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Next major Windows update to be released in 2012.
The build-up to Windows Vista has been spread out over such a large period of time - I lost track of the official ship date. Turns out it's today. Can I go back to bed now?
It's been in beta forever. It went "RTM" a few months ago, and I was able to download it via MSDN a month or so ago.
My short review: it seems good.
It's pretty, there a substantial interface improvements and some new features possibly making it worth the upgrade.
Vista's definitely a major release - to fully run it, you need a video card with more memory than is required to boot Windows 2000! I've even heard its email client includes built-in anti-spam filtering - but I'm skeptical if it works well.
So, with Windows Vista taking so long to get out the door - when can we expect the next major update to Windows?
Let's look at a brief history of the modern GUI-based operating system (at least as developed by Microsoft). For sake of argument - I'll say this starts with Windows 3.0.
(most of the following dates are from this site).
Windows 3.0 was released in May of 1990. It was the first version of Windows to gain substantial market penetration. Some users were actually using Windows as their "OS" as opposed to just launching it as needed to run specific apps.
Windows 3.1 was released in April 1992. I actually participated in the launch even (15 years ago!). It was an important release in that it fixed a lot of bugs, and improved stability. However, it didn't really qualify as a "major" release as it didn't add many new features.
(I'm skipping over Windows NT and Windows for Workgroups for now as I'm just focusing on consumer products.)
The next truly major mainstream release of Windows was Windows 95 (released in August 1995). Windows 95 was almost-nearly-entirely not dependant on legacy DOS code. It included major improvements to the UI, multitasking, you name it. It even introduced the Win32 API set to mainstream users. For being such a radical upgrade, it suffered from surprisingly few major problems.
So, by my count, that's a little over 5 years between those two major releases.
Windows 98 (June 1998) was a bunch of stuff added to Windows 95. Not a major release. I won't even bring up Windows ME.
By my count, the next major release of Windows was Windows 2000 (February 2000). It took a while, but lots of end-users ended up running Windows 2000 on their desktops and home computers. From a technical standpoint, Windows 2000 was a moderate upgrade to Windows NT 4.0. However, Windows 2000 brought Windows NT technology to the mainstream user - and it proved to be a good thing.
So, that would be a little under 5 years between Windows 95 and Windows 2000. See a pattern?
Windows XP was released in (October 2001) - just 1.5 years after Windows 2000. Does it count as a major release? Can you name four things it provided for end-users that Windows 2000 didn't? Can you even tell Windows XP from Windows 2000 if you're running in "Windows Classic" mode?
It definitely offered further appeal to home users and furthered market penetration of "NT-Based" Windows. But, I'm going to suggest that Windows XP was not really a major release. It was more like Windows 2000, with some extra stuff, redecorated by Smurfette.
By that count, it's taken almost 7 years for Microsoft to go from Windows 2000 to the next really-major release (Vista - January 2007). If you're feeling generous and count from Windows XP to Vista, it's about 5 years.
So, commonly it takes about 5 years for Microsoft to crank out a major upgrade to Windows.
Next stop 2012!
Microsoft certainly might release something sooner - but it would likely not qualify as a major upgrade.