IT Weekly Middle East Newsletter 8th May 2005

Would anyone care about a product called Interface Manager? That was the name Microsoft was looking at for its then-cutting edge operating system which was going to contain a graphical user interface and multitasking environment for IBM-compatible PCs. An eager marketing whiz, Rowland Hanson, convinced the company’s founder, Bill Gates, that Windows was a better name and the rest as they say is history..

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By  Peter Branton Published  May 8, 2005

Whatever happened to Interface Manager?|~||~||~|Would anyone care about a product called Interface Manager? That was the name Microsoft was looking at for its then-cutting edge operating system which was going to contain a graphical user interface and multitasking environment for IBM-compatible PCs. An eager marketing whiz, Rowland Hanson, convinced the company’s founder, Bill Gates, that Windows was a better name and the rest as they say is history.. Well, a history of delays anyway. The Windows operating system was first announced in December 1983, with a promise that it would be on the shelves by April the following year. Microsoft eventually shipped Windows 1.0 in November of 1985. A decade later, and Microsoft ensured it hit deadlines for delivering the latest version of Windows by making the product name contain the date it was due to ship. Windows 95 was rolled out more or less on schedule (despite the occasional dig from IBM executives that it would have to be called Windows 96), as was Windows 98. So they shipped on time, no problem. What was a problem was, as even Microsoft executives have since ruefully admitted (albeit usually in private), they didn’t work that well. Windows XP, shipped in 2001, was generally better received, at least in terms of quality. However, while both Windows 95 and 98 provided significant boosts to the entire PC industry as users scrambled to upgrade their machines to take advantage of the features of the new OS, XP, well XP didn’t. Partly that was to do with timing. Its launch coincided with an economic recession and what Intel CEO Craig Barrett was to describe as the worst spending slowdown in tech history. Plus, while seen as more stable than its predecessors, it didn’t really have many killer features that made for a compelling upgrade story. Users decided they could stick with their old OS, and hence also their old machines for a while longer. Talk of a vicious upgrade cycle suddenly started to seem like wishful thinking on the part of tech marketing people. Surveys last year suggested that as many as 40% of Windows users were using versions older than XP - three years after it had come out. Microsoft of course was already working on the next version of Windows. And working. Having hit a three year cycle between major releases of the OS, Microsoft was generally expected to have come out with a new release last year. By 2004 it was realised that was highly unlikely, but people were looking at 2005 as a possible date. Now Microsoft has said it is going for 2006 - and late 2006 at that, although to be fair it is aiming for the US holiday buying season. That will keep PC makers happy, as they want to have machines with the new OS installed ready in shops for what they hope will be a mad rush. Microsoft knows that it needs Longhorn to be a success, quite simply it can’t go five years between Windows versions and then come out with a product that is disappointing. Early signs haven’t been that promising with the vendor having to scale back on a number of the features it had initially touted as being central to the new system. Last month saw Gates and other Microsoft execs demonstrate some new features in Longhorn which they hope will make up for some of the missing functionality. However, as critics were eager to point out, those new features are mostly not even available in beta version of Longhorn, with no guarantee that they will make it in to the final OS. If Longhorn makes a good impression it will be a tremendous boost to large chunks of the IT industry. If it doesn’t, everyone will wonder what happened to that product, Interface Manager. ||**||

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