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Windows at 25: A Tech King with Growing Competition


November 23, 2010

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When the first Windows operating system was introduced by Microsoft, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, John Hughes was introducing touching teen stereotypes in "The Breakfast Club," and a young singer named Madonna was hitting the road with "The Virgin Tour." Twenty five years later, Windows, Reagan, Hughes, and Madonna are still very much at the center of our tech, political, and pop culture discussions.

Since we are a technology site, however, let's take a moment to focus on the sheer breadth of Bill Gates' achievement with Windows and to ask: how long can this go on? Now in its seventh major version, Windows can be found on about 9 out of every 10 of the world PCs, its server version is on 70 percent of the world's servers, and, of course, Gates is the richest person in America, and, until recently, the world. Microsoft is the world's largest software company thanks largely to the Windows franchise and has extended its products to everything from gaming consoles and mobile phones to corporate financial software and databases.

But there are cracks in the Windows business, some self-made, some the result of too much success. As Microsoft watchers look back in amazement at the last 25 years, the old Chaucer expression "There is an end to everything" is starting to look more and more relevant to a company that for many years looked invulnerable.

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