27 years of Windows package design
25th Oct 2012 | 14:06
A history of Microsoft's OS in card and plastic
Software packaging isn't exactly the epitome of great design. And, as the world's most used operating system - and being from Microsoft - Windows has had some rather dull boxes designed for it to sit within.
But it's also had some great packaging designed for it too, so we've gathered together images of the box art from each version of Windows, from 1985's Windows 1.0 to this week's Windows 8.
Enjoy - and check out our other Windows 8 content here:
- Windows 8 review
- Windows 8 vs Windows 7: 8 ways it's different
- 50 Windows 8 tips, tricks and secrets
- Windows 8 tablets: what you need to know
- Making sense of the Windows 8 versions
- All our Windows 8 content
Windows 1.0 - blue is the colour
An "operating environment," Windows 1.0 may have had an eye-catching ad featuring Steve Ballmer, but the design of the box was aimed squarely at business and featured the old Microsoft logo on a navy background.
Windows 2 (286 and 386 versions) - 80s stripes and snazzy desktops
Two versions for different PC variants, the Windows 2.0 boxes were also pretty dull but introduced typical 80s window blinds and images of the now-colourful Windows desktop. Note the new Microsoft logo, too (which has only recently been replaced).
Windows 3.0 - look at my clickety clack keyboard!
Notice that Windows 3.0 is still on 5.25-inch disks. Windows 3.0 is now called a "graphical environment" - still running atop MS DOS of course. But isn't the imagery still really, really dark and dingy? "Windows 3.0: underworld edition?"
Windows 3.1 - 90s clean lines and the Windows flag
Ah that's better. Now seven years old, 3.1 made its debut in 1992 and together with Workgroups (see below) was a huge success. A cleaner box design resulted (albeit with that strange, spidery font), while it's also the first time we see the Windows flag.
By contrast, the weird upgrade edition cover eschews the Windows flag completely.
Windows 3.1 for Workgroups - "yes! I have more than one PC!"
The Workgroups box suffered from a bit of font overload...
Windows 95 - more power AND fun
Wow! As well as upping the game in terms of the OS itself, Microsoft went all consumer on us for Windows 95's packaging. Indeed, Microsoft's subsequent reputation for putting too many messages on the box probably started here (see the "what if Microsoft packaged the iPod" video). Windows 95 still came on a floppy if you wanted it.
Windows NT - the night sky
The business-orientated NT version was the first fully 32-bit version of Windows and formed the basis for the Windows we still use today - all "home" versions after Windows Me (starting with Windows XP) were based on the more stable and secure NT codebase.
Windows 98 - works better, play better
A development on the Windows 95 box but easier on the eye, the Windows 98 packaging continued the "too much information" era. Shame the box was so similar to the Windows 95 one that Microsoft had to stick a NEW VERSION! flash on it.
Windows 2000 - the dullest Windows box yet
Apologies in advance, as you'll now have to suffer two poor packaging efforts. Returning to white, Microsoft went back to basics. It's a shame for Windows 2000, as it was a super OS - a leading anti-virus expert said the last of his userbase had only recently upgraded.
Windows Me - bland box, rubbish OS
Windows Me was Windows 98 with a few new bits from Windows 2000 and a renewed focus on media content. However, it was as rubbish as the box was dull. If you didn't use it, you were lucky.
Windows XP - the green and the blue
The non-shoutiness of the Windows XP packaging was surprising given the quantum leap forward that Windows XP represented over Me. But it was clever design - the difference between the editions was clear and nowhere near as confusing as the myriad of Vista versions that followed.
Windows Vista - plastic is, like, so green
On the Windows Blog, Nick White announced the new packaging for Vista and Office 2007. "The packaging has been completely revised and, we hope, foreshadows the great experience that awaits you once you open it." Hmmm. In a disappointing move environmentally, Microsoft moved to a chunky clear plastic design with a printed inner. Blogger Long Zheng was more positive, calling it "holy freaking super deliciously awesome."
Windows 7 - selling itself
Microsoft simplified the design for Windows 7, with a cardboard outer and plastic inner. "The plastic case protecting the Windows 7 disk is lighter and is recyclable," explained Microsoft blogger Brandon LeBlancon the Windows 7 blog. "The packaging itself has a 37 per cent weight reduction and the econometrics score has improved by 50 per cent over it's predecessor." Things would have been even better if there was no plastic though. It helped that the OS itself was ace.
Windows 8 - welcome to Metro
Or rather, welcome to Modern UI. Actually, welcome to the Microsoft design-style interface. It's a massive shame that the fab Metro name has had to be shelved. We're also not that keen on the packaging, which seems to be a little dull in comparison to the new Start Screen. This is a new beginning for Microsoft, and we'd like to have had something a little jazzier. Just as well we quite like Windows 8 itself.