The Windows 8 operating system: Is it time to move on?

It was customary during the Bill Gates era at Microsoft to surreptitiously dis the previous version of Windows when the next generation came out. “It’s the best Windows operating system we’ve ever developed,” he would always say of the new version.

Usually, best meant biggest or most complex, as more features were added. Thankfully, Windows 7 took a step back along those lines and in doing so, Microsoft took a step forward.

Now we can look forward to the Windows 8 operating system, according to CEO Steve Ballmer, CNET reports. But really, do we need another version of Windows? Windows 7 should be the foundation on which modular upgrades can advance the platform for a long time to come. A whole new version seems like overkill at this point.

Windows 7, which is just starting to be deployed in earnest in enterprises now that the first service pack has been shipped, should be considered the “last” PC operating system. With mobile phones and tablets fast becoming the preferred computing interface, why should Microsoft, developers, PC and component makers — and, most of all, users — waste the time and money embracing another generation?

Ballmer went on to say that Windows 8 will run on “slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors.” OK, but this will not be as easy as it sounds. Unlike the desktop market, Microsoft does not own the mobile operating system market: Apple and Google do. And they will continue to do so because they have the one thing that Microsoft always had in their pocket for Windows: developers, developers, developers, developers.

Did I mention that Ballmer said Windows 8 will debut in 2012? Gulp.

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