microsoft-windows-7-black-screen-of-deathYou have to pity the poor folks in at Microsoft (MSFT). Just when they come out with a Windows 7 release that most of the tech world seems to like, an update wreaks havoc with what is likely to be a limited subset of users. Naturally, the media gives this problem a highly colorful term -- the Black Screen of Death. The bug supposedly affects machines running Microsoft Windows XP, Vista and 7 operating systems.

The BSOD problems were quickly splashed all over the blogosphere and Twitter, leading to more questions about whether Microsoft will ever be able to release software that is truly bug-free. For its part, Microsoft has denied that its update is causing any problems, according to Barron's. Windows 7 is clearly an improvement over Windows Vista, but as the warts come into view on this slimmed-down operating system that has won widespread kudos, it's only natural the problems occur. Why? It's just too complex. If anything, Microsoft should be congratulated for, by and large, making Windows 7 such a bug-free release.
The "too complex" complaint is an old refrain, but still one that makes a lot of sense. It's also the core argument Steve Jobs has always held for maintaining a strict vertical integration for Apple (AAPL) hardware and software (and why he killed the Mac clones). The laws of complexity are quite simple in concept. The more moving parts in a system, the more likely something will break. Period.

Apple maintains a very simple ecosystem. Apple controls all the key hardware that goes into their machines. It customizes the operating system software to run on that hardware. All told, there are few distinct parts of Apple's ecosystem. Compare that to Microsoft, which runs on literally thousands of configurations of hardware featuring all manner of motherboards, internal drives, memory, power supplies, and just about any other product that can sit inside a personal computer or a laptop. A visual map of the Microsoft ecosystem would be positively dizzying. A visual map of Apple's universe would be easy to navigate.

So the Black Screen of Death likely will affect a large enough subset of users to cause real concerns about Windows 7 and future Microsoft updates. How could it not? With more than 90% of the world's PC market and literally millions of potential combinations of software and hardware running on Microsoft-powered machines, some group of people somewhere has to be getting a black screen of death, in the same way that someone, somewhere is being struck by lightning. That said, it's much more likely that lighting will strike someone who is sitting out in a thunderstorm, hugging a tree or a flagpole. Without intending to do so, Microsoft users have embraced a higher level of risk for disruption. And that's simply a matter of the number of moving parts inside the box.

Alex Salkever is Senior Writer at AOL Daily Finance covering technology and greentech. Follow him on twitter @alexsalkever, read his articles, or email him at

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