The Third Evolution Of Windows Is ComingSeptember 13, 2011
The First Evolution Of Windows (1985-1995)
This first evolution of Windows started with a combined File & Program Manager (called MS-DOS Executive which was the Shell) before splitting that program into two seperate programs, the Program Manager (which stayed open the entire time Windows was running, it was the Windows Shell)) and the File Manager, which you could open when needed. There was also a Print Manager and Control Panel too. This screenshot was Windows 3.1, the first version of Windows that most people actually took seriously (Windows 1.0 and 2.0 were not seen as serious competitors).
The Second Evolution Of Windows (1995-2012)
The second evolution of Windows is what bought Microsoft so much success. This screenshot is of Windows 95, but all of the main elements that Microsoft introduced into Windows 95 are still the fundimental pieces of the user interface today in Windows 7. The desktop in Windows 95 could actually have icons that you chose (the desktop in the first generation of Windows only had icons for minimised programs) alongside the few that Microsoft put there including, My Computer, Network Neighbourhood (renamed My Network Places in 2000/Me then then simply Network in Vista) and the Recycle Bin. The second key piece of user interface that was added in Windows 95 that still exists today is the taskbar. It contained the Start Button, programs that were currently running (so you could switch between them) and the System Tray & Clock. The taskbar has morphed into a program launcher as well as program switcher, but the concept hasn’t changed too fundimentally since Windows 95 (Windows 7 was the first time the design had really been modified since 95). The Start Menu was the 3rd major piece of GUI that was added in Windows 95 that still exists today in Windows 7. Yes, the Start Menu today doesn’t resemble the simple one that debuted in Windows 95, but it’s still got the same concepts behind it, a place to list all the programs, documents and settings on your computer as well as the place where you can search for things, find help and shut down the computer (as they say, press the Start Button to Stop :P). Finally all the extra concepts and programs that Microsoft bought along in Windows 95 including the Recycle Bin, Windows Explorer, Long File Names (255 Characters instead of 11), the design of the Minimise, Maximise/Restore & Close buttons, Ctrl-Alt-Delete to close frozen programs & much much more is all thanks to Windows 95. Lots of things have changed in Windows since 1995, but most of the key fundimentals have not.
The Third Evolution Of Windows (2012-??)
Tomorrow, Microsoft will debut Windows 8 in full for the first time and it really is going to be the 3rd evolution of Windows. While it will retain the old Windows 7 style (second evolution) shell, this will be called the Classic Desktop and it WON’T be the default. The new Start Screen & the associated Metro style guidelines will be the future for Windows GUI design from 2012 onwards. Just like Windows 95 was a real step away from the Windows 3.1 (first evolution) shell, away from all those Manager programs and the useless Desktop, Windows 8 will be a real step away from the Windows 95 (second evolution) shell, away from the Taskbar, Desktop and Start Menu. This is the ultimate UI, the one UI that Microsoft says will be scalable from a 7 inch tablet to a 70 inch TV screen and everything in between!
I really am so excited about what Microsoft has to announce and I’m ready for the rollercoaster ride ahead that Microsoft has planned for us!
P.S: For some perspective, I just wanted to mention the Mac in the context of all this. Just like Windows, the Mac is currently in the second evolution of it’s GUI design. When will we see the 3rd evolution of the UI? I do not know.