systems lose their allure as computer users settle for good enough
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #280 March 7, 1995 High Tech Office column
It used to
be that lots
of computer users cared about their operating system, and got excited
by the idea of change. You didn't have to be just the minority who
live and breathe computers, either: using a Mac or a PC or even an
Amiga was part of who you were. Any big change in an operating system
(OS) was anticipated with some mix of hope and fear.
the OS would
be taken for granted, and fade into the background, like a comfortable
old pair of shoes. But the programs you really want to run
depend on the operating system, and changes to it can make your
more efficient, or your current software obsolete, forcing expensive
upgrades and whole new ways of working. And a big enough change can
give your computer a whole new personality-- think of adding Windows
or OS/2 to a character-mode DOS machine.
So I used
to get a lot
of questions. When did I think the new version of DOS would be out?
Was the Mac's System 7 really better? Would Windows 3.1 be more stable?
Should I switch to OS/2?
seems like nobody
cares anymore. When Microsoft pushed back its planned release
of Windows 95 from May to August in the wake of Intel's Pentium
debacle, no one was surprised-- they hadn't expected Microsoft to
meet its much-delayed timetable anyway.
ago, the groans
would have been audible from here to Redmond, Washington, but since
then, a lot has happened.
NT was hyped
as the next big thing. It wasn't. It was too big, too slow, and
not really aimed at the average desktop. Now people seem reluctant
to get excited about the same line, this time applied to Windows 95...
even if it turns out to be justified.
became, in many
ways, the hacker's dream system, but remains too difficult to install
and just won't run on too many systems. Still, it's provided an outlet
for the people who are the most discontented with Microsoft's products
and domination of the market.
with its success
in the difficult transition to the Power Mac, Apple seems fated to
remain a niche-player, with a loyal customer base of page-designers
and graphics specialists. Who would have thought we'd see the day
when they tried to sell the family jewels-- their operating system --to
one-time enemy IBM?
as if Windows 3.1 has become the unchallenged standard, warts and
all. The delays in getting Windows 95 out the door have revived the
market for Windows 3 add-ons, which are really just cosmetics to cover
Windows' flaws, but enough to keep many users content. As well, there's
increasing realization that many users simply won't upgrade. In some
cases, the current Windows is good enough, and in others, the hardware
simply isn't powerful enough.
is justifiably wary of hopping on a new bandwagon, and many business
users will wait a while until they're sure that all the bugs have
been taken care of before switching to anything. There are always
people who'll want to be first in line for any new thing (and for
them, Microsoft has promised a pre-release version of Windows 95 for
about US$30 sometime in the Spring). But the vast majority of the
estimated 60 million Windows users will probably stick with their old
Windows for some years to come.
that while I've been running beta versions of WIN95 since last fall,
hardly any of my computer-using acquaintances have shown much
virtually no one even wants to pirate the software!
we're all bearing
out the theories that Alvin Toffler offered up in his classic
book, Future Shock, and hoping that the pace of change will
just slow down. Or maybe we've just become bored.