When PC Pro was born almost 25 years ago, it didn't start life under that name: It came into the world like Windows Magazine. Magazines assembled in small tribes. It was PC Pro, PC Magazine, Computer Shopper and many others who all fought for Windows users, and then MacUser and MacFormat tried to tempt Macolytes. Later, the Linux brands came along, when the writers had managed to remove the beard from the printer.
It wasn't – with the possible exception of the ultra-snobby Wired – a magazine that served all audiences, because why would they? What would a Mac owner want to know about the new advances in Windows 98? It just didn't work out.
A quarter of a century later, the operating system is on the verge of irrelevance. Nothing much is defined by the operating system you use. You can run macOS, Windows, Android or iOS, even desktop Linux, and to a large extent your daily work will not be affected. Files flow freely from one OS to another with compatibility that rarely raises the ugly head. The computing strains have never rubbed together so harmoniously.
This outbreak of peace has had a dramatic effect on the computing landscape, and nowhere more so than with Microsoft. The company's mantra used to be "Windows everywhere"; Now it's getting harder to find a mention of Windows anywhere. New Windows releases used to be huge staging posts, now they are little more than blog posts. The recent Build conference, once the place where we tech journalists flocked to get a full day's advanced briefing on all the new features in the next version of Windows, barely mentioned the W word, according to those who were there.
Microsoft's embrace of Linux and the conversion to the Chromium engine for the Edge browser are based on a recognition that Microsoft failed to grasp for too long: despite these billions of users, the world no longer revolves around Windows.
hard to think of other than niche software packages that can survive by linking to a single operating system anymore. In the process of researching and writing this column, I've gone from Word on my Windows laptop to finishing it on the train using Word on my iPad Pro. I read the background articles with Chrome on my Android phone, cut quotes and notes for the OneNote mobile, which I have accessed on the other platforms, and saved the copy itself in Dropbox. Had any of these applications or services been tied to a specific OS, I would not have used them.
Twenty years ago, Sun boss Scott McNealy used to lose his temper at every press conference when asked about Windows. "Who cares about operating systems?" he wanted to bump. "No one knows what operating system is running inside their car or mobile phone," he would argue in the days before iOS and Android were even conceived. They were, in his opinion, an irrelevance.
He was wrong at the time, but he would have the right to say "I told you so" if he was still talking at press conferences now. The operating system is declining. As a good football referee, you hardly notice it's there at all. Even Microsoft has said that the operating system just needs to get out of the way, which is why it is working hard to reduce unwanted interruptions from security software and the dreaded Windows Update. To use the favorite phrase of a former editor, Windows has learned to "just deal with it." , truth be told), "something for a simple life" part of me is relieved. I can pick up almost any device and rest assured that it lets me get on with the day job. Only a few specialist tabs are tied to a particular machine. Windows doesn't really matter anymore ̵