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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.
2012: Windows 8 launches
Under the leadership of Steven Sinofsky, Windows 8 marched through its milestones with precision. Microsoft delivered a Consumer Preview, a Release Preview, and then final code in a series of releases that led to a fall launch in New York City.
Shortly after that launch event, Sinofsky was gone, suddenly and unceremoniously. That turned out to be the first of many disappointments for Windows 8 in its first year, as buyers found themselves confused by the new interface, especially on conventional mouse-and-keyboard driven hardware. In a post a few months after the launch, I noted, "there’s no question that a lot of smart people have serious problems with the initial release of Windows 8."