by Shane O'Neill

Windows 7 Still Matters, But Applications Matter More

Mar 16, 20092 mins
Data Center

A recurring argument has emerged among tech pundits and bloggers: The operating system doesn’t matter anymore.

On the surface, that seems like a crazy thing to say. After all, an OS is the platform upon which all applications are built. But nobody’s suggesting that operating systems are not important, just that they should not be branded and marketed as something consumers care about.

Developers, vendors, IT managers, industry analysts and bloggers, and sales and marketing people care about operating systems. But consumers and business users just want their computers to work.

For the large majority of users, an operating system like Windows should allow your applications to work and then just stay in the background. Microsoft has been accused of intentionally not mentioning Vista in their advertising. That has more to do with Microsoft downplaying an OS that had failed rather than an acceptance that application use and compatibility are what users really care about.

Microsoft was unintentionally smart to de-emphasize Windows Vista because most people don’t pay much attention to what version of Windows they’re running. Again, they just want their computers to work.

Microsoft blogger Joe Wilcox makes the strong argument that people don’t buy operating systems, they buy computers and applications.

Apple understands this better than anybody. They keep it simple, release one version of Mac OS X and iPhone OS at a time and market the hell out of applications like iTunes and the third-party apps that run on the iPhone.

Microsoft is not exactly embracing this changing world by releasing six versions of Windows 7. Yet the software giant is slowly getting on the application marketing train with “I’m a PC” television ads where little kids show us all how to use Windows Live Photo Gallery. That’s a start. Microsoft has always understood the value of applications. They’ve been bundling apps with Windows for many years, leading to well-known antitrust problems. However, the company hasn’t been very good at marketing how their applications work and make your life easier.

I predict we will see more promotion of the Windows Live online features and other applications from Microsoft and the actual operating system, be it Vista or Windows 7, will be the silent foundation.

What do you think? Will the “Windows OS” brand grow quiet in the next year or two?