The Trouble with Gerrold: Misunderstanding Windows
June 18, 2012 —
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Related Search Term(s): Windows
It is now estimated that there are more than 1.2 billion computers in the world. We will have 2 billion before the end of 2016. Over 225 million of those computers are in the United States. Japan is in second place with more than 70 million. China and Germany are tied for third place with 45 million each.
Apple’s market share in the U.S. is estimated to be near 11%. Globally, it is a smidge over 5%. Allowing a very thin slice for Linux, it’s probably safe to say that some iteration of Windows is running on more than 90% of all the computers in the world. (How many of those installations are legal is another matter.)
Because most installations are sold with the machine, it’s likely that the age of the machine determines which version of Windows is running. Windows 7 has been extraordinarily successful for Microsoft, but there are still a lot of machines running Vista and XP. Above a certain age, it’s unlikely that an older machine will have the RAM or hard drive space to run Windows 7.
PCs and the operating systems that make them possible have been in an evolutionary “arms race” since the days of CP/M. As computers get more powerful, developers add more features. More features mean the operating system needs more clock cycles, so manufacturers have to make more powerful chips, and the cycle continues.
Thirty years ago, running WordStar on an 8-bit CP/M machine, I could get a lot of work done. I could write 5,000 words a day, sometimes more. Today, running Microsoft Word on a 64-bit Windows 7 machine, I can write 5,000 words a day, sometimes more. The difference is that now I have access to spelling and grammar checking, a thesaurus, tables, what-you-see-is-what-you-get formatting, a variety of interesting fonts and formats to play with, style-setting, drag-and-drop smart-linking, the ability to add and manipulate color photos and graphics, and a whole bunch of other stuff that must be useful to somebody or Microsoft wouldn’t have included it.
Call it feature-creep or bloatware or whatever, this is what professional-level software must include to be considered “professional.” Even the freebies like OpenOffice and GIMP and Audacity and IrfanView have evolved far beyond their simple beginnings. The point is there’s a lot of very complex software in the PC universe. And there are 1.2 billion computers that (allegedly) should be able to run any combination of that software.
That’s a pretty interesting thought.
If even 1% of those 1.2 billion computers have problems resulting in crashes, freeze-ups, or failures to boot, that’s still 12 million unhappy users. And when they start complaining, they’re going to generate a lot more attention than the 1.08 billion users who aren’t having problems. That’s just enough chatter to create an impression of instability in the operating system.