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2009: Windows 7 is the anti-Vista
In 2007, I wrote about the many problems of Windows Vista in a post titled "Vista isn't Me2, it's Win95 + 12 years." In that post, I offered a prediction: "If history repeats itself, Microsoft will release its next Vista update in 2009 or 2010, after a low-profile, secretive beta cycle, and it will be greeted as finally delivering on the promise of what Vista should have been all along."
That's pretty much exactly what happened. Under the leadership of new Windows boss Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft released Windows 7 right on schedule. OEMs were prepared this time, and there were few underlying architectural changes to cause problems. Windows 7 wasn’t perfect, but it was greatly improved over Windows Vista. And that "evolutionary" release was enough to make it one of Microsoft's biggest successes ever.
2010: Windows 7 establishes itself as an unqualified success
According to statistics from NetMarketShare, Windows 7 passed Windows Vista in usage a mere nine months after its release. Windows 7 also had the good fortune to arrive as the economy began to recover from a recession and businesses that had delayed PC upgrades began buying again. Everything looked rosy for the PC market. And then Apple introduced its iPad, which was the first shot in what would become a lengthy battle for the mobile market.
2011: Microsoft unveils its 'big bet,' Windows 8
In September 2011, Microsoft officially took the wraps off Windows 8, releasing a Developer Preview that was downloaded more than 500,000 times in the first 24 hours. It was the first public appearance of the new Metro interface. In a post at the time, I noted that Windows 8 was "full of great ideas" but also identified what turned out later to be a very big deal: "The transition between the new Start screen and the don't-call-it-legacy Windows Desktop and the new Metro style apps isn't as smooth as it could be."
Steve Ballmer had called Windows 8 a "big bet" earlier. In 2011, with Windows 7 still selling strongly, there was reason to be optimistic.