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Top 10 best releases from Microsoft


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This week Microsoft released the latest version of the Windows operating system.

The company promises that Windows 7 will be the best version of its operating system yet, and Microsoft hopes that the release will go much further than its predecessor, Windows Vista. One can only hope so since Vista was such a poor example of what could be done.

Whether Windows 7 does go down as one of Microsoft's best remains to be seen, which is why you won't see it on this list. While some of us have high hopes for the operating system the old rule that you never buy version one of any Microsoft code holds true. We have yet to see what pitfalls the new operating system has, and they will only become apparent once widespread adoption kicks in.

But in the meantime we've decided to count down the ten best products ever to come out of Redmond. This was a very tough list to come up with, since neither Shaun or I are Microsoft's biggest fans, but we think this gives a good example of some of the best that Microsoft has to offer.

Honourable mention: OneNote

Honourable mention: Flight Simulator

10. Minesweeper

9. Internet Explorer 7

8. Optical Mouse

7. Office 98 for Mac

6. DOS 5

5. Windows 3.1

4. Office 2000

3. Windows XP SP2

2. Windows NT 4.0

1. Windows Update

Shaun Nichols: It's rare for a software vendor to get an application completely right the first time out. Errors get overlooked, vulnerabilities go unnoticed and compatibility issued get pointed out with every product. Microsoft seems to have a certain knack for putting out products that need a few revisions to really hit their stride.

Aside from that, Microsoft products are by far the most popular targets in the world for malware attacks. With the overwhelming majority of users running the company's products, a Windows or Office attack is far and away the best method for infecting a lot of users.

These two factors combined make it of vital importance that the company have an efficient method for distributing patches and updates. And with Windows 98, the company delivered what might have been the most important pieces of security software since Dr. Soloman first bundled his anti-virus tools.

Windows Update allows the company to automatically send out updates to users with minimal effort on the consumer's part. Vital updates and patches are downloaded automatically and installed quickly.

While this seems boring, imagine a world without it. Users would be forced to download updates from a web site or launch an updater application, and many systems would remain unpatched for years at a time. Malware writers would be like lions in a petting zoo.

Iain Thomson: We argued about this one a lot, and it says much about Microsoft's products that this got the number one spot. but while Windows Update is good news for consumers I wonder it IT administrators like it quite as much.

As Shaun pointed out malware writers love Windows because it's a huge target. Back in the day when malware writers worked for kudos not money Microsoft was a high value target, but the monetisation of malware has made this even more so. So now Microsoft pushes fixes down to users rather than waiting for them to be installed.

This is a great boon to the non-technical user that makes up the vast majority of Microsoft's user base. But for IT administrators it's a less clear cut option. While patching is the aim, the IT staff generally like to test out patches first to make sure they don't crash the system. I know of a couple of instances where patches have caused huge problems with legacy software.

That said Windows Update remains a really useful idea, and one that other software is also using. If you have a Mozilla browser you get sent updates automatically for example. It's a good system and something we need to see more of.

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