A Decade Later: Windows 95 Keeps Going … and Going

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 08-24-2005
Microsoft officials have admitted one of their biggest challenges in continuing to grow the company's Windows business is the impression among some of its installed base that older Windows versions are good enough. The users of Windows 95, which turns ten years old on Wednesday, are a case in point.

Check out any of a number of Windows support forums and it is readily apparent there are still lots of Windows 95 die-hards out there.

In terms of real numbers, Windows 95 accounts for just over one percent of the Windows client operating environment installed base total today, said Al Gillen, a research director with International Data Corp. "The number has fallen off dramatically over the past couple of years," Gillen said.

But Windows 95 users are still out there. Some are struggling to keep their aging systems ticking. But others are content to keep patching and tweaking their decade-old Windows variant for the foreseeable future. And that perception is one of the biggest hurdles Microsoft will encounter as it launches in 2006 Windows Vista — a Windows release that its executives have likened to Windows 95, in terms of significance to customers and importance to Microsoft's and its partners' futures.

On August 24, 1995, Microsoft launched simultaneously Windows 95, Internet Explorer (IE) 1.0 and the first rev of the MSN.

Since that time, the company has released at least six new Windows client versions (and more, if you count interim updates, such as Windows 95 OSR2), including Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows 2000 desktop, Windows Millennium Edition (ME), Windows XP, Windows XP Service Pack 2. It has fielded myriad IE updates, some stand-alone and others bundled into the operating system. And it has morphed MSN from being primarily a dial-up Internet-access service, to a full family of e-mail, instant-messaging, music, advertising, storage and search services.

Two months after the Windows 95 launch, more than one million copies of the product had been sold, according to Microsoft. While the company's marketing machine pulled out all the stops to convince people who had no idea what an operating system was that "Windows 9x wasn't supposed to happen — NT was supposed to be the mainstream consumer OS (operating system) long before Windows 2000," O'Kelly said. "As a contingency plan, Windows 95 was, as reviewers at Byte commented at the time of its release, an 'elegant kludge,' and it took Microsoft to the next level as a company by keeping the Windows franchise strong until Windows XP could deliver on the original NT vision — nearly 13 years after the NT project started."

In the latter half of the 1990s, it was cutting-edge consumer and business users who made Windows 95 a best seller. But these days, it's the users who feel no need to be on the cutting edge who are holding onto Windows 95.

Ruth Mibishan is an example of such a user. Mibishan said Windows 95 with Windows Office Professional suited her and her late husband "perfectly."

"I managed to design many complicated databases and spreadsheets, and we were connected to dial-up internet. All was a bit slow, but there were no problems for what we needed at home," Mibishan said.

Read the full story on Microsoft Watch: A Decade Later: Windows 95 Keeps Going … and Going