Ten years ago today, Microsoft shipped Windows 95. At the time I

remember it was greeted like a new Harry Potter book. People were lined

up for blocks at midnight to be the first ones to buy Microsoft’s new

OS. Even the Rolling Stones got into the act as Bill bought the rights

to “Start Me Up” as part of Win95’s promotional campaign.

Windows 95 basically signalled the beginning of the end for OS/2.

From a technical standpoint, OS/2 still blew away Windows 95 for

stabilty and the ability to multitask programs. IBM unfortunately

had no idea how to market it, and Microsoft gained the upper hand with

its relationships with hardware manufacturers who were already

licensing Windows 3.1. Even IBM’s own PC Division wouldn’t risk

unfavorable licensing terms with Microsoft by shipping OS/2 instead of

Windows 95.

As an OS, Windows 95 was half-baked. The OS really wasn’t all that

until Microsoft shipped Windows 95b the following year. Windows

98 and Windows 98SE were the first really tolerable versions of Win9x.

Of course then Microsoft seemingly intentionally killed the buzz by

shipping Windows Me, which was a bloated pig of an OS that made

everyone beg and plead for the rapid release of Windows 2000.

What always amazes me is the way Microsoft markets its operating

systems. In essence it does so by trashing the existing OS and then

saying how the OS you really want is the next one.

Microsoft acknowledged and trashed the instability of Windows 3.1 when

it shipped Windows 95. Microsoft acknowledged and trashed the

instability of Windows 9x when it shipped Windows 2000. Windows 2000

suddenly became noxious when Windows XP/2003 shipped. And now

that Windows Vista is on the horizon, we suddenly hear about all of the

wonderful features coming in Windows Vista that will make us want to

flee from Windows XP. Instead of stability this time however, the

bugaboo is Security.

It’s a lot like Ford saying “Boy… that Ford Pinto was a really crappy

car. What were we thinking? What you REALLY want is the Ford Escort.” 

And then people by the millions would trade in their Pintos for

Escorts, only to be told that they should be waiting for the new Focus.

Of course, Microsoft’s in a touchy position. It doesn’t want to talk

about Linux too much for fear that people will actually give it some

serious attention. It can’t trash the Mac for fear of getting the

Justice Department’s attention again. Therefore, about the only

marketing it can do is by doing a Mea Culpa about its current products.

Like it or not, Windows 95 changed the world. Every time you click

the Start button on your Windows workstation or its equivalent on MacOS

X or Linux, you have Windows 95 to thank. Happy Bday, Windows 95!