Microsoft has released a number of operating systems which they call “Windows”. I avoid using this term where possible, and if I have to do so, I enclose the term in “” to indicate an atypical use of the term. From time to time somebody takes note of the fact and thinks it's either silly or even downright insulting.
Well, I'm not too happy either. Microsoft has a habit of taking words which have been in general use for centuries, and in some cases also in technical use for decades, and claimed ownership of them. “Windows” is only one of them. It seems that they can do this under US law, but that doesn't mean that it's a good idea. Here are reasons why:
Words in common use have specific meanings. This applies particularly to nouns describing common objects. Until computers came along, a window was a straightforward object.
With the advent of computers, a number of common words were given additional meanings. The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the term window was used as early as 1966 to represent The screen of a VDU regarded as a means of displaying part of a drawing stored in a computer...
As a result, I don't think that using the term “Windows” to describe Microsoft products is appropriate. I can't change the name, of course, but where possible I avoid using it; instead I refer to the systems as “Microsoft”, which is hardly more ambiguous. Where I must use the term in writing, I put it in quotes to indicate my opinion of its status.
In a similar manner, I enclose other common nouns in quotes when they refer to the name of a Microsoft product, for example Microsoft “Word”, “Excel”, “Explorer” or “Outlook”. The list is long. Other terms are so generic that they make no sense, like “SQL Server”. Some of these terms also qualify as bad language: “Internet Explorer” is a web browser, not an Internet tool.
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