantly, badly implemented.

          I'm not necessariy disagreeing with what you write - what I was saying is that Myspace and FB sprung up from nowhere and gathered billions of users. Likewise I didn't expect Google to end up that dominant behemoth it is today. Nor for Apple to grow into $700bn corporation as it did. How many people predicted them?

          "Massively bandwidth inefficient, all pointy clicky and slow."

          Yes. Do you visit this site with console based browser as well?

          "...most people that learn to code at school, college or university never have a clue. I always have a laugh when I see the nicely formatted, prim and propper code without a single 'goto' that they produce, then proceed to point out the bugs, security issues and inefficiencies."

          Does your code stand up to scrutiny? Is it bug-free, vuln-free, fully optimized assembly?

          People should learn from mistakes. Some do, some don't. People who learn to code in school but show no interest in developing their skills afterwards won't master their trade. Then again those who apply their newly learned skills and experiment may attain something great. As an example, Linus probably spent a lot of free time for his hobby back then, though I cannot say whether his CompSci studies were a benefit or a hindrance.

          "Things already have slowed down. 15 years ago you could earn silly money just writing perl scripts. The boom was in full swing and although many people fell by the wayside, there was a lot of real, useful innovation. Now, less innovation and the pushing of ideas that people don't want from large manufacturers."

          I disagree. The devices and the basic OS may stagnate for some time until they're re-invented again. The phone or tablet or whatever isn't that interesting to me and at some point they will be meaningless if/when OS specific software is replaced with generic software.

          The big picture of computing - how people use computers - is still changing rapidly. Having every single electronics device in the household to be monitored or activated from your phone or tablet isn't utopistic; Cars are getting more and more connected; how many will still read a printed newspaper in 25 years time? 50 years?; teleconferencing with the boss, or your bank manager with the tablet/phone will become easier and commonplace. And so forth.

          It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, and I'm not aiming to be the next Criswell. :-)

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            1. Sandtitz Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: computing will evolve faster in the next 10 years

              "...now try to select a large passage of text when posting to El Reg forums using an android device and you'll find that the text input window scrolls like mad instead of slowly, when you try to select above the visible text"

              "Read before commenting - did I ever suggest that the E90 was the pinnacle of mobile handsets? No. It could have been massively improved with a touch display. My point was that we've gained, (useful), touch interfaces at the expense of losing some of the functionality of the old handsets."

              Like I said: "The problem in your example is not in the concept but execution."

              There is no technical reason for the touch interface in an Android to scroll like that. Neither am I suggesting that touch interfaces have reached their pinnacle.

              "because the manufacturers use it [app store] as an excuse to slack on the built in functionality."

              Repeating something doesn't make it true.

              "Is there an echo in here? Read and understand before posting - already you are contradicting your own point of view. "Not satisfied with the built in applications", means one of two things, either you need an additional capability not provided for by the device, (e.g. a game), in which case it could run in a sandbox, because it is nothing to do with the core functionality and doesn't need to mess with contacts, messages or anything like that. Or secondly, you want, (for example), a replacement email client because the built in one is crap."

              Maybe I don't articulate well enough. You definition of 'core functionality' differs from mine. I expect the core functionality to include only the OS kernel, device drivers, APIs, and on a handset I'd like the calling functionality to be there too.

              Your definition of core includes a web browser - 15 years ago (or so) Microsoft was dragged over coals for insisting the same. Many would be similarly satisfied if your core text editor was vi, but not all.

              Your "single browser" monoculture proposition is in use with the IOS devices. Chrome, FireFox nor others are allowed. Some people are not satisfied (not saying they're crap!) with Chrome either in Android - hence the option to install others.

              "Yeah, April 1st has passed you know. If you're looking for a mobile technology success story, NFC is not it. Sorry, but at least this point made me laugh."

              You are easily amused then. NFC payment by phone isn't ubiquitous but people are using it.

              "Are you winding me up or are you really this dumb?"

              Based on your ad hominems I'd say you were already wound up. Chill.

              "Spend an afternoon in Argos and count how many cameras under 100 quid they sell."

              Apparently that's your workplace since you seem to know how many units they sell. I'm sure there are cameras on the shelf, but do they fly off the shelves?

              Of course there are digital cameras still sold, and the better cameras with changeable lenses have a somewhat steady market outlook. There's still some market left on the compact shooters too, but the sales are dwindling rapidly with them from the heydays of 2010 (108M units) to last year (29,2M). This year the sales from Jan-Feb period are already about 20% down YoY. (source: CIPA)

              For GPS units there's no data available (or I'm too stupid to find it), but my Tomtom 720 is gathering dust since my phone is "good enough" and the maps are also free. I see many others use their phone for GPS since it's a common feature on even low-end.

              "Things come and go. They all seemed great and unstoppable at the time."

              Of course. I detest Facebook but it has made huge waves and changed peoples usage of computers or phones. Several sites use it for authentication, and millions are hooked on social media. Nowadays you don't have to have any HTML skills like back in the days of Geocities et al. to bring yourself or your causes for others to ogle. It's a site where IT declined people can post their ramblings to select or wide audience. And I mean people who used to read their mail maybe once a week/month and call you when they send email just in case. (hi dad!)

              "I mostly use a perl script and curl to slurp interesting stuff from El Reg, actually."

              Do you submit your posts with scripts too?

              "Real programmers tend to do things like that."

              "Sorry, but at least this point made me laugh." :-)

              "If you can't see how the proliffeance of web-based email has added massive inefficiency to businesses, you probably shouldn't be working in IT."

              The businesses I work mostly with use a mail client you'd probably disapprove of greatly, and use webmail only as a backup.

              "I can and do write assembler, but why on earth would I write everything in a language that is inappropriate for the task?"

              Well, I do not know your tasks. That Gibson guy at one point coded everything with asm IIRC.

              I'm objecting to your snobbery regarding to coders fresh out of schools. They rarely are adepts at anything and learn the real-life skills while working. This applies to all trades.

              Laugh all you want at the beautifully constructed but inefficien code but what matters is what the code does. The ready product may be filling a need no-one else catered before, and it's important to ship it before someone else does unless you're not interested in making money. Witness the idiotic Flappy Bird game craze couple years ago. The simplest possible game brought the author in Vietnam what, $50k daily? I'm not contesting his skills here, but that was a game that could have been done by less skilled coders to put it nicely.

              "Any more dumb posts for me to reply to?"

              Do you feel threatened and thus resort to condescending language?

              If you want to start a flame war go somewhere else. I'm not interested.

  6. Bruce Ordway

    next 10 years

    For sure I'd expect devices to continue getting smaller, faster with bigger networks connecting everything. If that is what Mr Gates means by evolving.

    I'm hoping we get something revolutionary too. Not sure what that might be but... as SpnogeBob would say "I'm ready".

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about the last 20?

    Maybe a computer historian can write a column about what exactly Microsoft's contribution to the world of computation has been the past 20 years.

    I'll start - how about suppressing independent development tools like Delphi back when when people first started writing clean Windows code, forcing them into either VB or 'Visual' C++. Or the almost stillborn world wide web after killing Netscape?

    Microsoft has set the entire planetary state of software back 20 years, we are just now starting to emerge from the Microsoft Dark Ages, so from all of us out here in the trenches, thanks very much for the good wishes Mr. Gates, but you can go back to your toilet research, we're tired of looking back.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: How about the last 20?

      Borland and Delphi shot themselves in the feet. MS hired some of the key people behind it, but it was Borland management who made mistake after mistake (dBase and Visigenic acquisitions), and was never able to replace them (now development has been offshored to Romania and Spain). What is incredible, is that most of that management is still there, desperately trying to make money by upgrades from those still using it, churning out a mostly useless release every six months (after changing the license to limit the upgrade window)

      If you believe MS is a company that doesn't listen to customers, try Embarcadero, the actual owner of Delphi....

      Lotus killed itself also, with a string of barely usable releases of its products. Sure, MS did what it could to defeat competitors, but it got a lot of help from those very competitors. Bob was nothing compared to what someone else did...

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: How about the last 20?

        it was Borland management who made mistake after mistake (dBase and Visigenic acquisitions)

        Borland management may well have made mistakes, but it's not clear that the Visigenic acquisition was one of them. Visibroker, at least, is still a cash cow. In FY14 CORBA products were more than 10% of revenue, or over $47M USD, and Visibroker was the largest contributor.

        True, the other Visigenic product lines didn't fare so well. BES was pretty much doomed by JBoss, Tomcat, and Glassfish - it can be tough for a commercial product to compete in the face of so many free competitors. But Visibroker still has a big customer base.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what a lot of people..

    won't admit is that MS was a good thing for home computing and helped push drive, creation and ambition as well as general public awareness and understanding of the basics of PC use thanks to the vast majority of home PCs running windows. Remember, choice isn't a good thing all the time and I would hate to see the cluster fuck we would have now if it all been various distros instead.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: what a lot of people..

      "won't admit is that MS was a good thing for home computing and helped push drive, creation and ambition"

      Utter tripe. DOS was a bought in monitor system with a few tweaks added and Windows 3 was a knock-off of OS/2 which was FAR superior. You revisionist history also conveniently forgets that back in 1990 MacOS was also leagues ahead of Windows in features, creativity and ambition. Windows always was and still is a me-too product. It played catch up with MacOS on the desktop and on the server side its still playing catch up with Unix.

      The ONLY reason it became popular was the drip down effect from business and the cheap commodity hardware of x86 PCs. It had bugger all to do with Windows being superior at anything.

      "Remember, choice isn't a good thing all the time"

      Really? Well I hope you remember that when you're next down the supermarket. Just make sure you only buy tins of beans and nothing else.

      The only reason we lack choice now (Linux excepted) is Apple & IBM charging unreasonable prices and Amiga and Commodore both being run into the ground by idiots. The Amiga and ST blew PC hardware into the weeds and given proper support, backing and a decent business model they'd have probably left it there with Bill Gates and Microsoft being confined to the Where Are They Now? lists with x86 hardware being run on the server side by a combination of OS/2 and some version of Unix.

      1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

        Re: what a lot of people..

        @boltar. OS/2 was only at 1.3 when Windows 3 came out and it was still a joint IBM/Microsoft gig. The relationship broke up later. As for whether Windows 3 was a knock off, you'll find that pre 1.3, the interface and some of the code (for compatibility) in OS/2 was lifted from Windows.

        What lost it for IBM was expense and lack of hardware support compared to Windows. As for MacOS, it was a well packaged amalgam of existing ideas, as most Apple products are (not actually a crticism). MacOS was too wedded to expensive, proprietary Apple hardware (similarly, so were Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, though less expensive - they just didn't evolve either), hence the proliferation of Windows - hardly Microsoft's fault that the competition were inept.

        As for servers, well you need to blame the Traditional Unix vendors and Novell. The likes of SCO were too busy looking at the monster solution market and overly complex systems. Novell scuppered themselves with licensing and a lack of application support. Microsoft's NT effort had merit in concept in that it was an easy to use platform that could do authentication and networking, but also could still provide a flexible application platform and scale sufficient for SMEs. NT's issues were in execution, not concept. Again, competitors were inept in reading the market and again, not Microsoft's fault.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: what a lot of people..

            Grew up on IBM/3[67]0, PDP 11, Data General minis. Then used Apple IIs, Sinclairs, etc., in the late '70s. PC XT/AT, etc. in 80's. Around '89 tried ISC UNIX and later SCO Xenix/UNIX. Was thrilled that the earlier minicomputer multiuser experience had been resurrected on commodity HW. Never looked back at Microsoft. Everything has its warts. Microsoft warts were like kudzu. We are starting to emerge from that darkness.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: what a lot of people..

          The Amiga and ST blew PC hardware into the weeds

          The Amiga didn't have an MMU as standard, hence memory protection between workbench applications was crap.

          The Atari ST didn't have a blitter.

          All of the rose tinted glasses in the world will not change the fact that there was NO decent commodity hardware available at a decent price back then.

          I actually lived through this era and used these machines - all of them, IBM-PCs, Macs, Amigas and Atari STs. All of them had nice features. None of them had everything.

          And because it hasn't been mentioned so far, a vote here for Acorn's Archimedes (1987 IIRC), yes it was a little later than the Amiga and the ST but it falls into a very similar category. I lived through the era too and did my fair share of typing listings out of magazines and writing my own software because I'd used most of my savings on buying hardware.

          My view of the situation has long been that the reason MS "won" was nothing to do with the company itself nor its products, but was everything to do with the hardware. Not one of the other, potentially competing, systems turned out to be as "open". As soon as Compaq had reverse-engineered IBM's BIOS it became impossible to bolt the stable door and get the cat back into the bottle. The basic hardware itself was hardly more than Intel's application circuit for the 8086 and suddenly it became relatively cheap and easy to get "good enough" computer hardware from a number of suppliers.

          As for an OS, only MS had something ready-to-go on that hardware. They were "in the right place at the right time". Can you imagine Commodore getting the Amiga OS working on that stuff? RISC OS? The key point is probably that they didn't want to. Their business model revolved around selling a combination of hardware and software and differentiating their products in ways that your average business user didn't understand and frankly didn't care about.

          Yes, there were "killer applications" on each system; the ST's built-in MIDI, the Amiga's video circuitry (the Toaster) and, of course, Sibelius under RISC OS, but there was nothing intrinsic about those systems that meant that only they were suitable for those applications. Eventually the "PC" caught up.

          And once home users began to understand what computers would be most useful for, they ended up buying Canon Starwriters or Amstrad PCW machines - in many ways "appliances", in a way more closely-related to tablets and smartphones than to modern PC-type computers.

          Apple's flirtation with clones sort of missed the point, but I was well out of the Apple ecosystem by then so I can't really comment.

          In a way I miss those times, but with a fleet of several dozen Raspberry Pis, a fistful of Arduinos and a copy of BBC BASIC for Windows (thanks to the marvellous Richard Russell) it hasn't completely disappeared.

          M.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: what a lot of people..

          Point of order.

          "The Atari ST didn't have a blitter" - well, it had space for one, at least, and I clearly remember being able to switch the Blitter on from TOS on mine. I had a very late model though.

          In some ways I miss the "good old days" of heterogeneous hardware and the wild west of software compatibility even on the respective own platform! Then I wake up and realise that we have a silly amount of processing power available on tap at a constantly reducing cost and now struggle to use the power we have, with the exception of graphics-intensive gaming, at least in terms of home computing.

          I agree with the re-writing of history, having been there as a user, budding programmer and hardware tinkerer - with the 16-bit era there's a lot of rose-tinted "coulda would shoulda".

          With regards to MS, whilst I think their security implementations are crazy paranoid and above all irritating to the extreme today, coming from being completely wide open yesterday, their operating systems and software serve a purpose and whilst there was the appearance of a near-monopoly lingering from the '90s and early 2000s, truth was back then you still had alternatives (Lotus for its sins) and even today, you have that choice, with the chances are it costs even less than it did back then.

      3. lucki bstard
        Linux

        Re: what a lot of people..

        'The ONLY reason it became popular was the drip down effect from business and the cheap commodity hardware of x86 PCs. It had bugger all to do with Windows being superior at anything.' - So you're saying Windows was superior because it ran on cheap hardware.....

        1. Jess

          So you're saying Windows was superior because it ran on cheap hardware.....

          OPEN hardware.

      4. LDS Silver badge

        Re: what a lot of people..

        You MS haters try to rewrite history. It was Windows NT that came after the OS/2 split, not Windows 3.x. MacOS had an OS severely limited by lack of true multithreading, true, it was ahead in several graphic performances. Just, if you wanted MacOS, you had to buy an Apple, and they were severely expensive. Most people can only afford a PC, and it was running DOS or Windows, sorry. Without them, IT would have been a very expensive hobby for just a few wealth users. And there would have been no Linux, without cheap PCs, it would have stayed a university project. So you can blame MS as much as you like, but often "just enough" at an affordable price is what people need - that exactly how Android is dominating mobile OSes, just enough, and cheap.

        1. dz-015

          Re: what a lot of people..

          "Most people can only afford a PC, and it was running DOS or Windows, sorry. Without them, IT would have been a very expensive hobby for just a few wealth users."

          Utter rubbish for various reasons. For one thing, IBM created the PC, not Microsoft; and if Microsoft hadn't bullied its way to rapid operating system dominance, OS/2 and all sorts of other operating systems such as BeOS then Linux could have flourished on the hardware.

      5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: what a lot of people..

        Windows 3 was a knock-off of OS/2

        No, it really wasn't. Windows 3 might have borrowed some ideas from OS/2, but it was far more a descendant of Windows/386 (which was a Windows 2.x variant) than related to OS/2 1.x in any way.

        Windows and OS/2 converged much more later on, with Win 9x versus OS/2 Warp.

        That's not to say OS/2 1.x wasn't better than Win3. It was, by various measures; but it was also a lot more expensive and required considerably more resources.

        The Amiga and ST blew PC hardware into the weeds and given proper support, backing and a decent business model they'd have probably left it there with Bill Gates and Microsoft being confined to the Where Are They Now? lists with x86 hardware being run on the server side by a combination of OS/2 and some version of Unix.

        It's highly implausible that an alternative OS could have made much of an inroad into business desktop use once Win4wg became established, much less once Win9x did. Such a change would have been a big cost and risk for business IT departments, with little clear benefit. The ST, Amiga, and Mac all had nice features for home use and multimedia content creation; they didn't do anything new for writing memos, sticking numbers in spreadsheets, or running 3270 clients so people could do data entry or queries against CICS business apps. And file- and print-sharing with Netware or LAN Manager, while tiresome, worked a hell of a lot more reliably than daisy-chained Appletalk.

        Your speculation is just as "revisionist" as the post you're attacking. Technical superiority, particularly for whizzbangery that pleases home users but doesn't provide business efficiencies (or the appearance thereof), was never going to be a major selling point in business. And business drove first the commodification of the PC, and then the economics of scale that made ever-increasing CPU power and storage feasible.

        Home users weren't irrelevant; they got us cheap CD-ROM and then DVD drives, workstation-grade and then better graphics, and so forth. Those were very significant changes in the evolution of home computing. But enthusiasts never had the numbers to drive the economics that determined which platform won. That was always going to be business use.

      6. naive

        Re: what a lot of people..

        The PC war was not won by MS on features, but was won on being unified and standard over all the x86 PC's on the market combined with binary compatibility with previous versions. Bill Gates was spot on to see that binary compatibility is a very big asset, even IBM pokes itself on the chest that model 370 compiled MVS binaries from the 70's run on modern z-Series.

        Having witnessed how Unix/X11 self destruct itself with the Unix wars from the late 80's, MS offered what user like. Freedom of choice in relatively cheap hardware, many applications, and binaries that ran on everything.

        Does anyone remember what a 32-bit Unix 68020 workstation cost in the early 90's ?, for that money one could populate a room full of Intel-80286 PC's.

    2. dz-015

      Re: what a lot of people..

      "MS was a good thing for home computing"

      That's the most ignorant and retarded thing I've read for quite some time.

      The ubiquity of Windows' low-quality, backward interface lowered people's expectations of technology almost to the point of absurdity, and as a computing professional I find it a constant embarrassment that Windows gives people such a poor experience and that there's so little that can be done about it. Windows essentially acts as an ambassador for our industry, with many people having their first or only computing experiences with it, and that's a shameful state of affairs for any IT worker who takes pride in what they do and strives for higher standards.

      The coming of iOS heralded a time in which Windows' monopolistic domination of people's computing experiences was coming to an end. With smartphones and tablets they realised they weren't tied to Windows any more, and the joy and amazement you see in people when they realise they have technology which they can enjoy using and which empowers them to use applications and the internet without getting in their way is truly a wonderful thing.

      1. Maventi

        Re: what a lot of people..

        Absolutely dz-105. Sadly we have Windows to thank for the mainstream mentality of accepting rebooting, reinstalling and slow down over time to be perfectly normal expectations.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: what a lot of people..

          "Sadly we have Windows to thank for the mainstream mentality of accepting rebooting, reinstalling and slow down over time to be perfectly normal expectations."

          And don't forget malware.

      2. The Original Steve

        Re: what a lot of people..

        "The ubiquity of Windows' low-quality, backward interface lowered people's expectations of technology almost to the point of absurdity..."

        I agree.

        Although I somehow doubt Linux in it's state in the 90's (or now to a lesser degree) alone would have created the consumer PC market as it stands. In which I mean the size, benefit to the global economy and the millions of jobs it's created.

        Is it the very best OS for xxx? Probably not.

        Is it the easiest consumer platform - both in terms of it's distribution and easy of use? You bet your ass it is.

        The cost of a 5 man shop using Linux or OS X on the desktop would be significantly higher if it wasn't for Microsoft. Setting up a homegroup, or even muddling along with Small Business Server is viable through point and click. This cannot be said for Linux, and the cost for Apple kit would be higher.

        Windows is not the best tool for the job in every situation. In the same way that a Ford Focus isn't the best car for transportation. But it's ease of use, versatility and price has made widespread computing possible and accessible for millions worldwide. Other OS's will be better suited to running a firewall, a high-load public web server, or a dozen other tasks - but for grandma to browse facebook and check her email, or for a small business to have the ability to have what was once enterprise features for a couple of hundred quid is something that the industry as a whole can be proud of.

        Accessibility is something I take pride in, and think the community as a whole should take credit for. Windows has helped to remove the technical, expert, geeky shroud from computing, particularly in the consumer and small business markets. This has led to more people getting into it by having access to the training wheels it provides, and more devices means more jobs, more eyeballs on the web, and more people to communicate with via computers. How is that not a good thing? As much as I pine for the web as it was in the late 80's, being used by geeks, for geeky things - the Internet now would not be anything like it is today if so many people were unconnected from it. The web would have less use if there is nobody to Skype with, send emails too or share bullshit on facebook with. The more people that use it, the more resources are ploughed into it, making it a vibrant, exciting ecosystem.

        Without Microsoft what would consumers be running instead? And with that answer, how easy would it be for my 60 year old mother to install a print driver, or a small business to setup an LDAP with group policy-esq effects? With Windows, this is possible without being an expert, and without dropping to CLI's - it's EASY to perform these tasks.

        Competition is a wonderful thing, and I run a heterogeneous environment as a hammer isn't the best tool for tightening a screw - but for generic business workloads and consumer use Windows, for me and millions around the world, is the best fit.

        Windows isn't all that. But neither is the Ford Focus.

        But it's good enough for the masses, and the fact the masses can now tap into this incredible communication and content-creation world that we - as IT professionals have created - has to be a good thing.

        For that Microsoft, I thank you.

        Happy Birthday.

        1. dz-015

          Re: what a lot of people..

          "Without Microsoft what would consumers be running instead? And with that answer, how easy would it be for my 60 year old mother to install a print driver, or a small business to setup an LDAP with group policy-esq effects? With Windows, this is possible without being an expert, and without dropping to CLI's - it's EASY to perform these tasks."

          Without Microsoft throttling all other innovation in the industry, who knows what alternatives might have thrived? OS/2 could have become the standard. The Amiga might have been viewed as a more viable option and been bought by a company which really pushed it forward. Apple might have been pulled out of the doldrums more quickly and Mac OS/OS X could have become a much more viable option. BeOS could have become much more ubiquitous without Windows grinding it into the ground before it even got going. Any of these options would have been far superior to Windows. The point is that without Microsoft's monopoly, any or all of these systems could have come into common usage and competed properly with each other to push the quality of the user experience infinitely higher than it was with Windows.

          By the way, if you think installing printer drivers on Windows is an easy task for the average 60-year-old, you're seriously deluded. The same task on OS X is usually a walk in the park for anyone of any age, however - even nowadays Microsoft haven't managed to catch up in such fundamental areas.

          1. MCG

            Re: what a lot of people..

            "The same task on OS X is usually a walk in the park for anyone of any age, however - even nowadays Microsoft haven't managed to catch up in such fundamental areas."

            Oh, really? That's assuming that the printer vendor has gotten around to releasing a driver for the latest version of OS X. We have a large Konica machine in the office here, for example, whose driver works fine under Mavericks but won't even install under Yosemite.... some walk in the bloody park. I told everyone to steer clear of Yosemite for at least a year, but did they listen? Nooooo of course they bloody didn't!

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          1. The Original Steve

            Re: what a lot of people..

            I was referring to the Internet as a whole rather than the WWW. Was involved in getting my uni hooked up.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Internet

  9. boltar Silver badge

    Vista wasn't that bad in retrospect.

    At least not compared to Windows 8.x. If Vista was only released now as the replacement for 8.x everyone would be cheering loudly.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Vista wasn't that bad in retrospect.

      Maybe thats the internal m$ plan all along...

      And its taking them this long to remove/change any reference to vista to win10.......

      But give m$ its due, windows (and DOS before it) has given a lot to the world .. mostly employment for techs as they try to figure out just whats screwing up the OS this time

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: Vista wasn't that bad in retrospect.

      Vista's biggest problem was the longevity of XP.

      Up to and prior to XP, Microsoft's stance was:

      Upgrading Windows? Then you needed upgrade your old computer, or get a new one, and be ready to get all new peripherals, 'cause the new Windows don't play nice with old stuff.

      Then XP came and stayed, and stayed, and stayed.

      Computer's got faster and more powerful, peripherals evolved ever more complexity, No problem, XP chugged right along. like it had for years.

      Then Came Vista, with the same "obsolete everything" paradigm of old, but times had changed. People were used to everything working with Windows, no matter how old or new, and PCs were competing with phones and tablets that 'just worked' out of the box.

      As further salt in the wound, In order to push Vista, Microsoft allowed retailers to slap it on 'Vista ready' systems that could barely run Vista, let alone any useful software with it.

      That one-two punch killed Vista, and left a dazed Microsoft looking around and noticing for the first time that they no longer had everything their way.

    3. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      Re: Vista wasn't that bad in retrospect.

      I have a theory...

      I think Vista's main problem was not that it *was* Vista, but rather that it followed XP. I suspect that if XP's successor had been Windows 7 then it too would have suffered in much the same way.

      The big problems were that the device driver model changed and that older, and badly written, software no longer ran on the somewhat more secure windows that had long been called for by those that knew about such things. XP let users do absolutely anything, anywhere they liked. You could tag your configuration settings on the end of system DLLs in the windows directory if you wanted to.

      Vista was the first step away from the "Security? Wassat?" model of XP and thus suffered for its impudence.

    4. Jess

      Re: Vista wasn't that bad in retrospect.

      Vista's problem was reliability and performance, the same was true of Windows 3.x, 98 and XP, after significant revisions these were all made reliable, the difference was they renamed Vista to Windows 7. (The latest Vista, isn't too bad, now).

      The reason (I believe) that they couldn't steamroller Vista through, with its original name, was the years of grief that it took XP to become a stable secure system. (Code Red, etc.) Who would be stupid enough to risk going through that again?

      Windows 8 however is totally different. Underneath the shell it seems to be the best system yet for stability and security. The problem is the shell. Totally inappropriate to the kit that people will use it on. (Touch screen on a desk? Yes I want RSI.) The user experience is the worst on any system I can remember, short of Windows 3. (Where the jumping to full screen when you start a DOS program, was of course a step forward from the previous option of single tasking.)

      Adding classic shell makes it quite a decent OS, but why would anyone upgrade to a new system that is dependent on a bit of freeware to make it usable?

      (Windows 10 seems a bit more pleasant with classic shell, too)

  10. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    You may be correct sir...

    "The only reason we lack choice now (Linux excepted) is Apple & IBM charging unreasonable prices and Amiga and Commodore both being run into the ground by idiots. The Amiga and ST blew PC hardware into the weeds and given proper support, backing and a decent business model they'd have probably left it there with Bill Gates and Microsoft being confined to the Where Are They Now? lists with x86 hardware being run on the server side by a combination of OS/2 and some version of Unix."

    I've always thought that if Jack Tramiel hadn't been such a megalomaniac, that we'd all be running "Amiga Standard" computers instead of PCs. However, Microsoft Basic was (at the time) arguably the best and most bug-free of what was out there in the early 80s, Windows 3.1 and 95 (even DOS-based and a ripoff of Apple's GUI--which was itself a ripoff of Xerox) was still revolutionary. And XP ended up being the "Model T" of computing. It's a shame that MS totally lost their way with the UI on Windows 8, as the back end is fairly decent. I was a skeptic until I ran benchmarks on similar PCs, one running 7 Enterprise and one running 8 with a little worse hardware, and found 8 to be faster.

    Anyway, we all have to admit, what a long strange trip it's been, even if the current state of the OS is a bit dystopian these days...

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Fortran

    The MS product that impressed me most was Fortran on CP/M. Previous to that Fortran was punched cards and a computer that filled a large air-conditioned room. Now it was something that ran on a small box into which extra hardware (ADC for instance) could be plugged. And thanks to INP and OUT statements added to the language that hardware could be accessed directly. Anything later was an anticlimax or a step in the wrong direction.

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    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: can we retire windows as a way to interact with applications and data...

      "show me my files in relation to each other associated by relevance"

      Given the same collection of files we might have different ideas as to relevance and those ideas themselves might well change with task.

      "I would like a freeform filesystem that does not care about directories, but lets me organize my files in many different ways simultaneously"

      I doubt you'd make this work without some concept of containers for file, which is what directories are. Given that Unix & Unix-like systems do much of what you suggest. A single file can appear in multiple directories simultaneously; a "file in a directory" is really a pointer to a single occurrence of the data in a collection of such pointers.

      Although the directories themselves form a single hierarchy they can be symbolically linked into other directories but navigating them can be confusing as each directory has only a single parent. However file managers such as Dolphin in KDE keep track of how you got to a particular directory & use Back & Forward buttons to navigate the network of real & symbolic links.

      "I would like to not have to open a separate application for every file I use"

      Different sorts of data require different handling. Passively viewing data is reasonably straightforward. A WP document can contain image and tabular data, for instance. The demands of editing any type of data are much greater than those of viewing so a single all-purpose editor is likely to be either humongously too big to use, both in memory and interface* or too limited in scope which may be why the like of Works got rolled over by office suites. And then, to meet everyone's needs you'd need to add CAD, GIS and all sorts of other applications. One size does not fit all.

      *Some interface functions such as opening and closing files are common but imagine an application which had all the controls of a whole office suite included in a single interface.

      "tear-off menus/palettes"

      Probably OK if you're only dealing with one thing at a time. If I have multiple PDFs or other documents open for consultation whilst writing something else I think I'd quickly get confused which torn-off menu belonged to which document.

      A good deal of what you want can be supplied by the web. HTML can provide the flexible filing system & the browser can effectively hide the multiple applications. If you don't mind keeping all your data on someone else's computer maybe a Chromebook is what you need.

  13. phil dude
    Linux

    and in other bollocks...

    Micro$oft will open source windows with a GPL license when Satan (or insert your dogma's bad deity of choice) skates to work in Hell.

    Computing is AMAZING. Too amazing a human creation to be left to the vagaries of the market. Microsoft was very lucky and Bill Gates is a smart man.

    Windows as the lowest common denominator was only possible because of the IBM PC architecture. The last time I ran Windows was XP but then it got overrun by, well, profiteering.

    FOSS or liability for your crap software.

    We'll all be better off.

    P.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Oddly enough...

    ...I finally reached the end of my tether with macroshaft the other day, following a Win8 endless loop of (preparing to) repair - sorry, I mean "endless boot loop of doom".

    Sick to the back teeth of regularly having to go in and repair problems that shouldn't even bloody exist, I ditched* Windoze. I'm now a card-carrying member of the Linux Club. It was ridiculously easy to do, as well, as I had a complete uncompressed backup of my data on hand, so didn't need to fart around trying to recover data from the notebook's hard drive. One thumb-drive bootup later, the drive was reformatted, and Ubuntu was running rather nicely, thank you very much.

    Bog off, Bill, Torvald's playing now!

    * OK, not completely. There are still a small handful of progs that use windoze, but for those, there's WINE :-D

    1. phil dude
      Linux

      Re: Oddly enough...

      and see you picked up a downvote for saying so!

      Basically if you need windoze to live, I wish you the absolute best.

      I might pity you, but...

      P.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Trollface

        Re: Oddly enough...

        Heh. Noticed that too. Well, you can please some of the people some of the time... for the others, there's always a few buckets of instant sunshine ;-)

  15. GBE

    Hey, I've got one of those in my office!

    That's it, there, in front of Paul Allen, next to the Commodore PET. A Heathit H19 terminal.

    And mine still works. :)

    There's space inside for a Z80 CPU board (in addition to the Z80 that does the "terminal" stuff) which turns it into an H89 CP/M computer. But if it were an H89, there would be a floppy drive above the numeric keypad (to the right of the CRT). So I'm pretty sure that's an H19 terminal.

  16. F0ul

    Been a hater - but Bill helped me earn a living

    The first time I hated Microsoft was when they introduced Windows 2 and the trick of renaming a file with a hidden character for security was killed off instantly! I hated Windows 95 because it bypassed DOS during loading. Then there are a million things I hated Microsoft for, and I thought I could find salvation in Linux. It worked for a while, RedHat was immune to the Millennium bug, unlike Office 97!

    But, and its a big but - My MCP and other various letters ensured I have been able to put food on the table for the past few decades. Microsoft made it possible to get paid for fixing computers. As it became easier to fix them, I left it to the open source crowd and got into the more complex stuff. I now use BizTalk for a US company and so Microsoft is still helping to put food on my table.

    It only needs to be around for another 20 odd years, and I'll get a carriage clock - and I'm sure MS will be a part of that too! :-)

  17. Oneman2Many

    Why is nobody talking about backoffice SQL, Exchange, Sharepoint, SCCM, Azura, and MS Office, the real cash cows of the business. There aren't many business not using both of them.

    And somebody did touch on it but one of the reason for the wide scale adoption of their products was ease of administration. NT could be administered with just point and click and was a hell of lot cheaper to hire MS developers and support staff than other platforms.

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