NewsHunt for PC Windows XP
Microsoft launched Windows 10 last week to a muted response. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
One of my favourite cartoons shows a team of scientists in a Nasa control room clustered around a big screen. Their spacecraft has just landed on a very distant planet and has begun transmitting data back to base. A guy in overalls is saying to his assembled colleagues: “Now all we have to do is figure out how to install Windows 95.”
Ah yes, Windows 95... I remember it well. It signified the moment when Microsoft finally managed to implement the user interface invented by Xerox in the early 70s. It was launched with the biggest hype-storm that the computer industry – or indeed any other industry – had ever seen. Microsoft paid the Rolling Stones an unconscionable amount of money (we never found out how much) to use Start Me Up as the musical backdrop for the launch. The first internet boom, triggered by the web and the Netscape browser, was just beginning to roll and Windows 95 was the first Microsoft operating system to have a TCP/IP stack (needed to connect to the internet) baked in.
Back then, the PC was the sun in the computing universe around which everything else revolved. And Microsoft controlled well over 90% of the PC software market. So Windows 95 really was a big deal.
Last week, 20 years on, Microsoft launched Windows 10 with the kind of faded hoopla that accompanies 60s discos. Mainstream media accorded it the kind of respectful but bored attention that they might give to the fourth marriage of an ageing matinee idol.
But in all the coverage, the subliminal message was clear: in a world transfixed by smartphones, Microsoft is deadsville. I mean to say, it even bought Nokia – and then had to take a humiliating multibillion writedown as a public acknowledgement of that particular catastrophic mistake. How uncool is that?
Answer: very. As Benedict Evans, that most astute observer of these things, observes, the smartphone is now the sun around which the tech universe revolves, and Microsoft has no property holdings in that particular solar system. “Mobile is replacing the PC as the dominant computing platform, ” writes Evans. “Smartphones sell in much larger numbers, have a much larger user base and are already close to taking a larger share of internet use than the PC in leading markets (such as the US and UK). PCs aren’t going away any time soon, any more than faxes or mainframes did, but they are the past, not the future.”Illustration by Matt Murphy.
All of which is true. But it would be unwise to jump from those premises to composing Microsoft’s obituary, for two reasons. The first is that there is a strange paradox at the heart of the computing industry: while at the leading edge the pace of innovation appears to be accelerating, at the real-world application end the pace of change continues to be sluggish. Our world is still critically dependent on computer systems and software that are, in many cases, half a century old and more full of patches than a handmade quilt. So the “past” of which Evans writes so eloquently may have a pretty good future ahead of it.
The second reason for being sceptical about rumours of Microsoft’s demise becomes apparent the moment you walk into the offices of any large organisation – any bank, insurance company, hospital, call-centre, university administration, manufacturing plant or government department. While employees may have their own glitzy smartphones, the machine they have to use for work is a PC running Microsoft software. The NHS, just to take one example, has hundreds of thousands of PCs, most of them running more or less elderly versions of Microsoft operating systems. The documents circulating in every major FTSE 100 company, and in every law firm in the country, will have been composed and revised in Microsoft Word – even if they are circulated as PDFs.
The numbers corroborate this organisational reality. The global market share of desktop operating systems in June 2015 looks like this: Windows 7 (61%); Windows 8.1 (13.1%); Windows XP (12%); Windows 8 (2.9%); Windows Vista (1.6%). Which means 90.6% of the world’s desktop computers are still running versions of Windows. And the global market share of Apple’s OS X operating system? Why, a princely 4.5%.
Now without doubt the market for desktop PC and Windows-powered laptops is steadily declining, and the picture will be very different two decades from now. But the dominance of Microsoft software in organisations functions as a huge sheet-anchor slowing down the pace of change. So the odds are that in 2035 someone, somewhere, will be trying to figure out how to install Windows 10. And struggling to remember what a “smartphone” was.
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Where can PC games for Windows XP be downloaded.
PC games for Windows XP and other operating systems can be downloaded from a number of websites such as: CNET, Steam, Game Top, The Pirate Bay, My Real Games, and PC Game Pack.