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Microsoft still just re-Surfacing Windows

Long-planned escape from beige boxes

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But the 90s were a heady time, when anything seemed possible: even Microsoft software in the one arena where security and stability are the only factors that matter.

Microsoft in your pocket?

Getting Windows onto a credit card was never going to be easy - there's only a tiny processor and little in the way of memory, and Windows' advantages in ease of use and broad device support would be negated by the complete lack of user interface and standardised hardware.

But back in 1998 Mondex was pushing electronic cash, and JavaCard was neither stable nor secure, so Microsoft saw another opportunity to escape its beige boxes, even if it was to become embedded in plastic.

The original idea for a modular OS, which would be compiled into an image for each deployment, was scheduled for January 1999 but dumped in 2001. It turned out to be much easier to provide APIs allowing developers to work with any underlying platform, rather than trying to squeeze Windows onto a plastic sheet.

Windows Smartphone - a success story

In the light of the many and varied attempts by Microsoft to get its software into devices of every shape and size, it's hard to judge the smartphone as anything but a huge success. It may have taken a few versions, and may still not be perfect, but it is deployed on millions of devices around the world: which is more than can be said for any of the other forms we've looked at here.

Surface Computing may get Microsoft into the coffee-table form factor; but either way you can be sure it won't be the last time we're talking its Shawshank Redemption-style tapping away, that will, eventually, break it out of its beige prison. ®

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