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Windows Monoculture Myopia Revisited 319

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the laughing-all-the-way-to-the-bank dept.
round stic writes "eWeek magazine has an interesting look at the effects of the Windows monoculture on IT budgets, even as everyone agrees on the severity of the inherent security risks. The article contains interviews with Dan Geer and others who warned about the risks of the Windows monopoly three years ago. The article coincides with a piece in the Observer that suggests Vista is the end of the Microsoft monolith because of how complex the operating system has become."
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Windows Monoculture Myopia Revisited

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  • End of a monopoly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jesrad (716567) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @07:25AM (#16087555) Journal
    Microsoft's monopoly is fighting against itself: newer versions of Windows are finding themselves to be in the "striving competition" position, trying to steal marketshare from older versions. This phenomenon can only amplify with Microsoft's inability to innovate. This is the end of the monopoly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Old monopolies don't die, they just limp along amidst mockery.

      Note the fact that there are plenty of reptiles in circulation, even beyond public office.
    • by Malc (1751) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @10:02AM (#16088199)
      I think what that means is is that their OS has become progressively better and better to the point where people don't see the point of upgrading. Win95 was dramatically better than Win 3.11. NT4 was on another planet it was so much better than Win95, even if it couldn't run everybody's games. A lot of us remember how /. used to hammer NT4 for requiring reboots and the BSOD. Win2000 finally delivered on stability and made NT more compatibile. XP brought the Win9x and NT lines together, and somehow became even more stable (in my experience) than Windows 2000. Going from 2000 to XP wasn't as big a leap switching any other version before. XP does what its designed to do well. So what does Vista offer people?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by marcello_dl (667940)
        Yesterday at work I crashed Word on one machine and had another not recognizing a working smb/cifs share. M$ has still a lot of work to do to come near my mac and desktop linux (unless i use betas) experience.

        I think vista will pull it off eventually. But only because of the existence of Linux, if M$ fails with vista it's kaputt.
  • by McDutchie (151611) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @07:39AM (#16087593) Homepage

    From the article:

    How can hackers, scattered across the globe, working for no pay, linked only by the net and shared values, apparently outperform the smartest software company on the planet?

    Why do people keep perpetuating this myth? It should be widely known by now that all the important Linux developers get paid by their respective employers to work on the kernel. That's possibly the most significant sign of widespread acceptance of the open-source development model -- that companies such as IBM would pay their own employees to do work on a public project that is not exclusively to their own benefit.

    In the same sentence, the author managed to confuse "richest" with "smartest" as well. I'm not very impressed with this article.

    • by Chaffar (670874) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:02AM (#16087667)
      In the same sentence, the author managed to confuse "richest" with "smartest" as well. I'm not very impressed with this article.
      Well, it WOULD make sense that the world's richest company should be able to afford hiring the smartest people in the field. I mean, it has worked in every other industry, why wouldn't it work in this one?
      Maybe it's because the world's number 1 software company didn't get to where it is today by outperforming its rivals :) (yes I'm flaming get over it)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Fordiman (689627)
        Makes you wonder what would have happened if MS accepted open source a while ago, used the Linux Kernel as the core for a largely proprietary OS (e.g.Linux and its driver model get worked on by MS as a commodity, and they run proprietary apps on top of it, like OSX does with BSD).

        Where would they both be now if they stopped fighting in, say, 1999?
        • by orasio (188021) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:53AM (#16087866) Homepage

          Where would they both be now if they stopped fighting in, say, 1999?


          In DRM hell, of course. There is where you can see how correct RMS was, back in the day. The GPL is of course the only thing that effectively stops MS from embracing and extending GNU/Linux. If Linus Torvalds hadn't learned about the GNU project and the GPL, lots of hard work by lots of people in the kernel could be made irrelevant.
      • by LaughingCoder (914424) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:49AM (#16087843)
        Maybe it's because the world's number 1 software company didn't get to where it is today by outperforming its rivals

        Talk about perpetuating myths! They did outperform their rivals, by definition. You can't argue that they abused their monopoly powers in order to *become* a monopoly. They outperformed their competitors, achieved market dominance, and THEN achieved their monopoly status. I know it's hard for you to admit, but at one time MS was the scrappy little guy competing against entrenched giants like IBM, HP, DEC, ... and the only way they could survive was to outperform them.
        • by rucs_hack (784150) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @09:08AM (#16087937)
          agreed

          If people know anything about the Unix wars then it would become very clear that Unix vendors were fighting amongst each other to 'lock in' customers by deliberatelly making their unix versions incompatible in the eighties. It was a real mess, because if you bought one unix licence, you had to have your apps written for it, and you couldn't move without massive expense.

          This wasn't the unix philosophy, it was the 'make loads of money' philosophy, and it wrecked unix as a serious platform for most businesses at the time (not meaning huge businesses here).

          Meanwhile this tiny little company called microsoft offered a cheap and easy way out of the mess, called DOS. Ok, it was a bit shit, and ripped off CP/M something rotten, but it did what business wanted, and meant they could get away from the ravages of the Unix wars. Plus it was offered by IBM, which sounded very good indeed at the time, and was available on other hardware to if the IBM stuff was too costly.

          I tried DOS back in the day, and it was ok. Not great, but ok. I prefer Linux now, but back then Unix was what the cool guys down at the local powerstation used when I was a kid.

          Nowadays I prefer Linux for coding. I never use normal Unix, except for the odd dabble in BSD to produce ports of software. Until Linix though I never would have considered Unix as a serious platform to develop for. When I encountered it at Uni they still had four different Unix versions, and I had to re-code for each one, which meant I used the Solaris boxes, and nothing else until the first Linux boxes appeared, as duel boots with windows, and I was hooked.

          So yes, there was a time when microsoft were the good guys, just as there was a time when IBM were the bad guys.
          • by jafac (1449) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:14PM (#16089023) Homepage
            This only really tells half the story. The software/OS half.

            The other half is the Hardware Story.

            SGI, HP, Digital, IBM, AT&T, all the big Unix vendors did have their own OS flavor. (At least shell scripting was mostly portable). But they also had their own hardware, mostly with different CPU architectures. Compiled binaries couldn't run on the different hardware platforms, even if they were written using the same damn libraries. The problem with this was that the hardware was damn expensive, so once you were locked in, they could totally assrape you on hardware.

            Then the IBM PC platform came out, which was enough of a standard, and performed "good enough" on the low end, and was dirt cheap because of the fact that everybody could manufacture them to the same standard, and prices went down-down-down while performance improved. I remember paying $4000 for an IBM PC (an 086) with 16 MB of RAM, back in the 1980's. Monochrome screen. It had a "turbo" button you could press to make it run at 12 MHz instead of 10 MHz - (you could screw up timing in games and animations if you ran it at 12). When you look at the advent of the "sub-$1000" market in the late 1990's, those machines totally outclassed the top end in the 1980's, and they outclassed a lot of these proprietary Unix vendors' desktop machines as well.

            DOS was just the cheap OS you could run on these cheap systems. But the real savings came in the hardware realm. They still do - compare perhaps the LAST hardware-holdout, Sun, to an intel-compatible system. Price-performance wise, it's not even close, in the desktop area.

            One by one, these vendors either dropped out, got bought out, or switched to Intel architecture, to save themselves costs on the back-end. But most of them didn't forget their old "ways", and still charged a hardware premium.

            Eventually, even Apple switched to intel chips; because the specialty CPU vendor just could not keep up, even with "superior" architecture. (whatever happened to "twice as fast"?).

            The inexorable slide towards monoculture, ironically, was because of the overall cross-fertilization and competition in the huge intel-compatible-PC market. Within each Unix-vendor's hardware market, they were a monopoly, a monoculture. Each one lost out because, despite their best efforts to prevent compatability, the customers switched to the intel-compatable platforms.
            While we still have competition on the intel-compatable side (many CPU vendors, many Motherboard vendors, many adapter card vendors, many HD vendors, etc.) - prices will remain competitively low. But the market is consolidating, and has been for about a decade. The best news is that intel is losing the overwhelming dominance it's had for a long time.

            It's ironic, that one of the tools for eliminating hardware dependency, Java, came out of the last hardware-holdout, and it perhaps saved Sun from losing the last slice of marketshare it had. (in addition to their intel offerings). Sun embraced multiculture, and it saved them. I would say, too, that IBM was probably saved by their embracing Linux (another "tool" of hardware cross-compatability, by virtue of it's Open Source foundation).

            Microsoft, however, continues to reject multiculturalism, cross compatability. They really screwed the pooch with Java, and they also fucked themselves by taking a cross-platform OS (NT, ran on x86, MIPS, and PPC, at one time - Proof: xBox 360 uses some of the PPC fork of NT), and their rejection of anything Open Source. And their last gasp of a power-play, .NET, where they pretended to be "open" - but not really, has (in my observation) done nothing more than alienate formerly loyal Developers for the Win23 platform (particularly among the VB-set). This was really Microsoft's strongest asset: the legions of Visual Studio users out there, who coded exclusively for Windows, because Visual Studio was such a far superior IDE (others have been closing the gap lately), and it was so difficult to produce co
            • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:44PM (#16089973)
              And their last gasp of a power-play, .NET, where they pretended to be "open" - but not really, has (in my observation) done nothing more than alienate formerly loyal Developers for the Win23 platform

              I think developers had already left the Win23 platform, as it was quite obscure and really sucked. There weren't very many 23-bit CPUs available, and they could only support 8MB of memory. And what idiot would ever design a CPU with a 23-bit memory bus anyway?
        • by Eevee (535658)

          You can't argue that they abused their monopoly powers in order to *become* a monopoly.

          They did something even better. They abused IMB's monopoly powers to become a monopoly.

        • What is competition (Score:4, Interesting)

          by nuggz (69912) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @09:41AM (#16088090) Homepage
          MS outperformed, they got set up as the default and made their software good enough.
          If we look only at PC hardware
          People bought MS DOS, not PC DOS, not Dr DOS

          There were a few windowing environments and task swapping/multitasking
          Deskview (sp?) GEM, OS/2, GEOS
          People still bought MSDOS (Dosshell swapping later and MS windows multitasking)

          They also leveraged their default status, when they went QBasic and the default editor, did anyone notice it was very similar to the QuickBasic and QuickC environments? (I loved QuickC 2.5 at the time)

          123-> Excel
          Wordperfect -> Word

          They simply make a good enough product, and work on the weak points till it's no longer clearly inferior to the competition.
          It's a very effective way to compete.
          • People bought MS DOS, not PC DOS, not Dr DOS


            That's because MS-DOS came pre-installed on most PCs, just like Windows did. IBM entered into a stupid contract with Microsoft that allowed Microsoft to ship the default OS for every PC while retaining full rights to the software. Regardless of quality, Microsoft became the dominant OS provider.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by nuggz (69912)
              So you mean
              "They got set up as the default and made their software good enough."

              Note I didn't just say good, nor did I say not bad.
              They just made it good enough so people didn't really look for an alternative.

        • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @10:09AM (#16088227)
          You can't argue that they abused their monopoly powers in order to *become* a monopoly.


          Sure you can.

          I know it's hard for you to admit, but at one time MS was the scrappy little guy competing against entrenched giants like IBM, HP, DEC, ... and the only way they could survive was to outperform them.


          Yes, they were the little guy. But that all changed when IBM stupidly entered into a contract allowing Microsoft to ship the OS on every IBM PC, while still retaining the software rights. This brought the company massive revenues as PCs became a commodity, allowing them to expand into other markets.

          They did not outperform anyone; they were in the right place and got lucky.
        • If by "outperform" you mean "make tricky business deals with IBM et. al.," then yes, Microsoft did "outperform" their competition. If you're talking about quality of product, on the other hand...

      • by vhogemann (797994) <victor&hogemann,com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @09:05AM (#16087917) Homepage
        Funny thing is,

        Here at Brasil, the word "smart" doesn't always means "intelligent". For us at Rio de Janeiro, "smart" (esperto in portuguese) is someone that is good at taking advantage over other people, by ignoring the rules or fair-play.

        So, in a way... yes, Microsoft is full of "smart" people. :-)
      • by neoform (551705)
        yeah, that or they spend all their money on expensive marketters and management.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      How can hackers, scattered across the globe, working for no pay, linked only by the net and shared values, apparently outperform the smartest software company on the planet?

      In the same sentence, the author managed to confuse "richest" with "smartest" as well. I'm not very impressed with this article.

      It's not like there's one absolute "smartest software company on the planet", but if there were, Microsoft would probably have a pretty good claim on the title. In terms of their developers, they have a

    • Parent poster definitely gets it right:

      The Free Software Movement is not really driven by idealistic motives, but rather by a simple economic fact: because its marginal cost (i.e. the asymptotic cost of producing an extra copy) is null, free market forces and competition are bound to make all useful pieces of software freely available.

      Note this is different from music or art in general: in art, the novelty/originality of a piece of work has an intrinsic value, which is not the case for software.

      Some more el
  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info.devinmoore@com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @07:39AM (#16087595) Homepage Journal
    Let's assume that people buy new OEM PC's that have the newest Microsoft OS on them. If Vista provides new, "incompatible with old version" features, then the Windows install base becomes less self-compatible. If Microsoft fights to keep Vista compatible, there will be no real reason to upgrade. It's a catch-22 of being the monopoly OEM-installed OS.
    • by jimicus (737525)
      Look to the Samba project and you'll see what generally happens - two things:

      1. Subtle changes to Windows which stop projects like Samba from working - at least until such time as the Samba developers figure out the subtle change.

      2. New feature(s) which, while retaining compatability with old versions, offer major advantages. This provides a major carrot for businesses to upgrade, while setting back compatability projects by at least a few years. Windows 2000 Active Directory domains are an example of t
      • And furthermore, why do any of the developers have to "figure out" what changed? Can't they make a user manual, systems manual, or programming manual anymore?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by legoburner (702695)
          Why, because that would be too simple and would involve compliance with the EU monopoly requirements. Microsoft would much rather argue and pay the fine it seems!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @07:39AM (#16087596)
    I know, RTFA is a strange concept on /., but this time around it's really needed.

    Why? Because the article is not about the downfall of MS as the headline seems to suggest, but about the way complex software is build. It suggest that building big, monolithic applications has reached an end as Vista shows that even a huge company like MS can't really write complex software in this way anymore.

    Now agree or disagree with this, but please spare us the "OMG MS will never die" comments.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      Building large, complex software in a monolithic way has always been at an end. This is why monstrosities like MS Windows, MS Office, Mozilla, and Linux are so full of bugs and so difficult to extend.

      Interestingly, they have also all found the solution to the extensibility problem: modularization. Indeed, MS Office macros, Mozilla plugins, and Linux kernel modules are all popular ways to add functionality, and they work reasonably well. Of course, you need the whole of MS Office, Mozilla, or Linux (at least
      • Interestingly, they have also all found the solution to the extensibility problem: modularization. Indeed, MS Office macros, Mozilla plugins, and Linux kernel modules are all popular ways to add functionality, and they work reasonably well.

        Indeed they do, but I doubt modular design is the holy grail of software development. Right now, as you observe yourself, most of the extension is small-scale and built on large-scale foundations. In that context, it seems to work reasonably well. However, as we move

    • by Bobby Orr (161598) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:18AM (#16087727)
      TFA is a rant. A sentence like "The Vista saga has two interesting lessons for the computer business." would lead you to believe the author intends to take an objective look at some sort of a case study. However, pay attention to other verbiage within TFA. This is not an objective, fair, reasoned attempt to learn any lesson. It is a rant:
      • ...marketed to people in poor countries in a futile attempt...
      • Security vulnerabilities come free with all versions
      • There will be a predictable (and expensive) PR campaign ... But in Redmond ...
      • How can hackers, scattered across the globe, working for no pay, linked only by the net and shared values, apparently outperform the smartest software company on the planet?
      • And here's where the delicious ironies begin.
    • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:47AM (#16087831)
      It suggest that building big, monolithic applications has reached an end as Vista shows that even a huge company like MS can't really write complex software in this way anymore.

      So are you saying that their cathedral is bizzare?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @07:41AM (#16087599)
    With new virtualization technologies coming through, I think it's about time for Microsoft to scrap backward compatability being built directly into Windows. It just leaves so many holes unplugged. Start Blackcomb with a clean slate, include a Win32 sandbox environment, and be done with it.
    • by Fordiman (689627)
      I mean, seriously. Why do we keep futzing with rockets? Just build a space elevator and be done with it.

      A sandbox takes time to build. Probably quite a bit with a fresh API.
    • Oh great (Score:4, Informative)

      by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:26AM (#16087755) Journal
      So we'll be lured in by the next solid, stable, safe NT3.5(1), and then have the rug pulled out from under us when the followon version comes out and all those safteys are scrapped for marketability.

      Fool me one, shame on you...
  • by tygerstripes (832644) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @07:42AM (#16087602)
    We can but hope.


    Just to play devil's advocate here (so don't bite my head off); while Windows may be complex, its ubiquitous nature does reduce the need for applications to be particularly portable, and for programmers to be particularly knowledgable. That's an arguable benefit, but it maybe the drive for varied OSes has its drawbacks.

    It would obviously be preferable to have a well-written universal OS, but that brings us around to the old saying: The best kind of government would be a benevolent dictator, but how many dictators stay benevolent?

    Windows and M$ may be evil, are certainly a pain in the arse, but are they also just an inevitable consequence of the technological and economic environment we have created? If it weren't M$, would we just be having the same problem with someone else? If the devil didn't exist, would it have been necessary for us to have created him?

    What do others think about this? (Again, I'm only playing devil's advocate - I want to see how others view this situation)

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      At the end of the day, the Microsoft "monopoly" exists because people keep buying Microsoft. It started with that and it will end with that.
      • by giorgiofr (887762)
        This is so simple, yet escapes so many people...
      • While that's inescapably true, it doesn't answer any of my questions. What you've done is describe, in an unconventional fashion, what a monopoly is - not why it is.

        I'm not shouting you down - I want to hear your opinion - but I don't think this really answers anything (or if it does and you're being too subtle for me, I'll need further explanation).

        • by tclark (140640)
          I think the point is that if we think that we're not being well served by the Microsoft monopoly, but we still buy their products, then we are a part of the problem.
        • by Don_dumb (927108)
          One obvious answer to that is - that people keep buying Microsoft because they do not think there is any other choice, through ignorance or for more simple reasons like the computer shop sells computers, the computers have Windows so that is what they buy. MS has a monopoly because people buy MS, people buy MS because that is all the shops sell.
          Some shops do sell Macs but most I know of don't, nor do Dell.

          That isn't of course the only reason, but it is one of the reasons that help MS become a monopoly.
          • True. Trouble is, that's how these things work, isn't it? I mean if MS hadn't done it, wouldn't somebody else have? It benefits the lazy consumer to buy an OS they know already. It benefits the retailer to sell only boxes that already have that OS. Inevitable situation, inevitable monopoly.

            Education and selective culling on the basis of apathy would help (as it would help many, many things), but M$ was always going to happen. I'm just agreeing with you in other words, I suppose.

            Still, it's entirely acade

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mbone (558574)
          I think that the large market share for Microsoft arose basically because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the different is how it got started - that's why the IBM PC got such a large market share. Microsoft just rode on IBM's coat-tails.

          Now, although IBM has faded in this market, the MS OS has continued its market lead primarily, I think, both through the fear of being different and the convenience of sticking with a known quantity. But, at the present, I think the situation is meta-stable. (In 19
          • by kerrbear (163235)

            I think that the large market share for Microsoft arose basically because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the different is how it got started - that's why the IBM PC got such a large market share. Microsoft just rode on IBM's coat-tails.

            I agree, but it's more than that. It's also arrogance. Many people actually believe that Windows is an awsome system and all the rest suck. No joke. I've talked to many in management AND IN IT who scoff at other OSs (Oses?). They decry the lack of standards and bit

        • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
          ``What you've done is describe, in an unconventional fashion, what a monopoly is - not why it is.''

          I don't agree with that. I would argue that Microsoft is _not_ a monopoly. There are alternatives, and they are realistic alternatives. Thus, the reason Microsoft is so big is that people keep buying Microsoft despite the choice they have, not because Microsoft is the only option. So, contrary to an actual monopoly, Microsoft doesn't have practically unbounded freedom to raise prices and drop quality - people
          • Thanks for that - I think you've described the real reasons behind M$'s dominant position more eloquently than I could've.

            That still leaves the question though: did this happen because M$ is M$ and thus evil, or would it have happened anyway due to societal laziness? I suspect the latter. Still, maybe society is ready to move on...?

            • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
              ``That still leaves the question though: did this happen because M$ is M$ and thus evil, or would it have happened anyway due to societal laziness?''

              I don't like it when people stick the attribute "evil" on MS. As far as I know, the worst things they have done is advertising their product and bundling things together (which makes things difficult for competitors, but only by virtue of providing more convenience to consumers). I think this is what any corporation should do, in Microsoft's position. If any ne
              • God, I'm loving this discussion!

                I see the merit in everything you said, although perhaps your defense of M$ business practices only covers the bare basics of normal business - I'm sure they've done some fairly unethical stuff as well, especially in relation to patenting. Much like many others, true, but then it's the fate of all successful commercial enterprises in the west to be eventually dragged down and impeached by the public - it's not as though they particularly need defending :-)

                I especially agree

      • At the end of the day, the Microsoft "monopoly" exists because people keep buying Microsoft. It started with that and it will end with that.

        Some bullet points from TFA:

        IT dabbles with Linux. But the momoculture is here to saty.

        The convenience of one platform means less management expense. The cost of ownership skyrockets with diversity. The ecomonics say to standardize, standardize, standardize.

        What management looks for and likes in Vista is diversity within the monoculture of the Windows OS.

        ASLR (Add

    • by mbone (558574)
      I think that Microsoft is unnecessary, and have never used it (except for MS Office on my Mac).

      I run a Mac / Linux shop, and the amount of crap I don't have to deal with is astounding. That other people chose differently is not really my concern; although I will note that I generally don't find their reasons for doing so to be convincing.

      Well, you asked what I think.
      • by Don_dumb (927108)
        I think that Microsoft is unnecessary, and have never used it (except for MS Office on my Mac).
        Way to contradict yourself, in one sentence. You have used Microsoft products.
      • I agree with you - on a personal, individual level - wholeheartedly. Unfortunately it is our society that generates monopolies, not any individual person. I suspect our society craves the comfort and security (for want of a better word) of a ubiquitous OS, which is why M$ has such a monopoly. I don't like it, but could it be an inevitable by-product of Joe Public's apathy and technophobia?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gutnor (872759)
        My father thinks computers are unnecessary, and he has never used one (except in case of life or dead )...

        The amount of crap he doesn't have to deal with is even more astounding. Off course he knows that other people ( like me ) chose differently but he doesn't care and I also noted that he doesn't find other people reasons convincing.
    • by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <{sherwin} {at} {amiran.us}> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:30AM (#16087768) Homepage Journal
      It would obviously be preferable to have a well-written universal OS, but that brings us around to the old saying: The best kind of government would be a benevolent dictator, but how many dictators stay benevolent?

      It would be vastly better if we have well-written universal API layers. Like Java, C#/.NET/Mono, Qt, GTK, and other beautiful cross-platform toolkits.

      Unfortunately, except for Java and C#, we don't have any toolkits that go "all the way" in being cross platform, with the possible exception of Win32 (WINE), but Wine is reverse engineered, not bottom-up designed, so there are limitations.

      There's no reason for application interfaces to be deeply tied into the OS. Properly engineered, a user-space environment on Linux should be able to run Windows or OS X or whatever applications, and vice versa. The reason we do not have this is not because of engineering limitations, but because of vertical vendor lock in. Lately, this seems to be easing slightly.

      I envision a future where applications come with API requirements, not OS requirements. "Requires GTK 2.42, OpenGL 3.0, and SDL. OpenAL 5 required for 3D audio." Software manufacturers would probably support particular "distributions" on the box ("Runs on OS 12.5, Mandriva 2012, and Windows Super-Next-Hubble-Viewpoint"), but like *current* binary software for Linux you shouldn't have many problems installing on the "wrong" distribution; with minor API-requirement caveats.

      Think Python applications (these are often cross-platform). Think Java. Think C#. As CPUs get faster, we can put up with some of this overhead; and indeed, in some cases there is very little overhead (WINE does Win32 in userspace on Linux really quickly. Imagine if Microsoft gave up the OS business, but just started selling something like Wine. The "Windows" application layer for Linux, OS X, Unix, Solaris, whatever.

      If you want an example of this environment, look at Linux, Solaris' Linux Application Environment, FreeBSD's Linux Application layer, and lxrun, the Linux application layer for (ick) SCO Unix. IIRC, AIX is also Linux compatible.

      I think it can work; and giant commercial developers have no problem operating in this multisegmented space. Sure, there are a few more compatibilty bugs than in the Windows monoculture, but there's a greater diversity of applications and environments (from very small systems to giagantic systems), and if the commercial OS space was more competitive in the Desktop world (multiple vendors of multiple pedigree OSs) we would see these compatibility issues worked out quickly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tygerstripes (832644)
        Hmm... Yes, I agree - it's the vendor vertical lock-in of APIs and such that has caused the majority of problems (and that probably causes all this friction between M$-users and FOSSers).

        I'm starting to think, as a result of this discussion - see other threads - that Windows (or something like it) was an inevitable phase in the evolution of OS software. Much like the IBM PC in the 80's, as somebody else said, at first it was fear of the unknown and incompatibility that drove people (well, the market in ge

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jafac (1449)
        I envision a future where applications come with API requirements, not OS requirements. "Requires GTK 2.42, OpenGL 3.0, and SDL. OpenAL 5 required for 3D audio."

        Well, the kicker here is - these things ARE pretty much cross platform; Perl, Python, Ruby, Java, etc.

        It's where you need to talk to the OS (Administrative Script Programmers chime in here - ) that causes the problem.

        Sure, I can use a Perl script to admin my windows network, to talk to Active Directory through the ADSI interface, talk to the event l
  • Windows monopoly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geirhell (988825) <geirarild@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @07:43AM (#16087604)
    On a side-note: Windows monopoly also ensures you can go to inner Mongolia, switch on a local computer and with 90-odd percent chance make sense of whatever pops up on screen. It means everyone has a common UI that is known by many (most?) members of modern civilization. Easily, Windows is, barring the ill effects of monopoly on commercial businesses and security, the greatest single stab at standardizing computer UI so far in computer history. And quite sucessful at that.
    • by AriesGeek (593959) <aries@nOspaM.ariesgeek.com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @07:53AM (#16087633) Homepage Journal
      I can already hear everyone saying, "But Apple came up with the UI idea" or even "But Xerox came up with the UI idea." Be that as it may, it was Microsoft who proliferated it throughout the world and ingrained the idea of the particular UI into our brains. Like it or not, admit it or not, Microsoft has done a bit of good for IT in general.

      With that being said, they have done quite a bit of evil too. But there's so many negative posts about Microsoft, I had to comment on the one positive post that I saw that wasn't just a "microsoft rules you lunix users muhahahaha" troll.

      Ok, Mods, do your job. Mod me down for saying something positive about evil evil bad bad Microsoft.
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by tygerstripes (832644)
        Hear hear (okay, you can mod me down for a "me too")

        Now if only we could find a way of combatting the Slashdot monoculture...

        Moderation: it's group-think, only faster! (j/k, what's the alternative?)

        • There are several alternatives, including a multi-dimensional moderation system - where it would be possible to mark how correct information is. There's a lot that can be done with various analyzes to personalize to the people that have the same tastes as you, too.

          The moderation system is sort of successful, but it is FAR from ideal.
      • by guruevi (827432) <(eb.ebucgnikoms) (ta) (ive)> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:10AM (#16087697) Homepage
        I disagree strongly. Go to another (english) computer and the average computer user will not know what to do. The order and number of items changes and their all whacked out of place running around as a chicken without a head that the computer is broken.

        Yes, we sysadmins can relate to certain icons in any language but it's not as strong as knowing command line scripting and making the computer do stuff through that. A script is in general not made to click on certain well-known places but instead executes some commands that have effect on the computer.

        That is why *nix (Linux, BSD, ...) is so loved among the real sysadmins because it lets them do stuff on all computers no matter what language the GUI is in. A GUI is for simple users and maybe some people that got privileges to change some settings, power users and sysadmins need the command line to get the computer to do stuff fast and reliable especially if you're in a multi-lingual and more important in a multi-charset environment.

        I am a Mac sysadmin for a large company and I can get the computers in Singapore to do the same things I let the local branches do but I have generally no idea what to do when I'm using Remote Desktop.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by AriesGeek (593959)
          I think you are generalizing too much. Sure, people who use their computer only at work for 1 or 2 applications will be lost when they go to another machine. Look at the bigger picture, though. It is 2006, not 1996. The average computer user knows, in general, how to use Windows, how to use IE, etc. The days of "sysadmins" knowing the ins and outs and everyone else knowing next to nothing are gone. There is a computer IQ middle class now, and it dominates. And guess what most of these people use? Wi
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        But did MS add anything? MS didn't do anything to make GUIs popular, it was GUIs that made MS popular. If MS didn't exist GUIs would have still became popular, because that is what people want. If MS didn't exist we would still be using GUIs now, except we would be complaining about Apple computer's evil monopoly.

        MS didn't really do anything significant other than being in the right place at the right time, with the right contract with IBM.

    • On a side-note: Windows monopoly also ensures you can go to inner Mongolia, switch on a local computer and with 90-odd percent chance make sense of whatever pops up on screen.

      Actually, a lot of developing countries are going to Linux because Microsoft won't localize Windows to their language and because Windows is way too expensive for them.

      The biggest barrier for figuring out a computer in a random country is the language barrier. Do you speak Arabic? No? Then you'll probably have a difficult time

      • by westlake (615356)
        The biggest barrier for figuring out a computer in a random country is the language barrier. Do you speak Arabic? No? Then you'll probably have a difficult time with Arabic Windows

        Windows is, for all for practical purposes, multiligual. Introduction to MUI (Multilingual User Interface) [microsoft.com]

    • "Windows monopoly also ensures you can go to inner Mongolia, switch on a local computer and with 90-odd percent chance make sense of whatever pops up on screen"

      You don't need Windows© to run a Windows Desktop Environment [sourceforge.net].

      Start-> Run check!

      Multiple Windows check!

      Control Panel check!

      Status Bar check!

      Desktop Icons check!

      Clock in the Status Bar check!

      was Re:Windows monopoly
  • by Bob_Villa (926342) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:02AM (#16087668)
    I think that for the next release of Windows, they should just stop trying to support old hardware and software. Just write a small, compact kernel that is secure, and have turn everything else into independent modules that can be easily switched out, similar to Linux and Unix. If you don't like your filesystem, change it. If you don't want IE, take it out and put in Firefox.

    I think the UI is fine and they should keep it fairly consistent. But if they'd just lose having to support things that ran on 95, 98, 2000, ME, ... they would make their lives a lot easier. Plus, without all of the old legacy code in there it would probably be more secure. And maybe for that version we could have WinFS.

    And dump the registry, that was a really stupid idea.

    But I think this could work. Most new copies of the OS are sold on computers built by Dell and other pc makers so they can control what goes in them. Hardware could be certified to work on the new version. Fairly new hardware could get new drivers that could be loaded on and it would work too. But older stuff would just get left behind.

    Anyway, just a thought. On a random note, painting a two story house by yourself sucks!
    • Apart from the painting-the-house bit, isn't that pretty much what the article says? I know it isn't clear from the submission, but it basically bangs on about trying to write a super-OS that's too complex to be useful anymore, and how it's going to kill Vista.
    • Yes, and since this new OS will be using New Technology they can call it "NT" for short.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      +5 insightful indeed.

      They are not running some school project; they build operating systems that run on 99% of computers. So MS as a company needs to throw away their mature codebase and build a new operating system from scratch? And alienate millions of existing customers by breaking compatibility? And facilitate 3rd party apps instead of promoting their own products? Wishful thinking maybe; but insightful? hardly.
      • by Bob_Villa (926342)
        Try to run XP on a 286 or 386 and see what happens. It will not run. You could probably get it to run on a 486. My point is there is still code in there supporting even those old machines. Why? Those people will stay running 3.1 or 95 or 98 forever, they cannot upgrade. Likewise, most people running 98 or XP will stay with that same OS until that computer is too slow or they get tired of it. Then they will buy a new computer.

        Companies don't upgrade their OS, they keep the same one until they are f
    • by Malc (1751)
      NT is already a modular micro kernel with security designed in from the beginning. How its been used is another story. Well, ok, it was designed as micro kernel, but it's grown a bit. There's a reason why it grew and evolved. There's also a reason why Linus sticks with a huge great monolithic kernel.

      What's wrong with the registry? Over the years I've come to understand it better, and it doesn't bother me anymore. The issues (e.g. corruption) I had on Win95 and to a lesser extent, NT4, seem to have gon
  • Three years ago? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pookemon (909195)
    who warned about the risks of the Windows monopoly three years ago

    What took them so long? That was 2003 - it was a "monopoly" (Not really - it never has been and never will be...) long before then.
  • by HawkinsD (267367) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:21AM (#16087739)
    The end of the Microsoft monolith? I don't think so. OK, so Vista is bloaty, and a monoculture is risky. So what? Are the masses of IT directors going to think, "Gee, monoculture is bad, I think I'll replace all my Dell desktops with iMacs"?

    There are approximately one grillion machines running XP and Windows 2000, and doing their jobs more or less successfully (if not securely), and being supported. Many (most?) will not be upgraded to Vista, given the high costs and dubious benefits. So they will stay the same.

    How does this work out to the end of the monolith?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      Are the masses of IT directors going to think, "Gee, monoculture is bad, I think I'll replace all my Dell desktops with iMacs"?

      Hell no, they will do whatever the trade magazines and microsoft sales drones tell them to do. I have yet to meet ONE IT director that not only understood what the hell he was in charge of, but had the ability to even formulate a plan on how to research and impliment the best solution for the company.

      The last job I was at, the new IT director demanded that the video production depa
  • Forget it! With billions at stake, Microsoft will find a way to extend its monopoly. As opposed to their stockholders, the complexity of their new OS will have little influence in this matter. If necessary, subsequent versions of Vista will only include things like cosmetic changes, new file formats (not compatible with previous versions) and some extra features stolen from the competition. However, you can bet that they will market every new version as the greatest thing since sliced bread.
  • by Siberwulf (921893) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:29AM (#16087766)
    Really, I don't think it will be the end of a monopoly. Why would it? MS has every bit of steam possible in their engine. As a "Seasoned" (5 years or so) .NET developer, we cater to Windows. Therefore, we use windows. Furthermore, we use Office. Our clients use Windows (I guess we don't help things by not offering MAC IE/Safari or Firefox/Opera support, but thats another thread, honestly).

    Another neat note is that MS's XNA framework and GAme Studio Express is just out in beta and quite a few people are liking what they see. Unfortunately, it'll take another beta release to get the Content Pipeline out the door, which means painful conversion of Mesh files, but thats ok for now, as people get to learn the IDE.

    I've always been told that making money has nothing to do with having a decent base product. While that might not be the selling point, the fact that you have good accessories, or at least desirable accessories usually can push the fence-sitters onto your side.

    *NIX will never die. Windows will never die. I don't think it matters how much each side tries, since the appeal (to the GP) of "Widely Used" vs "Better" have always offset.
  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:47AM (#16087838) Homepage Journal
    The CISOs' concerns about the cost of non-standardization to an organization miss an important possibility: organizations can choose to standardize on a product or vendor without making the same choices as the majority of people in the world. For example, you can choose to standardize on SUSE Linux, and with much of the world's black hat population focused on Windows, you'd avoid many of the Windows attacks.

    This is much smarter security-wise and economically than trying to support many different operating systems in production systems. For one thing your support costs go way down, especially if you choose the right vendor, because you are buying and deploying in quantity. While you as (for example) a SUSE shop will still get slammed hard when Linux is targetted, the shop that tries to suport Linux and Windows at the same time will get hit with Linux AND Windows vulnerabilities. Furthermore, it's likely that no matter what operating system is vulnerable, some mission critical system some place will be compromised.

    So, a possible strategy is to standardize, but on something that is not a dominant "de facto" industry standard. For larger outfits, you may choose to standardize differently for different divisions and subsidiaries. You still get the scale effects of standardization, and while it does mean you respond to more security problems, you're probably scaled and organized in a way that makes this possible to handle.

    One problem of course is that presumes you have a choice of applications which can meet your needs. One of the arguments some economists (who have magically rediscovered some of the disadvantages of competition) is that software is subject to the "network effect", which amounts to that if there is only one platform to target, then the market for software for that platform is bigger. This means you benefit from the competition in the application space. The downside of course is that you suffer from lack of competition in the OS space, from the OS vendor's attempts to tilt the playing field in the application space, and of course the monoculture effect.

    These days various flavors of Linux are at least as good as Windows by any reasonable standard, when considered as an operating environment for your computer. Linux and BSD fall short availability of suitable applications for these customers, and support for those applications. In some application areas, Unix flavors are a bit ahead of Windows IMHO, but overall the Windows market has the full spectrum of applications better covered than Unix. This barrier is a catch-22; developers will come to a platform when there are adopters, and adopters will come to the platform when there are developers.

    So, a legitimate strategy to avoid the monoculture problem is to use a Unix derivative such as Linux, BSD or MacOS. However the practicality hinges on the differential in application availability being less than your concern for security.

    MacOS is probably the most important player to watch. It may well break the network effect log jam, to the benefit of Linux and BSD as well.

    The one place where movement towards this rosy future can be thwarted is in standards compliance. Consider the number of web servers that run on Unix variants, but whose clients are overwhelmingly Windows desktops. The standardization of HTTP, HTML and these days javascript makes this possible (although failure to support standards inflates costs). Standards for data interchange and communication are a critical enabler of a heterogenous software ecology. Without them you cannot work with suppliers and customers who make different vendor choices than you.

  • The MSFT monoculture and monoply was willingly created by the big name corporations. They all clamoured for IBM-PC compatibility over everything else. The corporations have always known and valued interoperability and compatibility. The myopia was choosing as a standard for interoperability a closed system owned by one company. If they had chosen an OPEN standard, defined by independant third parties that allow free competition things would have been better. But they did not. The result was that while har
    • If they had chosen an OPEN standard, defined by independant third parties that allow free competition things would have been better.

      You mean like UNIX?

      You know, back then, in the days of the Unix wars, everyone expected Unix to rule the desktop in the future. But since your nice independent parties were too much involved in their constant bickering, no coherent standardized Unix desktop ever appeared. Instead, you had many platforms, and had to support all of them. An incoherent mess, as user- & desktop
  • bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stinky wizzleteats (552063) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:58AM (#16087894) Homepage Journal
    That convenience of one platform means less management expense. So far, companies are going with lower costs over susceptibility.

    Alternatives to Windows are free. As in beer. As in licensing costs: $0. License management costs: $0. Time spent calling to re-license the operating system because you installed a sound card: $0. License audit exposure: $0. As in infinity% cheaper than Windows. As in incremental cost per unit = 0. The cost of alternative supporting application and utility software is $0. Alternative database application software is $0. Alternative firewall softare is $0. Alternative antivirus software (if and as applicable) is $0. Word processing software - $0. Systems/network management tools - wait for it - $0. Documentation [gentoo.org],comprehensive howto resources [tldp.org], and technical support [ubuntuforums.org] - all $0.

    Turning away from solutions such as Linux because of cost is like being on fire and turning away from a bucket of water because the water might be too hot. Arguing against alternatives to Windows on the basis of cost is the very height of idiocy and is ultimately disingenuous. The real issue when considering alternatives is the fear of change and organizational inertia. How much of either can your company afford?
    • by ardor (673957)
      *sigh*....
      In total, Linux isn't free for companies. First, switching the entire infrastructure from Windows to Linux can be very expensive, especially if there is no prior experience with Linux. Second, it is easy to get Linux geeks, but good Linux admins are hard to find. Third, you really call the ubuntu forums "professional support"? Direct support from the developers, guaranteed by contract, *that* is professional support. If your machines suddenly stop working, you would start a thread in the ubuntu fo
  • by Danathar (267989) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @09:05AM (#16087925) Journal
    Fact of the matter is, nobody (who makes the purchasing recommendation) gets fired for choosing Microsoft if their products fail as a result of a design flaw that causes an application/OS crash or security hole that results in someobody taking control of systems you don't want. You can just say "it's windows...everybody runs it. Not my fault!".

    If you go out on a limb and choose something different then your "risk" of getting the crap beat out of you if you fail is HIGH and the return is LOW.

    Accountability for the people who choose MS products for their organizations will help. If your boss said "if a SINGLE desktop gets infected with a virus or spyware you are fired" would you choose Windows as your desktop/server OS?
  • "monoculture is attractive because it is cheaper." - Bruce Schneier

    "It's not easy to click your fingers and say, 'Windows is a liability; let's just switch.' You soon realize you have to spend even more to get specialized staff for each computing environment," - Andre Gold

    You can have diversity without complexity. All your servers connected through a VPN running on embedded hardware would eliminate most of the risks of a monoculture without having to switch to multiple platforms. Running pure Java app
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @10:42AM (#16088403) Journal
    The difficulties in developing Vista stemmed from its monolithic structure and the need for 'backwards compatibility', ie ensuring that software used by customers on older versions of Windows will work under Vista. This vast accumulation of legacy applications acts like an anchor on innovation. The Vista trauma has convinced some Microsoft engineers that they will have to adopt a radically different approach.

    I can't really agree with this. The major problems came when Microsoft decided, after about two years in development since the start in ~2002, that they were to change the foundation of "Longhorn" from Windows XP SP2 to Windows Server 2003. This was also by the time Microsoft changed their goals of what their next OS should be. Yes, when it was in the middle of development! Development managers may start feeling dizzy now and consider leaving Microsoft. :-p Needless to say, when you do this in any kind of large project and most definitely the largest operating system in the world, you'll have a big price to pay.

    I wouldn't even want to do it in a personal software project.

    To see the problem, check out this build 5048 review [winsupersite.com] (build 5000 was the kernel switch) with screenshots. It looks almost like "old Windows" again with mostly the same old features after a few years in development? Windows enthusiast Paul Thurrott is screaming blood. What happened to the progress they had made? Well, they had to strip a ton of features to get their stuff working again. Say hello to huge two year delays, feature cuts, and sweating.

    So Vista seems to me to be more about a planning/design mistake than a complex beast that will take around 5 years to get out the door. Vista has actually only had around 2-2.5 years of uninterrupted development on the correct kernel and with the final goal of what it should even do!

    I'd like to object to the article and actually claim I'm impressed by how quickly Microsoft put together something that looks to even end up as stable during that short time with this many features, given the stupidity that went on in planning. Or rather in-development-planning.

    Of course, WinFS and other technologies had to go due to this wild change of focus in mid-development, but that's not surprising or a lack of efficiency due to having think of backwards compatibility, like this article claims.

    But it's at the same time very visible how Microsoft is struggling, and I'm doubting we will see a clean release of this one when it "goes gold".
  • embracement (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sTeF (8952) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @10:55AM (#16088477) Homepage Journal
    i think the article raises an interesting point. virtualization technology.
    if you think about it, this could mean that ms ships as a host operating system and one preinstalled 'guest' operating system.

    from this point on, anyone can run his sw in windows, older versions of windows (with which it is competing) and most of all: any linux distro or other OS.

    this further on means, that non-technical people will run linux on their boxes, like any other application. for them, there is no big difference whether it's an application or a complete operating system. this means also, that ms has found it's niche, where it always was. the end user. i doubt that there will be many non-technicals, that will later change to have another OS as their host operating system.

    this also solves the 64bit problem, the old 32 bit apps can still be run.
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @11:14AM (#16088591) Homepage

    It's interesting the unstated assumption in the arguments against heterogenity: that any given company must support multiple platforms for heterogenity to work. I don't think that's true, though. If any given company uses a single platform, but different companies choose different single platforms, the end result is much the same overall: exploits have a much smaller target they'll work on.

    And further, I don't think the arguments about the cost of supporting multiple platforms hold up. There's more than enough research supporting the contention that it takes fewer people to support Unix-based desktops than Windows-based ones, and that makes sense given the remote-admin capabilities built into desktop Unix that come from it's server roots. So suppose a company switches to a 50/50 mix of Windows and Linux desktops, and a Linux tech can support twice as many desktops as a Windows tech could. Yes, supporting two platforms costs more than supporting one. But at the same time you've just halved the number of Windows support people you need because you've got half the number of Windows desktops (assuming you've got more than 1 or 2 people could support). You need to replace them with Linux support people, but you only need 1 Linux guy added for every 2 Windows guys you're dropping. If you started with 4 Windows techs, you'd drop 2 Windows techs and add 1 Linux tech for a total of 3 techs now. That's a 25% drop in personnel costs. When figuring costs, you have to add in the reduction in personnel costs as well. Plus there's the reduction in licensing costs that offset any increase from having multiple platforms.

    And finally, there's the BSA. We've all read the reports about their audits and the havoc they create. If your company's already supporting non-proprietary platforms, you're in a much better position to do an Ernie Ball if the BSA gives you grief.

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