Ever since the Microsoft Corporation started to develop home computer operating systems during the late 1970’s and more importantly during the 1980’s, they have tried to provide a stable platform for business and home use. This home use, combined with the emergence of video games over the past 15 years has led to the widespread use of Microsoft operating systems to run these games. The corporation has tried to develop an operating system which is both efficient and cost effective for both the office and the home, whilst providing as much functionality as is possible.
This causes a conflict for manufacturers and developers, and has done for years because bespoke hardware and software used to perform a task has a different set of problems and requirements than a single platform which runs many tasks. Differing task requirements for a platform mean that there is a problem because “the key strength of a platform – its flexibility in relation to diverse software – is thereby also its weakness” (Newman, 2004, p.
44), as it cannot perform brilliantly across a wide variety of tasks.
The first Microsoft operating system which broke into the home market was MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), followed by the first Windows release in 1983. This release was the first graphical operating system on the market and proved to be much easier to use than its predecessor. The GUI (Graphical User Interface) revolutionized the way users interacted with the operating system, allowing for easier use and more complex on screen communication between machine and user.
This use of a graphical interface helped to lead to the development of subsequent operating systems which were able to run games software allowing for complex graphics and control systems. The earliest games that were developed, such as the cult classic Pong, were developed around the same time as the first Microsoft products, but were usually stand alone machines, with a single use. These video games, or arcade games as they became known were coin operated machines which were developed using bespoke technologies and circuit boards, compiled and built around a single cabinet.
Subsequent development and evolution has turned the gaming industry into a multi-billion dollar industry today, with games being run on home computers instead of on single use consoles. The theory of a games console is however still being used, and Microsoft do in fact produce a high-tech console called the X-Box 360, however all of this technology has emerged from one of the most important Microsoft products to date, Microsoft Windows 95. In 1995 Microsoft introduced the first edition of a new generation of Windows operating systems, Windows 95.
It was a revolutionary release, incorporating new technologies which would form the basis for later operating systems that would revolutionize the way gamers use their personal computers. The release used a new “plug and play” design which made hardware setup much easier by adding an automatic detection feature, so that computers could be customized much more easily. The memory management technologies used in Windows 95 were also new and allowed for much better performance on lower end systems that the equivalent Windows 3 systems.
This landmark release was followed by another, six years later, Windows XP. This release was the successor to all of the previous Windows versions, such as Windows NT, the business client/server version, Windows 98 and Windows 2000, two releases designed to be interim releases all based on the Windows 95 architecture. This new version of Windows was the first home operating system to be based on the highly successful and stable version of Windows NT, and provided the games enthusiast with a very stable, powerful and highly customizable operating system.
This became the standard operating system of choice for millions of users for nearly a decade, and was partially to blame for the problems faced by Microsoft when they decided to release the next version, Windows Vista. The performance and reliability of Windows XP has had a negative effect on the operating system which followed, Windows Vista, because of the satisfaction which it brought to the gaming community and the home user market. The next operating system to be released which was Windows Vista brought about a dramatic shift in Microsoft’s fortunes due to a number of reasons.
Windows Vista brought a new style of interface, more akin to the Apple operating system than with the previous versions of Windows, yet it still retained some of the better features. The changes included a newly updates interface, with a different visual style to Windows XP, as well as better search functions and other tools for home entertainment and office efficiency. The release was also supposed to address some of the many security issues with Windows XP, and to make Windows Vista a much more secure and powerful operating system.
Gaming performance was also supposed to be better, however the initially positive reviews began to change once the operating system was seen working in the wild across a wide range of hardware. There were a large number of concerns about some of the performance issues and the fact that there were so many bugs and patches released to deal with problems which had not been identified during Beta testing, which meant users became disenchanted with this release very quickly.
From a personal point of view, when my new notebook arrived pre-installed with Windows Vista, I was excited to see what this new operating system could deliver which Windows XP could not. My excitement soon turned to disappointment, and within a few weeks, the notebook was downgraded back to Windows XP for performance gains, and frames per second increases when playing high end games. However, Windows Vista has very high hardware requirements, much more so than Windows XP, and comparing the speed of Vista against XP on the same hardware, it is possible to see a huge difference in gaming speeds and frame rate.
As well as the performance issues, some of the other new features of Windows Vista were causing problems for users. Some of the DRM (Digital Rights Management) functions were a problem for pirates, hardware compatibility issues were causing problems for gamers who did not want to upgrade their hardware to run Vista, and the other nag-ware such as the User Account Control were proving to be more of a drag for the users rather than a benefit.
System administrators also showed a reluctance to accept Windows Vista, and as such Windows Vista received very bad reviews, and a very low adoption rate compared with the predecessor, Windows XP. In a survey of IT professionals “only 44 per cent plan to implement it” (“Fears Mount over ‘Zero-Day’,” 2007, p. 17), and of future implementations “63 per cent of those respondents will deploy it in the next year” (“Fears Mount over ‘Zero-Day’,” 2007, p. 17), which shows that Microsoft had a problem convincing users and system administrators to change.
Some of these numbers suggest that those in the know, IT professionals, are skeptical and worried about adopting this release of Windows. The survey also shows that IT professionals are also worried about some of the newer changes to the security update system. The security updates can be large at the best of times and can sometimes cause compatibility problems with other software or hardware, and usually system administrators like to test these updates in a secure environment before rolling them out into a production environment.
Respondents said that they expected that Vista will not automatically “solve all of their security concerns, as the majority of people (72 per cent) felt the patch management process will remain the same with Vista as it is with Windows XP” (“Fears Mount over ‘Zero-Day’,” 2007, p. 17). This study is representative of the views of key groups of users and administrators and can be seen as being representative of the general views on some of these technology changes to the operating system.
Some of the so called improvements meant that Windows Vista had a very resource hungry kernel, which was different to the shell in Windows XP. This difference was supposed to bring about a more organized and efficient system, however these new technologies are not easily seen by the end user, who only sees the performance and usability issues. These new technologies such as the new networking and printing subsystems are not where users see beneficial changes they look to the user interface as the benchmark for a good operating system.
In the case of the games industry and gamers they see the performance of the game itself as a benchmark for how good the operating system is. However the major issue for gamers when dealing with Windows Vista is the change in DirectX. One of Microsoft’s flagship games was designed to highlight this change in DirectX. Halo was one of Microsoft’s most successful game titles and its successor Halo 2 “only runs on Windows Vista, making a subtle prompt for all PC gamers to upgrade” (“Halo 2 Retains All,” 2007, p. 65), a decision taken by Microsoft to try and push Windows Vista as the gamers operating system of choice.
DirectX is a collection of programming interfaces which handle tasks which are related to gaming, such as video card utilization and sound management. The idea of having a separate interface for gaming requirements was started with the release of Windows 95, and updated during the lifecycle of the Windows range. Windows XP could handle DirectX 9 however Windows Vista was designed to use the next version, which was specific to Vista only which was DirectX 10.
This version was designed to use newer driver display models programmed by Microsoft which support allegedly newer and better memory management functions and a virtual hardware environment. However due to the fact that hardware requirements were so high, and that older video cards did not support this new DirectX version, again users were reluctant to upgrade to newer video cards just to support this new version of DirectX, there is reluctance among users to upgrade as “85 per cent of domestic computers may not have the necessary memory and graphics systems to carry the most sophisticated version” (“Why You May Take,” 2007, p.
19). Since the release of Vista, Microsoft has launched another operating system, Windows 7, which is very similar to Vista, but provides a more stable and powerful system for end users. The GUI is very similar, the themes are the same but the core technology which runs the operating system has been thoroughly tested and improved. This has caused some in the technology world to claim that Windows 7 is actually Windows Vista Mark II, or Windows Vista Version II.
Again speaking from personal experience of all three of these operating systems, my notebook has run all three over the past few years, and Windows Vista has performed by far the worst out of the three. The new Windows 7 release was installed on my notebook as soon as it was released, and comparing gaming performance between Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, I believe that Windows 7 provides even faster frame rates than even Windows XP.
Opinion amongst the technological community is that this new version “improves efficiency in the use of existing hardware, strengthens security at the OS and browser levels, and reduces or eliminates Vista deficiencies” (Bradley, 2009), some of the major problems which meant low rates of adoption among home and business users, and which has lead to Windows 7 adoption rates which were higher than those previous operating systems.
Therefore, in conclusion Windows Vista provides a user interface which is capable of playing games, however when compared to some of the other operating systems on offer, it is possible to make an informed decision not to use it if you want an efficient and fast system. As seen, some of the alternatives, Windows XP or Windows 7, provide a better alternative for the hardcore gamer. Windows XP will provide a stable operating system, which will run well on older hardware, and Windows 7 will provide an even faster alternative when dealing with older hardware.
If new hardware is used, then Windows 7 or Windows Vista will both offer the functionality of DirectX 10 or 11, whereas Windows XP will run the hardware using DirectX 9 instead. The performance of these various operating systems really depends on the hardware used, and as shown from personal experience, it is possible to see that the newest Microsoft operating system provides the best option, due to the changes in the technologies and subsystems used for running multimedia and gaming applications.
This is then followed by the oldest of the three choices for today’s gamer, Windows XP, because of the way it uses the resources on offer in a much more efficient way than the last choice here, Windows Vista. Finally it is possible to say that a comparison of the hardware on offer and the kinds of games that the user wishes to play will ultimately make the decision on which operating system to use. References Bradley, S. E. (2009). Windows 7: Is It Right for You? Carefully Assess Your Needs,
Application Compatibility and the Upgrade Process. Journal of Accountancy, 208(5), 32+. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from Questia database: http://www. questiaschool. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=5034961286 Fears Mount over ‘Zero-Day’ Attack Threat. (2007, January 2). The Birmingham Post (England), p. 17. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from Questia database: http://www. questiaschool. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=5018680552 Halo 2 Retains All Its Shooter Thrills on PC; Computer Games. (2007, May 18). Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), p.65.
Retrieved August 12, 2010, from Questia database: http://www. questiaschool. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=5020778100 Newman, J. (2004). Videogames. London: Routledge. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from Questia database: http://www. questiaschool. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=107633300 Why You May Take a Dim View of Windows Vista. (2007, January 31). The Daily Mail (London, England), p. 19. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from Questia database: http://www. questiaschool. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=5019166592