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Microsoft Gives Up on Vista


The question now isn’t “Is Vista Dead?” It is. The real question is: Can Microsoft get Windows 7 out in time to save its desktop domination? I think Microsoft “could” pull it off. Here’s how.

Vista is dead.

That’s not what Bill Gates said at a seminar on corporate philanthropy in Miami on April 4, but it might as well have been. What Gates actually said, according to the Reuters report, is that he expects that the next desktop version of Windows, Windows 7, would be released “sometime in the next year or so.”

Goodbye Vista. It has not been fun knowing you.

I predicted that Microsoft was giving up on Vista in January. It seems I was right. Microsoft’s own top brass had hated Vista when it first came out, why should they expect anyone else to like it?

Vista SP1 has proven to be a painful upgrade and its performance still lags behind XP SP2 and, the still unreleased XP SP3. Worse still, from a Microsoft executive’s viewpoint, Windows is actually losing desktop market share to Mac OS X and Linux. Microsoft never loses desktop market share. But with Vista Microsoft is finally losing customers.

I think Microsoft saw the handwriting on the wall early on. The company started playing up Windows 7 as early as July 2007. Now, Microsoft’s business plan is always to get its customers to upgrade to the next version. It’s how they make their billions. But, in this case, Vista was barely out the door.

Can Microsoft actually make a Windows 7 that can ship by 2009 that will win customers? Vista was infamous for its blown deadlines. Windows 7 must not only replace the failed Vista, it has to convince Microsoft’s customers that Windows 7 will really be better than XP.

That isn’t going to be easy. I find it more than a little telling that Microsoft has given XP Home a new lease on life for UMPC (Ultra Mobile PCs). Still. I think Microsoft has one card up its sleeve that just might keep its customers happy and make it out in 2009: Server 2008 Workstation.

n stark contrast with Vista, Server 2008 works extremely well in eWEEK Labs and in my own Linux-dominated office. Even with some security troubles, Server 2008 is a darn sight better than Vista or Server 2003.

Cleaned and Speeded Up

So, what Microsoft could do is use Server 2008’s kernel as the core of Windows 7. On top of that it adds a cleaned and speeded up Aero Glass interface, Silverlight and Internet Explorer 8. At the same time, Microsoft should dump the Vista user interface command structure and return to XP.

One reason why people don’t like Vista is not only is it slower than XP, it requires them to relearn how to do bread-and-butter operations. While Microsoft is at it, they can also throw out such annoying ‘Vistaisms’ as requiring users to answer seemingly endless menu choices on whether they really want to install a program or what have you.

To make darn sure that Windows 7 doesn’t have the software compatibility problems that still plague Vista SP1, they can also add an XP compatibility layer. This would actually be an XP VM (virtual machine) running with Server 2008’s Hyper-V virtualization. If an application doesn’t run with the native Server 8 core, no problem; just automatically run it in the XP VM.

Old Windows hands will recall that Microsoft once used a similar approach in Windows NT 3.5 with a WOW (Windows on Windows) sub-system that let users run Windows 95 applications on NT.

If Microsoft were to take this path, I can actually see the company delivering a new desktop operating system by 2009 that users would actually want to use. If they try, as they did with Vista, to reinvent the desktop operating system wheel, there’s no way they’ll get anything out until 2011 that users will want to run.

And, by then, Microsoft’s problem may be convincing Linux and Mac OS users to come back to Windows rather than trying to get XP users to upgrade.

A version of this story first appeared in eWEEK. >

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