Windows HistoryThere’s a bit of a history lesson that parallels contemporary technology, at least where Windows 7 is concerned. With PC users facing some potentially big choices as to their next upgrade of operating system (OS) technology, remembering–and understanding–the past may truly save many from repeating old mistakes.

Today, PCs make up roughly eighty-seven percent of the computer market. The operating systems of those machines can be likened to several historic modes of transportation from the 19th Century, the differences among them as stark as horses, canal boats and locomotives.

In the Shadow of 8

Of those 87% who own PCs in the United States, the likelihood that those owners are older than their Mac counterpoints is pretty high. These users are, on average, above the traditional college age, in the workforce, often with families. They also tend to lag behind Mac users in education levels, but many are balancing work and online learning as they use their PCs for both schooling and work, though not necessarily on the same machine.

Those machines range in age and with the purchase date goes the type of operating system ranging now from XP to Vista and the current Windows 7. Here’s where the comparisons come in with one overlapping eventuality–the certain coming of Windows 8. Viewing time in technological terms as one does dog years, Window 8 will be such a departure from other PC operating systems as to eventually, meaning in only a few short years, make today’s machines and OSs effectively obsolete.

The Iron Horse

Windows 7 is the long-awaited mode that replaced the short-lived and ultimately underachiever that was Vista. Those with machines built during and after most of 2009 have Windows 7 in high numbers. For those using their PCs for basic social media, e-mailing and college projects, the coming of Windows 8 can be largely dismissed as this OS will probably remain completely functional for the economic life of the computer. Migrating to Windows 8 can safely be delayed until program technology begins to overcome the lag certain to be created by Windows 8’s technology.

Along the ruins of the Erie Canal

Like the fabled man-made, financially successful waterway that connected Albany to Buffalo in the mid-1820s, Windows Vista prompted much excitement as the first new generation of operating systems since the technically-old Windows XP. Like those costly ditches exuberantly built after the Erie Canal during the following decade, Vista proved unsuccessful. Though Vista is still being shipped with new purchases, though most now come with 7 installed, the canal boat of operating systems will likely soon fade.

Initially, users with Vista created a renewed demand for XP, a near-decade-old OS for which people paid good money to have installed on their new computers to rid themselves of Vista. Though speculative, it may be hard to convince these users to be early adopters of Windows 8 until a sufficient amount of time with good reports has passed. Still, as is the case with Windows 7, those using this system with no major functionality issues can afford to wait.

The Trusty Steed

XP, a decade after its introduction and three service packs later, remains the most popular operating system ever. That’s the good news. However, Microsoft will stop supporting this beloved product in April of 2014. With the likely release of Windows 8 around this coming April, migration to either Windows 7 or 8 is an eventuality, the timing of which being dependent upon the age of the user’s machine.

Lessons Learned

With Windows 8 adoption will begin most notably in higher education. Not surprisingly, best estimates are that Microsoft will launch the new product in time for the next school year. There will, of course, be some lag in software programs and school systems as there is with every new technology, however, Windows 8 system requirements are actually smaller than Windows 7, meaning the lag may be historically shorter.

The choice of timing for migrating to either a new system and/or a new machine will be weighed in context with Windows 8, based upon the age and power of a user’s machine and the OS installed. Betting on Windows 8 to be anything less than a jump from steam trains to modern cars travelling on the interstate highway system is to not learn from the past.

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