With the release of Vista just around the corner (finally) the talk of Microsoft is where it heads next and leading the charge of course is John Dvorak; who in a post on PCMag.com suggests that Microsoft will now become nothing more than a company issuing updates and maintenance packs.
While Microsoft, because of its sheer size, is no more doomed than IBM ever was, it’s never going to be a leader again, if the Vista saga is any indication. What we are witnessing now is nothing more than upgrades and maintenance.
This may have indeed been the case if Gates had kept his firm grip on things with Baldy Ballmer swinging the pompoms. However that is not the case as BillG has begun the transition to globe trotting philanthropist and we all pray Ballmer will disappear into the sunset so that the new head honcho Ray Ozzie can continue in his work to transform Microsoft.
But like Dvorak; and probably a hundred better tech pundits, I have a few ideas of possible directions that Microsoft could head and in the process make some serious changes for the better.
Once Vista hits the street Microsoft will pretty well have two years (given the XP to Vista releases) before anyone is going to expect a new version of the Windows OS. Yes they will have to have folks working on Service Pack releases but the majority of the OS team I imagine will be working on the next version and they would probably need that two years (plus) to come up with another behemoth OS.
And there is the problem – Windows has gotten too big. It doesn’t matter how you cut it Windows is becoming impractical as an OS due to it’s size especially when you consider that you can get a fully working version of Linux to run from a USB drive and that is including a bevy of programs. Granted Windows has to work hard on maintaining compatibility and massive amount of drivers so that they don’t lose their key cash cows – the corporate workplace; but that doesn’t mean that you have to have a Goliath of a install for an OS.
After all what is an Operating System? Pehaps it would be easier to say what it is not. An operating system is not eye candy, it is not icons and taskbars and nor is it a bunch of interlinked applications. An operating system is a locked down kernel with driver interfaces. It handles things like I/O traffic, network traffic, drive mounting, file system structure – in other words root functions that enable you to have a working machine that you can add all the eye candy and applications to but not be an intregal part of.
It is my feeling that the day after Vista hits the street running the OS division should be split internally into two seperate divisions. The first division would be the OS (Kernel) team and the second would be the Desktop team. The OS team would set out immediately to concentrate on one thing and one thing only – the smallest and most secure (locked down) operating system possible sans desktop – that would no-longer be in their pervue other than to provide secure access points. Hell give them 100k bonuses for every 100k they chop it back in size and double it for every secure pipe they put in place and real world test it against the best the hackers can throw at it. It’s not like they haven’t set a precendent for this with their BlueHat conferences.
The one concession they would have to make is that the outer pipes for the desktop would be freely published so that anyone could write a desktop manager to work with the OS. This would be in competition with the MS Desktop team granted but I am sure that with the concentration of resources that MS has they could at that point come up with a killer desktop and applications to go with it. The suggestion here though is to for once realize that the user base is not just corporate centric. Yes have desktop versions that would snap into place for the corporate world and their IT departments but also have a multi-level desktop for the rest of the world’s userbase.
Does this sound a lot like how Linux is structured – you betcha; but maybe Microsoft for all its braintrust should realize that the way they have been doing things isn’t the best and that there are other and better ways to accomplish bringing a secure and user centric operating system to the marketplace.
Now that Vista is here they have some time to really look at things – but not too much time or like Dvorak says – “What we are witnessing now is nothing more than upgrades and maintenance.“
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