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Have we now entered the post-OS era?

(Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief, TechSanityCheck) Microsoft knew this day was coming. This was the reason it desperately wanted — no, needed — to take down Netscape in 1996. Netscape wasn’t just trying to build a program for reading text and photos across a network of connected computers. Netscape was trying to build a new platform - the ultimate platform - to run software and share information instantly and on a global scale. And no one understood that better than Bill Gates.[...]

There are a lot of reasons for the failure of Windows Vista, but in retrospect the biggest reason was that the OS simply didn’t matter that much anymore. Most of the consumers who ended up with Vista simply got it because it came installed when they bought a new computer. The vast majority of them never chose Vista. The group that did have a choice with Vista was businesses and they chose to avoid it, although not because of any inherent inferiority of Vista. The problem was that there was never a compelling reason to upgrade to Vista. It was the software equivalent of repainting a room and rearranging the furniture.[...]

It didn’t used to be this way. Installing a new operating system used to be like getting a whole new computer. Installing Windows 95 over Windows 3.1? That was a huge improvement. Installing Windows 2000 on top of Windows 95? That was a big leap forward. There were reasons to upgrade back then. [...]

Part of what’s going here is that the computer operating system has achieved a level of maturity and efficiency. You could even say that work on the OS has reached a point of diminishing returns. How much more efficiency can we wring out of it? What other major innovations are waiting out there?[...]

Twenty years ago, we thought the computer was the revolution, but it wasn’t. The advent of the Internet - and the Web browser as one of the ways to harness it - has shown us that the revolution is actually in communications and the dissemination of information. The computer will be to the Information Revolution as the assembly line was to the Industrial Revolution. It will simply be one of the catalysts that helped make it happen.

In the same way, the computer OS simply doesn’t mean as much as it once did, or at least as much as we once thought it did. But, then again, all of us (including Bill Gates) knew this day was coming.

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