Saturday, October 31, 2009

Windows XP, Finally, A Version Of Windows We Will Miss

Windows XP is no longer "the previous version of Windows." With Windows 7 shipping, it is now two versions old. That is when it is time for most operating systems and major applications to be put out to pasture. The beginning of the end of Windows XP is fundamentally different from the waning of other software, especially other versions of Windows.

In 1999, when I started my current IT job, I would grumble "Every time I work on a Windows 3.1 PC I hope it will be the last." Shortly after Windows 2000 became common I started saying the same thing about Windows 95. As XP became the standard I grumbled similar things about Windows 98.

Now Windows 7 is shipping. All of the people who don't like Windows Vista are cursing it all the louder as they throw their arms around the latest and greatest Windows. Funny, nobody seems to be cursing Widnows XP--not even me.
Looking back at the Windows XP era it is amazing what a long, solid run the OS has had. Released eight years and six days ago (October 25, 2001) this OS has aged with remarkable grace, especially considering the severe failures of its predecessors[1][2][3][4]. Even though service packs [1][2] and other updates have made radical changes to the guts and some features of Windows XP, sitting down to use or service and XP machine feels very much like it did eight years ago.

Windows XP mostly works pretty well. That may sound like faint praise but its about as good as it gets for an IT professional talking about Windows. Unlike Windows ME you can stop an XP box from crashing. Unlike Windows 98 it has half a clue about security. Unlike Vista you can run it on a pre-2007 PC without throttling all of it's best graphics features. Unlike Windows 2000 you can do something about it being ugly.

Whether or not Windows Vista deserves all of the hate it has received is debatable. What is not up for discussion is that it's direct predecessor is unique in that the only people who truly hate it are those who hate Windows altogether. But many of us can't be Microsoft free and have been forced by circumstances to make peace with Redmond. We, the pragmatic and the fighters in the trenches, need to look back at the last eight years and try to grasp what went right. We can only hope that the people sending the software forth from Redmond are asking themselves the same question.

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