On the Windows SuperSite, Paul Thurrott questions whether Windows 7 is the Next Windows NT. That would be a great complement to Windows 7.
I believe it’s too early to make such statements, but Microsoft had six years to write Windows 7, so who knows?
What Paul absolutely got right is the part about Windows NT. To me, there’s no question Windows NT 3.5 (actually, 3.51) was the most bullet-proof, rock-solid stable OS Microsoft ever developed (not counting server flavors). I remember showing it crashed to a co-worker once because of how rare that was.
You didn’t get something for nothing, however. NT required relatively hefty hardware and memory to run well. Still, if you had the hardware it ran with a reliability more common today, but certainly not then. My home PC was a little “weak” but I ran 3.51 Workstation anyway; it was a godsend compared to “regular” Windows 3.11.
Unfortunately, in their attempt to make it a little prettier, and a little faster, Microsoft slapped the Windows 95 interface on, messed with some interface layers, and called it NT 4.0. As Paul says:
After Windows NT 4.0 shipped, Microsoft made the wrong decision and integrated the immature, buggy, and insecure Internet Explorer (IE) into the OS via an NT Option Pack, forever tarnishing NT’s previous bulletproof record.
Even prior to the option pack it had lost stability compared to its predecessor. The jig was up. It’s not that 4.0 was “bad”, but NT never again had the stability 3.51 did.