Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Windows 10, OS X, Android, iOS and Genealogy

Windows-based operating systems are still the most used by far. The most popular system is now Windows 7 at a little over 58% of the market. See "Desktop Operating System Market Share." Windows 8, which was released back in 2012, has only garnered about 11% or so of the market. The Mac OS X systems comprise less than 6% of the market. However, if we move to mobile devices the landscape changes dramatically. Windows Phone and Windows Mobile have barely 2% of the market, while Google's Android rules with over 52% and Apple's iOS has a healthy 38.8% of the market. See, "Mobile/Tablet Operating System Market Share."

Likewise, Microsoft still rules the desktop browser world with almost 56% of the market with its Internet Explorer. Google's Chrome has over 25% with Firefox in third place with almost 12% and Apple's Safari running at just over 5%. See, "Desktop Bowser Market Share." Things change dramatically when you move to mobile devices however, Apple's Safari jumps to over 39% of the market, Google's Chrome comes in with slightly more than 30% and the Google Android browser has over 18%. On mobile devices Microsoft has only a little higher than 2% of the market.

What does all this mean to genealogists? Well, you have to factor in two well-publicized facts: Microsoft is introducing another new operating system, named Windows 10 and abandoning Internet Explorer entirely for a new "browser" called Microsoft Edge. See Windows. Let me translate this into (hopefully) plain language. Here is the important fact: Microsoft Edge will have little legacy support. See "5 ways Windows 10's new Edge browser beats Internet Explorer." This means that developers who want their products to work with Microsoft's new browser will have to conform to its requirements in order to have their online programs and websites operate properly.

This same challenge faces all software developers. In many cases, the developers choose to support some browsers and ignore the rest. In this case, Microsoft is apparently abandoning support for older and current versions of Internet Explorer. This will affect me very little since it has been some time since Internet Explorer worked on Apple OS X devices. In short, there is not a version of Internet Explorer that will work on my iMac running OS X 10.10.3 Yosemite. There is likely a question if developers can support both Microsoft's, now abandoned Internet Explorer and their new Microsoft Edge browser.

Genealogy programs, both those that run on your individual computer and those that run as online, web-based applications, must continually upgrade their products to work with new operating systems and browsers. A major upgrade, such as Windows 10, and an even more complete upgrade, such as a move to a new browser, such as Microsoft Edge, creates a domino effect in the software industry. These changes are not confined to Microsoft. Apple is expected to announce new versions of its iOS and OS X operating systems at the World Wide Developer Conference coming in June, 2015. See MacWorld's article, "WWDC 2015: What Apple will launch at WWDC 2015: Apple TV, Macs, more & how to get WWDC tickets."

All of this is based on the development of new computer chips from Intel and others.

Bottom line this means the following to the average genealogist computer user:

  • There will likely be another round of major software upgrades from the developers.
  • There will very likely be some developers who will discontinue or abandon programs due to the cost and effort to upgrade them.
  • There will be even more genealogists whose data is in danger of being lost through obsolescence.
  • Genealogists who have failed to upgrade their operating systems over the years will be one more operating system out of upgrade loop and the pain and agony of moving to a new system will increase that much more.
  • More people will move to entirely mobile-based computing.
  • Support for a multitude of operating systems will become more complicated and developers will abandon older systems.
  • Genealogists will complain about the "upgrades" and resist the changes.
  • My life will get even more complicated than it is already.

The changes are coming in the next month or so. New devices now being sold with Windows 7 will likely disappear rapidly over the next month or two. We will all have to wait and see what happens to the major websites as they try to accommodate the new Microsoft Edge, if they even try to do so.

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