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Heads Roll As Microsoft Misses Vista Target 386

Posted by Hemos
from the the-pressure-is-on dept.
A reader writes: "Business version is on time, but the company won't make the key holiday consumer sales season. After another delay in the release of its Windows Vista operating system, Microsoft last week put a new executive in charge of future Windows projects and replaced several other managers. The changes are designed to better align Microsoft's desktop and Internet software teams and get products to market faster." There's also a NY Times piece that discusses why Windows has been so slow (to come out). Worth the reading.
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Heads Roll As Microsoft Misses Vista Target

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  • Unfixable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:56AM (#15002267) Journal
    I don't think Microsoft can salvage this. they've locked themselves into selling a monolith in an environment when a modular, easily and frequently updatable system is needed.

    I'd love to see the major corps get behind a push to reimplement the Windows APIs (IE, Wine or similar) so all OSs could run Win32 executables. Then the big MS lockin would be over and we users could have some choices.

  • by tealover (187148) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:56AM (#15002268)
    This is not unique to Microsoft. Any huge corporation that enjoys oversized success and has a small contingent of superwealthy employees by way of stock options faces this future. The prospect of unscene wealth no longer draws employees to Microsoft -- those days are over. So there is an inherent resentment amongst the new people towards the older crew who they perceive as probably not working as hard.

    Google will face this. As will any other company who comes along and decides to reward its early people with stock options. Just give it time.
  • So...wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:57AM (#15002271) Homepage
    Let me get this straight

    1) MS is rewriting key components from the ground up ( tcp/ip for one ).
    2) They are pushing for a faster and faster release cycle
    3) They are replacing managers working on vista.
    4) DRM will be built into vista

    Yeah huh. If it's all the same to you guys, I think I'll stick with xp on my home system ( just recently upgraded, btw ). Vista sounds like it's going to be a painful upgrade for the world at large, and I'd rather not experience that if at all possible.
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:01AM (#15002297) Homepage
    FTFA:
    Microsoft also said Mike Nash will leave his job as head of its security technology unit for an unspecified role.

    Now, as soon as I read this, I caught myself thinking, "Maybe he was doing his job TOO well, hence all the delays".
  • Mty suggestions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MECC (8478) * on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:06AM (#15002334)
    Find Dave Cutler, who MS hired along with a team to built NT:
    From Dave regarding NT:
    • "If any of you break this build, your ass is grass, and I'm the lawnmower." -- David Cutler to his programmers during the development of NT
    • "I won't pollute it [NT] with crap!" -- Cutler to Bill Gates, upon being told that NT was to have an OS/2 "personality" as an alternative front-end.

    Or, get someone with a trackercord of delivering a modern OS. Like Maybe Linus.

    Or, hire Christopher Walken as a Project manager

  • by Aqua04 (859925) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:12AM (#15002365) Journal
    I think the headline of the article is a bit misleading. From what I have read, I don't think "heads are rolling" at Microsoft yet. They have restructured, which they do about once or twice a year anyway, but the problem of multiple layers of general managers and layer upon layer of Vice Presidents remains.

    If you read some of the postings on the minimsft blog, you see that Sinofsky has been brought in to streamline things, but the question abut what to do with all the legacy management overhead still remains.

    They have so many people which they promoted up over the years that they'll need to figure out how to flatten the organization whilst thinking about what to do with all these people in middle management. That'll be the interesting question in the coming years, I think.

  • Dare I Say It... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eno2001 (527078) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:12AM (#15002368) Homepage Journal
    Netcraft confirms it! Windows OS is dying! ;P

    Seriously, I spent some time last night reading through a Microsoft employee's blog discussing this very issue. While it might sound like big trouble in little China, it's likely to be well glossed over by their PR campaigns. Heads will roll at MS, but not the right ones. The big guys there will say that this was the work of either an "astroturfer" who doesn't even work for MS, or a disgruntled employee who really didn't have a grasp on the business end of things. In other words Ballme and company will be saying, "nothing to see here, move along".

    As a side note, I found one of the comments on that blog particularly insulting. Someone had the audacity to say that Microsoft is becoming more and more like DEC. This couldn't be furthest from the truth. DEC was run by the engineers, meaning that the entire company was nothing but engineers. No suits. No business men. Just pure brain. That's why DEC's systems pretty much defined the phrase "just works". MS isn't even close. They tried and they got Cutler to design NT. But then they threw out everything that he had laid out in NT when they hit 2k for business reasons. If you want a great OS, you forget about business reasons. If you want to run a great business, then you need to accept that there will always be compromises and you'll always have a subpar product when compared to the output of pure engineering. Them's the breaks folks. That's why the FOSS world outshines Microsoft at every turn in terms of design and doesn't really make much of a dent business-wise. And it's why MS is so successful as a business but can't create an OS that you'd trust your life with.
  • Ray of Light (Score:4, Insightful)

    by digitaldc (879047) * on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:14AM (#15002375)
    In an internal memo last October, Ray Ozzie, chief technical officer, who joined Microsoft last year, wrote, "Complexity kills. It sucks the life out of developers, it makes products difficult to plan, build and test, it introduces security challenges and it causes end-user and administrator frustration."

    Well Ray should know, he does work there.
    I think in Microsoft's desire to be the everything of operating systems, they have bitten off more than they can chew. They need to re-think their strategy and aim to a secure, less-complicated and smaller operating system. Then later, they can release a huge Vista at a time of their choosing.
  • Who wants DRM? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by miffo.swe (547642) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `molbdeh.leinad'> on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:14AM (#15002377) Homepage Journal
    I know who wants it.

    The strange thing is that its not any users of Windows. DRM gives the manufacturers a new unpreceedent tool for administrating users computers without they having a say about it. Once you install an application that uses DRM your computer isnt yours anymore.

    Who would want that? Good thing is it will make Linux look so much better.
  • Re:Why the delay? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clbell (921567) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:31AM (#15002509) Homepage
    Yes, it's a complete redesign from the ground up. That's why the same crummy registry concept is there, why the control panel looks exactly the same with many of the same icons, why dll hell still exists to some degree, why programs are still installed in the same way, why the explorer process requires 100MB vs 20MB in XP. The way apps are installed and managed in OS X is so obviously superior that MS would be stupid not to copy it during a complete redesign. Should I go on? A complete redesign, I HOPE, would involve streamlining code/operation and killing some of it's demons. Vista does neither. What MS have done is rewritten some of the modules and added a lot of new modules, which is why Vista has 15 million lines of code (or so) more than XP. It's a much more complex OS...and not in a good way.
  • by Ucklak (755284) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:46AM (#15002635)
    They don't have to backward compatible anymore. They are a frickin software company for one, #2, they own a fricking VM company (VirtualPC) that is responsible for Windows on the Mac.

    They're claiming this 'backward compatible' mantra so that they don't lose the current corral of developers, from Tier 1, 3rd party, and fan boys.
    If they change their OS so that backward compatibility no longer works, they feel they risk losing everyone to the competition, whatever it is.
    Mac did it in 2000 and kept backward compatibility through whatever method it is that kept Mac Classic on all OSX's through the Intel changeover.

    I was actually looking forward for the originally planned Longhorn with WinFS and such but not this Vista crap.
    I stopped being a MS fanboy with the announcement of XP activation but I realize them for the juggernaut they are and I respect that.

    I don't see why they can't come up with a new OS and include legacy support in VM mode. Today's hardware can handle it. Vista is just smelly trash.
  • by S3D (745318) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:51AM (#15002668)
    I thought it was delayed because of DirectX 10 and game\media\PVR issues. Now that 60% is being rewritten will hardware manufacturers like ATI have to ditch their millions of dollars of R&D and start their Vista drivers from scratch?

    I don't think so. Remember DirectX 10 is only an API, there is no sgnificant code base behind it. So I don't think it casued delay, and don't think hardware manufacturers would be wasting significant efforts if there are changes in it. The only important thing is specification, that is a list of abilites which GPU should have, and that is not changed.
  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:58AM (#15002726)
    It was one design decision: backwards compatibility.

    "Integrating" applications into a monolithic operating system does not help at all. It may have helped Microsoft to win the browser battles, but it is causing Microsoft to lose the ability to keep Windows as an ongoing OS.

  • Re:Mty suggestions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay&gmail,com> on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:13AM (#15002840) Homepage Journal

    What would probably replace all their development team, and spend any income they get.

    Debian is big, not only on the number of CDs it use. But that was the better sugestion until now :)

  • by EXMSFT (935404) on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:13AM (#15002847)
    "...who is actualy quite ineffective because he is marketing driven and not product and engineering driven."

    Have you ever actually worked with Steve? Or are you making that claim based on the in-depth research you have read here at /.? Either way, you're incorrect. Either way he's not really the one who should go for Longhorn fermenting on the vine.
  • Re:Unfixable (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:17AM (#15002897)
    You guys are overly fixated on that Linus kernel debate.

    No, Windows is monolithic because EVERYTHING from the Kernel to the Web Browser to to the Paint program to the Media Center is managed in a single development cycle. Compare that to the Linux model where everything is managed by a different group is very loosely coupled. So, Windows is always geared towards "The Great Leap Forward", while the Linux model you see a lot more small progressive changes over time.
  • Poor excuse (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:18AM (#15002906)
    "Windows is now so big and onerous because of the size of its code base, the size of its ecosystem and its insistence on compatibility with the legacy hardware and software, that it just slows everything down," observed David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. "That's why a company like Apple has such an easier time of innovation."

    This has been cited as a reason for Microsoft's delays for quite a while now. I simply have to laugh. As a developer on Windows from '95 on, I have been the victim of Microsoft's changing API's, the promotion and then denigration of a multitude of programming paradigms, dll-hell caused primarily by Microsoft's programs randomly changing system dll's for reasons known only to Microsoft, etc, etc.

    Reading stuff like this article makes it sound like Microsoft as been struggling to make every new version of Windows compatible with all earlier programs, but my experience with their design tools and all of Microsoft's products is exactly the opposite: unless I buy the newest, latest and greatest tools they won't work in the latest Windows. And backward compatibility? Don't make me laugh! I have written production tools in VC++ 4.0 that then had to be rewritten for 5.0 and then rewritten again for 6.0 because they simply wouldn't compile at all and the underlying MFC classes had changed radically.

    As for backwards hardware support, what about the missing drivers for some flavors of S3 chipsets? Drivers that used to be there in win98 and NT, but disapeared in winME and never made it at all to win2k or winXP. I have experienced problems with keyboard chipsets on motherboards that caused problems with IE5.0 but worked fine with IE5.5. Why the hell should IE be dealing with keyboard interface at that level?

    In short, I think they brought all this complexity on themselves. In the beginning, they liked the "churn"; everybody that was involved with desperately rewriting stuff to conform to Microsoft's latest incompatibility was one less person doing anything new to threaten Microsoft. And they used incompatibilities to force a continuing upgrade cycle that guaranteed Microsoft's bottom line.

    And now the press is filled with stories about how poor Microsoft cannot release products on time becaue of the mess all of these practices have made of their Windows codebase... somehow I just can't feel sorry for them.
  • by ivan256 (17499) * on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:26AM (#15002963)
    Yes, look at Apple, and you'll see the real reason why Microsoft is missing deadlines. Really. I'm not being sarcastic.

    The guy who wrote that blog post yesterday hit on it too and he didn't even realize it:

    "I was upset at missing the back-to-school market. Now we're missing the holiday sales market. All of those laptops and PCs are going to have XP on it."

    Yup. What's the price for Microsoft's failure to deliver? Nothing. They get the cash anyway. The only downside to this latest slip is the unusually high amount of publicity it's getting.

    But, you say, if they keep slipping competition will catch up... Well, maybe, but not this decade. There is nobody even close.

    Apple? Please. Businesses won't pick a platform that locks them into a single vendor's hardware anymore, and most home users won't buy anything without a 35% sticker on it (does Dell ever sell stuff at full price?). Even if they found a way around those problems, history will show that they're really good at blowing it.

    Desktop Linux? Nope. It's got two permanant and fatal flaws. No huge marketing department, and no goons breathing down OEM and channel partner throats.

    Microsoft's development model, their schedule, their everything is based on the fact that there is no financial incentive for success, and no financial disincentive for failure. They'll fire people, or whatever, but nothing will prompt the kind of change that needs to happen there until they have some serious competition. And we should be glad. Their failure to deliver creates jobs for software and operating system engineers outside the Redmond area.
  • by wandazulu (265281) on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:27AM (#15002966)
    I'm always shocked (shocked!) that the problems outlined in The Mythical Man Month [slashdot.org] are still happening, years and years after the fact. I too have been on projects where the knee-jerk reaction is "let's get more people!" and it has always been a disaster. In fact, one project I was on was hosed by a single commented line (long story) done by a consultant who was there for two days, and never even knew how the system worked (or else he wouldn't have done what he did).

    On the other hand, how can projects like the Apollo Space Program succeed? Compared to any computer project, it's unbelievable that anyone can manage all the parts, companies, and research that went in to sending a man to the moon. I read a book, available on NASA's website (sorry, don't have the URL) which described what it took just to build the crawler and superstructure, and I think it was hundreds and hundreds of pages of minutia that I can't believe actually came together.

    What's worse of all is that it's one thing to say "this time it's different because...", but with Microsoft they're not saying anything; they seem resigned to the screw up and figure that their monopoly will simply carry the day. "Yeah, we've botched it, but so what? You're gonna use it, you have no choice!"
  • by Randall311 (866824) on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:41AM (#15003103) Homepage
    These last few days of delay announcements at MS after 5 _years_ of development are really making them look incompetent from a business point of view. Though I highly doubt management "shakedowns" will help speed up the development process. The problem here, as has been mentioned before, is Microsoft's unwillingness to let go of the past. Do you remember when they announced that IE was a "mature product" and didn't need to be developed any further? I mean, did they think time would just sit still for them? Would Ford stop designing the Mustang because "It's a mature car"? Microsoft's IE6 is now the laughing stock of Internet browsers, and rightfully so since it's been neglected so badly. Maybe we'll see vast amounts of improvement with IE7, but I'm not holding my breath. At least MS now understands that development can never stop unless you plan on just dropping a product permenently.

    Even after Microsoft wised up to their development blunders like IE, they still have a near unmanagable beast in 50+ million lines of codebase. The #1 weakness that Microsoft has is it's refusal to drop legacy support out of it's products. It may even lead to their undoing. They have allowed feature after feature to snowball into the massive clusterfuck that Windows currently is. In order to meet the demands of the future, Windows will have to simplify. I know it sounds like that is a step backwords, but think about it. How did Apple make such a successful product in OS X? They blew up OS 9 and started from scratch with a proven codebase. That is what Windows needs to do to keep up. Only after Microsoft ditches the i386 legacy and bloat that's suffocating them, will they get some much needed breathing room. Apple had to take a big step back to get ahead to where they are today, and I'm sure it wasn't easy for them, but it's already paying massive diviends. Imagine how wonderful it would be for everybody in the long run if MS took this same approach. Windows has turned into a massive out-of-control beast that has everything including the kitchen sink in it, with about 7 different variations of home and office OSes that are enough to confuse anyone in the industry, let alone the poor consumers who have to figure out which version of Windows best suits them.

    That said, there is really only one roadblock for switching to Linux full time (at least for me), and that is the fonts. I've tried everything from grabbing the MS fonts from my Windows partition, to any combination of AA and/or hinting and DPI resolution I can think of. The fonts just come up weak IMO. I know a lot of you love the fonts in Linux and just wouldn't have it any other way, but I guess I have a different opinion then most of you out there. Windows and OS X fonts look about 100 times better to me. Say what you want, but when I boot up into Windows after spending a few hours in Linux, it's like cleaning a layer of grease off of my glasses.
  • by ookaze (227977) <ookaze@mail.ookaze.OPENBSDfr minus bsd> on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:50AM (#15003184) Homepage
    It was one design decision: backwards compatibility

    Of course this is BS. What of the complete turn over when they discovered that .NET was too slow, not tailored for big projects ?
    So much for .NET being so fast to develop with, being so good, with a little speed penalty, like so many fanboys rant about every time (yes, here on /.).
    I guess all the other OS people that tirelessly pointed all of that out were right after all, and that the Windows camp was the home of the zealots.
    It's going on with this BS about backwards compatibility. Excuse me ? I experienced first hand the change in the multimedia framework API, the drivers not working anymore (even a driver for a joystick converter, yes, a joystick converter, does not work anymore !!), the apps and games not working anymore (some working but very badly, needing lots of care and hacky patches), ...

    but they must be commended upon their due diligence on this one aspect

    BS.

    A lot of software from Windows 3.0 can still run on XP

    And a lot don't work anymore. So what's the point ?
  • Re:So...wait... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OneSeventeen (867010) * on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:52AM (#15003206) Homepage Journal
    But what about the widgets?! Will somebody please think about the widgets?!!?

    Really, what is Vista advertising to do that Linux/OSX haven't been doing for years? And why do I need those vital features (such as 3d interfaces, widgets, and an online podcasting service) when XP runs great as long as you reinstall it once a year and filter what you put on it.

    Way to go Microsoft, you created a market nobody needed, filled it with crap, and are trying to spin that crap into gold instead of cleaning out the crap and mining for gold.

    My negative attitude says they are in this situation due to greed, but more likely they just didn't plan this far ahead. They started off by writing good applications that the workforce needed, then seem to have gotten distracted by all things shiny. They could have been such a great corporation had they stayed focused on finding and meeting needs, as well as caring at least a little about customer satisfaction and overall niceness.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday March 27, 2006 @12:06PM (#15003342) Homepage Journal
    In the last 4 years or so, Microsoft has rolled out 2 major upgrades to its flagship low-end OS, and introduced a new server OS and upgraded it.

    Not a small feat. Not as impressive as what's happening in the BSD/Linux/Apple worlds, but still no small feat.

    I for one would rather see Vista delayed until 2008 than be significantly buggier than the existing XP with SP/2, particularly if the bugs are security-related.

    The only major downside to NOT having Vista out by now is that users of Windows 98 and Millenium Edition will have to switch to XP in July if they want an OS that gets security patches. Many of them would have skipped straight to Vista if it were available.

    A word to Microsoft on behalf of 98 and Millenium Edition customers:
    Before terminating an OS's support, make sure there are two successor OSes to choose from, both of which are stable and both of which will have at least security-bug-support for at least 2 years.
  • by notaprguy (906128) on Monday March 27, 2006 @01:23PM (#15003924) Journal
    What Microsoft said last week is that they won't launch Windows Vista until after Christmas. By that they mean the broad public launch with the OS on millions of new PC's. They also said that they'll finish the code in the fall...about two weeks later than the original target date...but that date would not give their OEM partners and the retail channel time to get new systems with the OS ready for broad retail availibility. Rather than have a wierd mishmash of PC's running XP and others running Vista, they decided to delay the broad consumer launch until after the holiday. I'm sure the powers that be at MSFT aren't happy about missing christmas sales but this announcement is not a significant delay in the completion of the code.
  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Monday March 27, 2006 @01:45PM (#15004099)
    "I'd think that any new software project would be silly to tie itself to one operating system at the programming language level (even if not in Java: Python, Ruby, etc.)"

    Sure. Why go for just 90% of the software market when with additional effort and degraded performance you can approach 100% without recompiling. If the linux users won't buy it anyway, so what?

    "Single-platform applications programming is pretty old-school, IMO"

    Right. Whenever I come up with an idea I ask the question: Is this old-school? If the answer is yes, I forget all about it no matter how promising it might be.
  • Re:Unfixable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cyber-vandal (148830) on Monday March 27, 2006 @02:36PM (#15004484) Homepage
    My god I'm so sick of that specious, idiotic argument. OS/2 failed for a number of reasons, none of which were the above mindless parroting from you. Name any OS in the last 10 years that has successfully competed with Microsoft on the desktop. OSX is the only one that has made any inroads and that's mainly because it runs on more expensive and less compatible machines and therefore isn't really a threat to MS.
    There are only two ways that any OS could take customers from Microsoft. These are: either deliver something earth-shatteringly brilliant that customers will no longer have any interest in running their Windows-only applications and will flock to your brave new world; or, and this is the strategy that has succeeded brilliantly in any number of other markets, you offer a similar thing at a cheaper price.
    I'd like to go for the former, however I don't live in an ivory tower and I know that it might not happen for another 10-15 years if ever.
    Linspire/Crossover/Cedega/WINE can already run many common Windows apps however, and while I agree with the sentiment that it sucks to do it this way, the reality of the situation is that one company has control of several technologies that many millions of people and businesses depend on. They don't have the option of rewriting their software from scratch just for it to do the same thing as before. Any migration path has to be easy, cheap and beneficial before anyone will consider it. How can any other PC OS offer that without being able to run Win32 binaries?
  • by Strudelkugel (594414) on Monday March 27, 2006 @02:50PM (#15004609)

    I hate to bring up Apple, but look at their OS

    Hmmm... I recently bought an Intel iMac for working with video. I can tell you it is just as loopy as any Windows box I have ever had. I'm not trying to criticize the iMac, since it does what I want it to do very well, especially once I learned what not to do to keep iMovie from crashing. My experience with the iMac suggests than in terms of predictability and software stability, it is not much better, if at all, than XP.

    I also think the UI sucks in comparison with Windows / *nix window managers, but I have never liked the idea of segregating the app from the menu bar. Maybe others prefer it. I use Windows and *nix in one form or another every day. I use the iMac frequently. Each platform has its stengths and flaws. I use whichever platform is best suited for the task. It seems to me that Windows, OSX, and *nix are all mature enough now that proclaiming one to be better than the other is to focus on the wrong criteria.

  • by WebCowboy (196209) on Monday March 27, 2006 @02:51PM (#15004617)
    Microsoft did not get into this mess because of its relentless pursuit of total, perpetual compatibility. As most people know, while a lot of effort has gone into compatibility the simple fact is that the current version of Windows is no more compatible with its legacy products (windows 3.x, dos) than Linux or OS2--it uses the "Windows on Windows" virtual environment to run 16-bit legacy code, and XPs compatibility with Win9x/Me games, etc. was more of a bolt-on than something that permeates into the core of XP. The result is that Windows is remarkably compatible but not totally so (any 16-bit Windows/DOS program that relies on communications ports for example will crash in NT/2000/XP). The large compatibility layer has resulted in a bloated, crusty registry and APIs that would only be purposely designed like they are by crack addicts. However, although this makes Windows a sometimes-frustrating environment to program at lower levels it is not what makes it nearly unmaintainable even by behemoth Microsoft.

    The REAL poor design decision was electing to create a tightly integrated system. This was the root cause that made other questionable choices at Microsoft (compatibility and "Featureitis") difficult or impossible to correct. When Microsoft wanted to bundle its web browser with Windows it decided to take IE (which wasn't ingtegrated with Win95 at all initially) and sprinkle its libraries in the system directory and link a whole bunch of other components to it...to the point that even the GUI shell will not operate without IE components. It threw the GUI and all these drivers into kernel space. It made one big monolithic, multi-million-LOC pile of crap and justified it by doing it in the name of a "seamless user experience" at a good level of performance.

    There is no excuse for this now--we have machines powerful enough to host full-featured virtual machines that can run self-contained copies of legacy OSes, so if customers really (often foolishly) want to run software that is over a decade old to do important things then they can take that route. The sad thing is that political reasons rather than technical reasons prevent Microsoft from taking the proper course of action. Microsoft should've "pulled an Apple" right after the release of XP and immediately set about developing a totally new OS as different from the NT-based XP as NT was from DOS (and the Win9x/Me derivatives). Apple smartly got out to market faster by building its foundation on open software.

    The problem is MS is probably loathe to heavily depend on open source for its flagship product, and the problem is that Apple beat them to the most viable BSD-licensed option. Since MS has been asleep at the wheel there for far too long, they have two difficult options ahead: Firstly, they could bite the bullet and plan the first major, post-Vista Windows release around a BSD-licensed UNIX core as Apple has already done. MS would be risking a lot by doing this as they become less differentiated from Apple than before--can MS out-class Apple on the UI front, or maintain enough legacy Windows compatibility to keep its customer base? Second, they could try and engineer a new kernel/core system themselves and bolt on chunks of updated Vista as componenets. This could take longer than the first option but it is a made-at-MS solution. In the meantime competitors will have even more time to catch up.

    Basically, Windows as we know it is fast approaching the end of its life cycle. I personally don't think it is really sustainable for even one more major release after Vista. Although this presents a great opportunity for Linux-based and OS X systems I don't think it is the nail in MS' coffin just yet. I figure that with the kind of shake up that looks possible to occur in the next few months at MS that in around 2010 we'll all be eagerly anticipating the release a completely new Microsoft OS--with a very UNIX-like architecture (holy shades of XENIX batman!) under the hood but something very 21st centurey on top.
  • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Monday March 27, 2006 @03:08PM (#15004759)
    Desktop Linux? Nope. It's got two permanant and fatal flaws. No huge marketing department, and no goons breathing down OEM and channel partner throats.

    I would add another flaw: Lack of consistent vision.

    Before I get flamed as a Microsoft fanboy or something, I do run linux and I like it a lot.

    But that said, the open source community is just that -- a community. There isn't any "linux god" (or "desktop linux god") who in any way controls direction. Many projects have essentially no regard for the end-user. I'll just throw out three questions to illustrate the point:

    1. Richard Stallman: Saint or ass?

    2. Should OSS developers cater to the wishes of their users, or code for themselves because anybody can get the code and add what they want?

    3. KDE or Gnome?

    Any of these three questions are more likely than not to start a flame war. Some people see the range of software, which ranges in quality from unusable to fantastic and often contains a dizzying array of choices in any one area, as an advantage. Others see it as a setback. Some people see "code it yourself" as a fantastic option, others see it as an elitest attitude that doesn't work for the majority of end-users.

    I think the biggest question that the OSS community needs to answer -- if it is capable of such an answer -- is, are we trying to get linux onto Joe User's desktop or not? If linux is an OS for the geeky crowd, that's just fine. But if the goal is to get market penetration, to force Microsoft's dominance down, then things do need to change. They are getting better and better, but they're still not good enough. I'm not sure they're even close to good enough.

    Without some guiding force, though, that cohesion is not likely to happen. As if to illustrate my point, I expect replies to follow about how I'm completely wrong about everything I said. :) If we can't even agree about what needs to be done, it's going to be even tougher to actually do it.

  • by nmos (25822) on Monday March 27, 2006 @04:43PM (#15005576)
    They don't have to backward compatible anymore. They are a frickin software company for one, #2, they own a fricking VM company (VirtualPC) that is responsible for Windows on the Mac.

    Well, in fairness backword compatability is the main thing that their customers care about. Normal people don't buy a computer to run the OS, they buy it to run their apps. If a customer's existing software won't work on a new OS they might just as well start looking at a different OS or, more likely just stay with the old system for a while longer.
  • by parabyte (61793) on Monday March 27, 2006 @06:46PM (#15006770) Homepage
    IMO another big problem is the missing fun factor. If you have ever looked at the windows source code, most of the 50 Mio lines of code is extremely ugly and boring.

    Most of the code looks like this:

    1) Setup & Initialize

    Get an interface here, claim some memory, find another interface over there, register own functionality here and there, try something else in case something has failed until you succeed or run out of options

    2) Delegation and Fallback

    If some particular module is not available, fall back to other implementations, reformat the data, manage lifetime and ownership, synchronize with some other activities, and then delegate the call to some other interface

    3) Error Handling and Recovery

    After each call, perform error checking, pass back the result to the caller, potentially reformatting it again, or raise some exceptions or create new higher level error codes from lower level error code you got

    4) Cleanup

    When it is time, either because some reference count went zero, some termination function was called or a garbage collector comes by, free all resources claimed so far, deregister references downstream and upstream

    The whole code is full of hungarian notation type casts, macros and microsoft specific language extensions, and the flow control statements are mostly branches. You are already lucky if you may write a loop that does some actual work, even if it is just collecting stuff from multiple calls.

    And then, if you look at APIs, there are much more parameters and much more options than e.g. in UNIX counterparts, and many options are not orthogonal, so you are entangled in a web of obscure semantics almost everywhere. And you do not have one API for the same stuff, you got a shitload of them: Win32, WinMM, GDI, ATL, OCX, MFC, COM, DCOM, ODBC, ActiveX, DirectX, XNA and tons of product specific APIs. It is already a nightmare to decide which API to use, but to support them all in a bug-by-bug compatible way is programmer's hell. It is like travelling with a hospital ship full of corpses that are not completely dead and need to be kept alive by a team of doctors, high doses of painkillers and cardiopulmonary and dialysis machinery, just in case someone needs them because he speaks this ancient lanuguage noone else but these living dead understands.

    With .NET, Microsoft did a good job at API design, but it is of no immediate help, it is just another API that has to be supported with all the other legacy APIs, so .NET does not reduce, but increases overall complexity and does not perform as well as the other APIs. Another problem with .NET is the lack of maturity, still requiring major changes on all levels, resulting in huge compatibility nightmares between different versions of .NET.

    But even if Microsoft would throw away everything but the kernel and .NET, I still would not jump on it because I do not like to be locked in on a particular platform; I want to be able to run my Software in MacOS and Linux and have a chance to port it to some hardware or OS that does not exist yet.

    If I were in charge at Microsoft, I would try some of the Google philosophy: Do not be evil, and give the people something they can like:

    1) A solid, simple well documumented and rock solid foundation that manages device I/O using a small set of calls with clear semantics: open, close, read, write, ioctl seem to sufficient to do a lot

    2)Choose the right atomic elements: Bytes, Characters, Numbers, Strings, Pixels, Images, Audio Samples, 3D-Polygons and video streams and make them first class citizens throughout the whole operating system.

    3) Implement all APIs people seem to like in a rock solid, feature complete and efficient manner: OpenGL, gtk, POSIX etc.

    4) Invent some new own cool High-Level APIs and frameworks and make sure they are available on Linux and MacO

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