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A couple of Gartner analysts have recently claimed that Windows is "collapsing"; that it's too big, too sprawling, and too old to allow rapid development and significant new features. Although organizations like Gartner depend on trolling to drum up business, I think this time they could be onto something. "Collapsing" is over-dramatic-gradual decline is a more likely outcome-but the essence of what they're saying-and why they're saying it-rings true.

Windows is dying, Windows applications suck, and Microsoft is too blinkered to fix any of it-that's the argument. The truth is that Windows is hampered by 25-year old design decisions. These decisions mean that it's clunky to use and absolutely horrible to write applications for. The applications that people do write are almost universally terrible. They're ugly, they're inconsistent, they're disorganized; there's no finesse, no care lavished on them. Microsoft-surely the company with the greatest interest in making Windows and Windows applications exude quality-is, in fact, one of the worst perpetrators.

The unfortunate thing about this is that there is a company that's not only faced similar problems but also tackled them. Apple in the mid-1990s was faced with an operating system that was going nowhere, and needed to take radical action to avoid going out of business. And so that's what Apple did. Apple's role in the industry has always been more prominent than mere sales figures would suggest, but these days even the sales numbers are on the up. There are lessons to be learned from the company in Cupertino; I only hope they will be.



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