Failure to Launch: Microsoft's Top 5 Failed Operating Systems

Filed under: , , by: Grundy the Man

Lets just face the facts, Microsoft NEVER does anything right the first time. Here is a list of their top five botched product launches.

Exhibit A -- Windows 1.01:

There was never officially a version 1.0 of Windows released to the general public. Due to rumored keyboard issues, version 1.01 was released in fall of 1985. Most consumers didn't actually buy into the Windows phenomenon until version 3.1 Keep in mind this is not version 1.0 or even 2.0. Bill Gates and his clan of minions had to go back to the drawing board three times before they got it right.

Exhibit B -- Microsoft Bob:

Who thought this was a good idea... honestly? The pitch was simple, take the successful Windows interface and scrap it completely. Now replace the menu system with a cartoon version of your home, complete with creepy cartoon pets that like to talk to you.

This concept was half-baked pipe dream that proved to be abortion from very the start. Bob was so bad that Microsoft offered all users vouchers for a free copy of Windows 95. Just one look at the creepy Urkel equivalent of the Wal-Mart logo, would have been enough to make me say, "Hell no..."

Exhibit C -- Windows 98:

It was obvious from the very beginning that there were issues with this operating system. The video evidence is below, as you see an embarrassed Bill Gates trying to cover up the fact that he encountered a "Blue Screen of Death" during the FIRST PUBLIC DEMO! In true Microsoft fashion, Windows 98 Second Edition was quietly released a year later.

Exhibit D -- Windows XP:

While a commercial success, Windows XP created IT nightmares for business owners worldwide. Once again Microsoft neglected to consider the needs of the consumers, removing all support for legacy DOS based applications. Huge corporations were left in limbo waiting to have their applications ported to an XP capable platform.

Another launch issue was the reformatted GUI interface, that required so much memory that most machines were incapable of upgrading. Windows XP also saw the rise of computer viruses in an Internet Age. Sadly, it has taken Microsoft seven years, three Service Packs, and an infinite number of patches to get the stability and security we experience today.

Exhibit E -- Windows Vista:

I don't even know where to begin... The development of Vista was originally slated to be an update to Windows XP that would completed in under two years. As time went on, the scope of the project expanded to the point that it was far more then an update.

Vista promised to address many of the shortcomings of prior Windows releases, but has yet to deliver on the hype. As a result, the adoption rate has been mediocre at best. Businesses that went through the difficult transition to Windows XP have thought twice about Vista, instead opting to stick with XP.

What is Microsoft's Problem?

As Internet access became more widespread, the idea of patching a broken product seemed like a good idea. But instead of a solution to lingering problems, Microsoft has used this as a crutch for lazy programming practices. Software development cycles have shifted from shipping a finished product, to instead shipping a buggy, unfinished product, with the intention of patching it later.

When Microsoft adopted this development process, it destroyed what was once a very lucrative business model. Part of the reason that Vista adoption has been so poor is the fact that the public no longer trusts their products.Many IT professionals say that you should never buy a Microsoft operating system before Service Pack 1.

This is a corporate culture issue that needs to be changed, before they alienate their entire install base. Microsoft should follow these 3 guidelines when developing a product:
  1. Admit past mistakes and learn from them.
  2. Avoid the patch mentality.
  3. Only release products you will be proud of.

Hopefully the guys in Redmond get the memo, because their future depends on it.


On September 5, 2008 at 12:33 PM , Anonymous said...

The author of this piece has a failure to reason. XP is the best Windows to happen to home computing. Buisinesses had 2k they could stick with if they were that worried, it's not like they don't wait at least a year or two until after it's released anyway to implement..

And maybe 98 could have been better at launch, but it was still the consumer gateway to large filesystems with FAT32. (Yes is was introduced in 95-OSR2 but it wasn't consumer targeted).

You may as well call Windows 3.1 a failure because it didn't include networking like 3.11 (Windows for Workgroups) did. You've done nothing but proove you don't know what you're talking about with this article.

On September 5, 2008 at 1:22 PM , Bobby said...

Poor article.

I mean, MS did mistakes like anybody else.
But their operative system, had always the difficult to be able to run in always a greater number of different hardware pieces.

Be real.
Windows is not fault-less, but it does something that others not face.
And if you don't get the difficult fon an S.O. to run on so many HW configuations, avoid writing such "articles".

You could write valid reasons on the problems of Windows.
It has problems/weakness.
It always had.
Like any S.O.

But saying that W98 had problems and posting the (in)famous video is really dumb.
IMHO it just shows that what they were showing was *real*.

Windows has many problems just in the hands of people that don't know how to use it.
People that know how to use it, haven't more issues that with any other S.O.


On September 5, 2008 at 1:46 PM , said...

Not sure why everyone is jumping to Microsoft's defense. I don't think anybody is saying that Microsoft should go away... or that Windows hasn't been an important operating system... just that Microsoft is not perfect when, sometimes, they try to portray themselves this way.

I can't believe, however, that you never mentioned Windows Me. I think that was one of their biggest failures.

On September 5, 2008 at 1:49 PM , Anonymous said...

Horrible article. I mean how could you make a list of failed operating systems and leave out Windows ME? This should have easily replaced Windows XP (which wasnt as bad at launch as you make it seem to be). Windows ME is probably the worst OS MS released in my opinion and Vista is a close second.

On September 5, 2008 at 1:51 PM , Grundy the Man said...

Yes I do realize that Windows ME could and even should be on the list. That said, I left it off for one simple reason: I didn't consider it a NEW product launch. In all reality it was a glorified update to Windows 98.

But as many have guessed, I agree that the ME stands for Mistake Edition.

On September 5, 2008 at 4:08 PM , Anonymous said...

Appreciate the tenor of the column, but the conclusions couldn't be more wrong or misguided.

First, I can't fathom a reasonable argument that would assert XP as a failure. Commercially or technically, XP was the full realization of NT and at least the notion of a bridge into the 64-bit world. If the worst that can be said about XP was that its DOS support was lacking, I can't help but wonder if they would have been griping about the instability of the system that continued DOS support within Windows would have necessarily mandated.

The idea that Microsoft "should abandon the patch mentality" implies a great deal of youth and naivete in the computing world. I remember learning to apply patches to operating systems and applications in the VAX-VMS world long before anyone thought NT were more than two letters in the alphabet. Software will always have bugs, and patches will always be released to fix them.

How anyone can prepare a list of OS failures and *not* include either Me or Win2K is astonishing.

The authors got it mostly right on Vista; yes, it is an epic failure both technically and economically, because it brought no compelling features to the market while destabilizing the environment of literally thousands of existing systems otherwise running happily - to say nothing of the absence of hardware drivers. The rewrite of the network stack created performance problems that persist even this many months beyond Vista's release.

MS is now facing its own greatest enemy - itself - as it tries to evolve from a company dependent on its Office cash-cow revenue stream, and into one that is a relevant player in a web-centric universe. Whether they can remains to be seen.

On September 5, 2008 at 5:11 PM , Anonymous said...

shit XP is the best Windows OS. You should have mentioned windows ME. I couldnt even get over 50% installing most programs before it crashed.

On September 5, 2008 at 5:51 PM , Anonymous said...

You mentioned that Windows ME was a left off because you didn't consider it a NEW product launch. Well you really should have and in fact you should've left 98 off the list because 98 was more of a glorified update to 95 than ME was to 98. A huge difference between ME and 98 is the fact that ME removed Real-Mode DOS. Something 98 still had. But ME did eventually get patched to put Real-Mode DOS back in.

On September 6, 2008 at 9:55 AM , Anonymous said...

no Windows 2000? or ME? this list fails... they were just trying to bash Vista.

On August 31, 2009 at 10:51 AM , Aizen said...

ME is the worst, of course.
Just wanderin' why it's not on the list.

I agree with the Vista, it's a real failure, but not for XP.

XP is a big step compared to their previous OS because of it's new features. Since it's new-not just an update from previous one, it's somewhat reasonable for it not to become a perfect one.

Actually, because of success of XP, some Linux patterned it's x-windows interface to it.