20 years ago this week Microsoft launched Windows 95. Ok so I know there is a big clue in the title but I was still astounded that it was so long ago. And what an event it was. They roped in the Rolling Stones with “Start Me Up” (see what they did there?) and also signed up Friends stars Jennifer Aniston & Matthew Perry to record a video tutorial. Talk about a glitzy launch. Kind of puts the recent lacklustre campaign for the Windows 10 launch to shame.
Sources suggest that they paid up to USD 8 million for the rights to the Stones classic. I remember hearing it so many times that Summer that I eventually grew to detest it, so I won’t be taking Microsoft up on their 20th anniversary offer to download the track for free. Still, it did provide one moment of hilarity with ex-CEO’s Gates and Ballmer doing a spot of ‘dad dancing’ on stage at the launch party…
At least that was considerably funnier than the “Cyber Sitcom” played out by the (ahem) ‘comedy’ duo of Aniston and Perry. Had it been a Friends episode, I suggest it may have been entitled “The one where they totally embarrassed themselves for the cash”. They were reportedly paid a cool million bucks each to record this garbage. The biggest joke though was that Perry got his wish to have Microsoft name their search engine Bing after his character on the show. Now that’s funny (and also not true 😉
The (so-called) comedy in this clip is as defunct as the software itself… “Taskbar?” asks Aniston. “Is that anything like a Snickers bar?” Yep, I’m not kidding. If that’s what passes as 90’s humour then you can keep it.
Joking aside (and clearly Aniston & Perry were), the launch of Windows 95 marked an unprecedented landmark in the history of home and office computing. Features such as the ‘Start Menu’ became so popular that Microsoft was forced to reinstate it in the latest version of Windows after they decided to remove it in 2012. And the Snickers bar, sorry the Taskbar, simply became the way we operated a computer in the age of the internet.
It doesn’t really seem like it now but the software was a quantum leap forward in terms of design. Accessibility and compatibility were absolutely key to it’s success as Microsoft realised that home computers were going to be used beyond the humble spreadsheet. It’s no surprise then that just a week after the launch of Windows 95, Internet Explorer also made its debut and rapidly became peoples first choice of web browser.
Fuelled by the success of 95, just three years later Microsoft were named the world’s biggest company with a market cap of USD 613 billion. And that dominance lasted for many years as Microsoft immediately set about killing off 95 with successful follow-up product like Windows 98, 2000, NT and XP. All of which, in turn, became the death knell of the much vaunted yet relatively short-lived Windows 95. It was effectively killed off when it was a mere 7 years old when all support for the operating system was suspended on New Years Eve 2002.
At the time, Windows 95 was seen as nothing short of revolutionary but by todays standards, it’s power and performance is almost laughable. It needed a 386DX processor, 4MB of RAM and 120MB hard drive to make Windows 95 work. By comparison, a pretty basic Smartphone has way more computing power than this. Now there is a proper demonstration of Moore’s Law. And that’s no joke…