This week Microsoft is pulling the plug on Windows Vista by formally ending support for the operating system, bringing an end to a not-so-impressive life. Vista will no longer receive security updates and anyone still running the OS will be at greater risk of security threats.
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about Vista or assuming that support was culled a long time ago. Ending support for the OS doesn’t sound like a big deal. The latest operating system market share figures show that it has less than one percent of the pie these days but the OS’s failure to take off and its eventual demise speaks to a bigger challenge that Microsoft is still grappling with today.
Released 10 years ago, the operating system was meant to take the mantle from the popular Windows XP. It swiftly became a victim of its own hype and reviews and critics were not kind. It was lambasted for its poor speed, security, and memory protection features that weren’t up to scratch as well as the inability of many PCs on the market at the time to efficiently run the OS. One computer science expert even published an extensive whitepaper months after the release, laying out his grievances with Vista.
As a result, the market responded. Within months of launching, Dell for example announced that it would once again start shipping PCs running XP. Things weren’t much better by late 2008 when Microsoft had to step back on its plans to end the shipping of new PCs running XP and instead extend it by six months.
The blunder of Vista was also an unintentional boon to Apple and how it promoted its Macs, which took a few digs at Microsoft. The Get a Mac campaign was pretty aggressive in its attacks on Vista’s usability.
One of the biggest problems for Vista was Microsoft underestimating just how popular Windows XP was. While Vista was slow and buggy, the reliability and popularity of its predecessor may have been the biggest barrier to its success. Vista should have been Redmond’s flagship operating system but instead many people were content sticking with XP. One need only look at how Microsoft went about ending support for XP after 12 years of service and the scurry for updates that ensued.
Needless to say, the Vista operating system was a black eye for Microsoft and one that it’s spent a number of years recovering from.
Since 2007, Microsoft has gradually crawled back from it. The majority of computers worldwide still run Windows of course but once Windows 7 rolled around, the company had to try win back favor in a marketplace where PC sales were very much on the decline and the smartphone was soaring.
Windows 7 arrived on general release in late 2009, just over two years after Vista’s main release. It’s in stark contrast to the six years between Vista and XP. Microsoft knew it needed to act fast and it paid off for the most part. Windows 7, while still with some flaws, was viewed as the rightful successor to XP and still commands a strong presence today.
Windows 8 and 8.1 came in 2012 and 2013 respectively but marked another misstep when Microsoft changed the beloved Start menu, which drew the ire of users and reviewers. Microsoft was still trying to figure out how to reinvent the OS but keep the mainstay users happy.
Windows 10 is now Microsoft’s crown jewel with the ultimate goal of making it THE operating system but to this day, the ghosts of Windows past continue to haunt Microsoft and its grand plans.
While Windows 10’s market share in the consumer space is still on a healthy rise, things get a little more muddled in the business and enterprise sector. A recent survey on business operating system market share showed that a staggering 52 percent of companies are still running Windows XP with 9 percent on Vista. In the case of XP, these businesses are continuing to pay extra for the needed support. One of the main reasons for this stems from businesses’ IT departments, their tight budgets, and a general comfort with using the OS that’s been in place for years.
According to the latest figures from Netmarketshare, Windows 10 now enjoys just over 25% in operating system market share but is still a ways away from Windows 7’s 49%, which tops the chart.
Windows 10’s share continues to grow though. The period where 7 and 8 users could upgrade for free certainly helped. Granted, Microsoft still has much more work to do to make Windows 10 the default OS for all users. It’s also had a few hiccups along the way. The company was chastised by consumer rights groups for aggressively pushing 10 on users through pop-up warnings and in some cases, automatic downloads. It’s even facing lawsuits over supposed botched upgrades that wiped people’s files.
Another major bugbear for Microsoft has been its handling of user data and privacy. Windows 10 has drawn much criticism over the amount of information it collects on users from regulators and consumers alike.
Nevertheless, Microsoft trudges on. The next major step will be eventually ending support for Windows 7 and nudging more users on. However 7 is still very popular and as the people that clung to XP for so long prove, the new shiny toy isn’t always the most appealing.