A somewhat predictable PC upgrade cycle was a welcome fact of life back in the '80s and '90s, but it might be a thing of the past. Or it might not. Analysts are debating it, and we will find out what they conclude next year.
Here's the brief history. In those long-ago days, PC manufacturers--and hence software developers, chipmakers, and computer dealers--would see a spike in demand every three to four years. Microsoft and Intel would come out with major refreshes of their product lines roughly at that cadence. The whole system of steady upgrade cycles culminated with the release of Windows 95 in 1995, still one of the best orgies of technology binge buying on record. Start me up!
After Windows 95, however, operating system upgrades were no longer strong enough on their own to prompt upgrade cycles. A slight bump in sales might occur, but it was hard to say whether it was related to a new OS. Few were buying new PCs so they could get their hands on Windows 98, or 2000, according to analysts at the time. Instead, people were upgrading when their PCs started to seem too slow or started to have problems.
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