Skip to comments.Will the Next Version of Windows Be Worth the Wait?
Posted on 04/10/2005 6:06:02 AM PDT by infocats
TEN years ago, Microsoft unveiled Windows 95 in a way that suggested that the product's arrival was no less momentous than when humans stood upright for the first time. The company spent about $200 million introducing the operating system. That paid for festivities on the Microsoft campus (with Jay Leno as M.C.), rights to use the Rolling Stones song "Start Me Up" in a global advertising campaign and permission to bathe the Empire State Building at night with the Windows logo. It also loaded The Times of London with Windows 95 advertising that day, making the newspaper a one-day freebie, a first in its 307 years.
What was remarkable about the Windows 95 introduction was the acquiescence of customers, who participated so willingly in the spectacle. Microsoft arranged for retail outlets to open at midnight on the day the system would first be available, a stunt that proved as irresistible as klieg lights at a Hollywood premiere. One chain counted some 50,000 people lined up at its stores across the country.
These people were chasing an operating system, of all things - plumbing that serves a necessary function, to be sure, but of no more intrinsic interest than the pipes that snake below the floorboards of a house. In 1995, however, Microsoft managed to make the mundane appear life-changing. The Seattle Times quoted one happy midnight customer, standing with his wife, who predicted that "this is going to enhance our marriage."
Windows XP, introduced in 2001, could not match Windows 95's remarkable debut. We can hope that XP's successor, which has the code name "Longhorn" and is scheduled for release next year, will appear quietly, bringing us closer to the day when users need know no more about a PC's operating system than they do of the embedded software in a cellphone.
Longhorn's gestation has already extended much longer than originally planned. Rumors of its existence surfaced in 2001, when the system was said to have been chosen as a quick "intermediate" update of XP. Time passed, and the news media were permitted a sneak preview. But completion of even this, the interim release, came no closer. Determined to get it out the door by 2006, Microsoft decided in 2004 to remove a new file system for organizing data on the hard drive, what the company had earlier promoted as the heart of the new system. If and when this feature ever appears, it is unlikely to enhance anyone's marriage.
Regretful that it had announced an important feature that it subsequently had to remove, the company decided to remain quiet about other aspects for as long as possible. Microsoft has given software developers beta versions of two new components, for graphics and Web services, but these will be available for Windows XP customers, too. The company has yet to say what exactly will be a Longhorn-only improvement.
Microsoft's reticence cannot last much longer. In two weeks, it will be host for a conference for hardware vendors, setting down the minimum specifications that must be met in order to run Longhorn. You may be eager to know whether that PC on your desk will meet the specs. If your PC does not, it's unlikely that you will replace it just to be able to run the latest version of Windows. Michael Cherry, a senior analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a consulting firm based in Kirkland, Wash., observes that many PC users now treat their computers like TV sets.
"Unless the TV doesn't turn on," he says, "they won't replace them."
Mr. Cherry expressed skepticism about the appeal of enhanced graphics for him and others who spend most of their time using a word processor, an e-mail program and a browser. "How are 3-D graphics really going to change my life?" he wondered.
Another analyst, Rob Enderle, president of the Enderle Group, greets the system with more enthusiasm, predicting that Longhorn will provide "vast improvements in security." We can cheer this happy prospect, but at the same time we must ignore the snide laughs of Macintosh users who have yet to encounter a virus. No matter how solid and secure Longhorn's code appears, Microsoft will need a lot of independent voices providing verification and reassurance.
The professional caretakers of corporate PC's seem rather leery of Microsoft's promises these days, spurning the most recent package of security improvements and bug fixes offered for Windows XP. Last week, AssetMetrix Research Labs, a research firm based in Ottawa, released the results of a survey of 251 North American companies, measuring the adoption of Windows XP. Only 7 percent of companies had actively embraced the latest improvements, Service Pack 2, released six months ago. The improvements, it turns out, introduce software-compatibility problems. These can be overcome with tinkering but not without aggravation and additional cost for fixes that should not have been necessary in the first place.
Compatibility issues will loom larger in the future. Longhorn is unlikely to co-exist peaceably with existing software that sits atop the operating system. Mr. Enderle said that gaining enhanced security necessitates making a break with the complementary software of the past, which means "compatibility is going to suffer."
Windows XP may prove to be a tenacious paterfamilias, unwilling to move aside for the next generation. Security holes notwithstanding, it is the most stable version of Windows to date. That very stability will make it difficult for the company to market Longhorn as a release more important than XP itself, a prediction that Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, made in 2003.
Predictions do not fare well when the computing world moves faster than the lumbering mass of Microsoft's Windows division. Linux constitutes an alternative model, employing fleet feet and frequent releases.
Mark Lucovsky, a software engineer, recently described in his blog the process of writing code for a project like Longhorn and the long wait before it reaches a customer's PC. First, a bug fix or added feature is deposited in a source code control system, where it may sit for years. Eventually it is transferred into a product release and pressed into CD's. Months pass, even in the final stage, from release to manufacturing to arrival at the customer's receiving department. Slow.
By contrast, engineers who work on improvements for a newer form of operating system, the software that powers Web sites, can roll out work almost instantaneously. Mr. Lucovsky recounts how a friend at Amazon discovered a performance issue, found a fix, tested it and had it in place, all in a day. "Not a single customer had to download a bag of bits, answer any silly questions, prove that they are not software thieves, reboot their computers, etc.," he wrote. "The software was shipped to them, and they didn't have to lift a finger."
MR. LUCOVSKY'S remarks are of interest because he knows a thing or two about developing operating systems. He was a senior architect of Windows NT, was the chief keeper of the keys for the source code and was named by Microsoft in 2000 as one among its inaugural batch of distinguished engineers. Recently, after 16 years at Microsoft, however, he said he decided that he had been wrong in thinking that Microsoft knew best "how to ship software."
It was other companies, the ones who understood the potential of the Internet and software-as-a-service, that were best able to deliver benefits to customers "efficiently and quickly," he said. He resigned from Microsoft and has joined one of those other companies: Google.
Randall Stross is a historian and author based in Silicon Valley. E-mail: email@example.com.
I think the Windows 98 frenzy was more nuts.
Heck they can't even make xp work right so they just make a new build.
I'll stick with my 98SE it works just fine.
I've migrated from Windows XP to Windows 98.
Version 2 I hope.
Windows XP: Any system which shows a dogs wagging its tail as a file search is conducted is bloated. XP with 258 KB memory and 2.1 gig processor runs no faster (and for me does no more)than 98 2nd ed. with 500 Mb processor and 128 KB memory.
We have XP on both of PCs on our home network. There has never been a problem except it took a long time to figure out file sharing. The one thing we will not do is load SP2 on out network-when I see the IT guys at work load it on to the company network, then I will put it on ours. SP2 has been the only issue that we have ever had with Microsoft. In addition, we are MSN members. I never understood all the Gates and Microsoft bashing..
Apple did this in 1984. Nothing from Gates is new... Apple markets their hardware to provide a platform for their superior OS X...
As Microsoft pushes out the arrival date for Longhorn, the promised feature list gets pruned. Eventually, M/S will be shipping an empty box and calling it 'Longhorn'.
I've gone back to W2K, and I'm thinking about going back to DOS.
Each succeeding bloated OS is worse than it's predecessor, IMHO.
I know its popular to hate Gates, Microsoft and Windows and it (Windows) does have it's share of problems. However, I've found XP to be the best, most stable Windows version to date. I like it.
Yes, there is bloat, most of which can be stipped away.
Yes, you need a beefy machine to run it well. But hardware is relatively cheap these days and I tend to keep my machine beefed up anyway.
So yeah, I hate to admit but I am excited about the release of Longhorn. I always get excited when a new OS comes out.. I'll spend days on end happily tweeking it to where I can live with it. I enjoy that for some reason.
I'm such a geek.
It will probably be the final thing that nudges me into using Linux. Seriously.
I have migrated from DOS to Window3.1 to Windows95 to Windows98 to Windows98SE to Windows NT to Windows 2000 and finally to Linux. I now use Mepis Linux and have no need to ever play the Microsoft scam again.
Nevermind what the other lyrics say about what it does for a dead man.
Though it probably improved his marriage.
I didn't take all the steps you took (through M$'s lineup of software), but I did make it to Linux, and use Mepis on my desktop.
I am sick of having to fix the wife's computer (WinXP), and were it not for my daughter's games that I want to carry forward to the next computer I buy for my wife, I would have a Linux machine there too. Instead, I will buy her an iMacG5, and kiss Norton AV and the slowness of XP (given enough time) goodbye.
When my daughter outgrows the cd games she has, she'll be on a Linux box--likely the old one my wife puts out to farm.
I have XP Pro on my office and home machines, and won't change it for quite a while. No problems, so far. Very stable and reliable. Nope, I ain't changing.
I'm with you.
Prove it... Post screen shots of this benchmark from each machine... PC Mark 2002
Not sure where you've been; XP is a vast improvement over any version of 98.
But what matters is what works for you.
I live in a cave and enjoy it;)
xp has too many holes in it for me. It ALWAYS has a patch that needs to be installed for one thing or another and the hacker scum make it even worse by exploiting the holes.
I don't want an OS that has to be upgraded every week or 2, I want to USE my computers not repair them.
I run 98SE/Mozilla/SpyBot/AdWare/SpywareBlaster with cookie approval requested and NEVER have any problems.
Why did you do that ?
go away...I'm happy with Windows 2000....
Mine automatically updates, and I don't spend two minutes "repairing" it, ever.
I run 98SE/Mozilla/SpyBot/AdWare/SpywareBlaster with cookie approval requested and NEVER have any problems.
Sounds like you spend a lot more time and energy on freebie gadgets and fixes than I do.
Nope, I spend time using my computer. Install and forget it.
~nods and smiles~
This can serve as a summary of every Microsoft OS I have ever had to deal with. (Except perhaps DOS.)
Once you go Mac, you never go back. I am forced to deal with PCs at work, and I just marvel at the time and money spent on the "tinkering and aggravation" needed to keep them up and running.
My G4 running OSX just works every time without exception.
apple kept the unix platform.
gates abandoned it.
this cost world consumers of ms billions of dollars.
I, for whom technology is magic, just bought a router and created a wireless network among 4 computers (one of which is a Jornada 720 Handheld)... 3 XPs... an operating system that I have found very VERY stable (compared to the 95, 98 and ME that I had in the past).
I'm still a DOS fan... (my favorite WP program is a little shareware gem called VDE) and I'm so pleased that Mr. Gates has kept so-called legacy programs possible.
If this new Longhorn Operating system can increase security, I'll probably buy it. XP is a fine product, certainly a great improvement on the previous systems, all of which except for an updated Windows 98 which had gotten quite stable, often made me want to go back in time. Millenium was a nightmare!!
I once tried messing with Linux, but I kept getting geeky messages.
Perhaps now it's more user friendly, but last time I tried, I wanted to get a gun, go to the zoo and shoot a penguin. No doubt it is wonderful for Geeks, but I often have the feeling that Geeks like it simply to be able to show how Geeky they are.
So far, with XP, plug and play has worked fine, allowing me to spend time learning the programs, instead of messing with the inner workings.
Conclusion? If a non technological Italian girl like me can have her XP computer programs available (through terminal client server) on her Jornada 720 handheld screen in a matter of minutes... Signor Gates must be doing something right.
If I could express a wish... I'd ask him to ALSO make a simplified, down-sized macro language available for WORD... simple - say - as it used to be in word for Dos. Now, I'm sure it's magnificent and can even be programmed to make you espresso, but it's too complicated!!
So far, I would be ungrateful to complain about my XP.
You and me both. I refuse. I have taken my own measures to secure my PCs and will put them up against anything MS can try to foist off on me.
I hear noise that MS says that XP users will be getting SP2 by year end whether they like it or not. Let 'em try. They're not getting into my PC. No way.
I will say though, that I did a full upgrade on both of my networked PCs from ME to XP and it is like night and day. Compared to ME...XP rocks. Hell, just getting all my filesystems to NTFS was a huge help.
At the time, I was one of those geeks who loaded it the very first day. I wasn't one of those imbeciles who lined up at the store at midnight but I did take the day off from work and went to the store that morning. I spent the rest of that day upgrading my two home computers and learning all the new tricks.
I never liked the clunky Win 3.1 and I was so happy to be done with that. Windows '95 was awesome by comparison. My computers suddenly looked and felt like Macs. No other upgrade since provided such a drastic overnight change.
Oh yeah, and I remember being blown away by the Weezer video that was contained as an "extra" on the Win '95 CD. Good memories. Seems like so long ago now...
BTW, I am VERY happy with XP. Most stable OS so far.
Same here, except 4 PCs and 2 laptops, setting up their wireless network was easy with XP/SP2. Even had Linux on one PC for a while (not anymore - pain in the butt). I admire your DOS abilities. I loved it but have been away from it so long, I forget how to use it.
The question really is whether windows is worth its' cost! And once you get into price/performance apple loses it's shine and Linux looks better.
Windows 95 is too primitive today. Windows 98 is nice if you have an old PC and like blue screens. Windows XP is pretty powerful and Windows X64 even more so.
Windows Longhorn isn't even out publicly in beta form yet so who know what it will do when eventually released except try to stop you from playing those nasty MP3s and bootleg videos.
I use a Mac at home and a PC at work for video editing. I've finally settled into Windows XP and gotten all of my editing software comfortable with it, and I am going to be rather skittish about updating to Longhorn immediately. I have finally learned all of the little tricks and figured out just how to hold my mouth when I work to keep Premiere and After Effects from crashing, so I'm standing pat for a while.
Meanwhile, Tiger is due out in May, and H.264 with it!
I used to work at a very small software company with no version control software. I used to taunt the testers by fixing a problem while they were on the phone describing it. I would say I couldn't replicate the problem, and could they try it again.
Ah, the good old days.
"I have heard a lot of the chatter from people who advise not to install Service Pack 2. I found this really odd, as I have been running it on my own 3 computers for months before it was even released to the public. I love Service Pack 2!
I installed SP2 on my main computer in desperation. I was constantly being inundated with adware, and no matter what I did, my computer would get infected again and again. I had heard that SP2 had "Advanced Security Technologies", and although I don't generally fall for Microsoft's techno-speak, I was willing to try anything.
Well, I'm here to tell you folks, I haven't run a single Adaware or Spybot scan on any of my computers in all of this time. I have not needed to!
I'm not saying that XP with SP2 is bullet-proof. I'm sure that the scoundrels that make viruses and spyware are eventually going to devise new techniques to penetrate XP's security. But for now, I'm a super happy computer geek.
I'm writing this because, what occured to me is the difference between how I've been installing SP2 compared to a lot of other people.
As soon as I got my hands on the beta relase of SP2, I made my own XP CD with SP2 slipstreamed onto the disc. I have installed SP2 for dozens of my clients, but I always back up their data, format the hard drive, and do a "clean" install.
I would guess that a lot of other techs and end users are simply installing the SP2 patch, and it is possibly conflicting with existing drivers and/ or settings. Maybe that's why I've only had one bad experience with SP2, while everyone else in the industry is running around and, in my opinion, crying wolf about the woes of SP2.
I would suggest following the link in that statement to the article on 'slipstreaming'. Myself, I just may give it a shot after doing a full backup. Though it does seem to be an awful lot of work for just laying down a Service Pack.
Win95 was historic because it cut Apple's advantages down to where the hardware choice available for x86 PCs was worth more to the customer.
WinXP was important because it ended the need to choose between a real OS - WinNT - and an easy-to-use OS - Win98.
It is hard to see how Longhorn could be as important. It might make .NET more useful. But it's too late to save .NET from being a non-event.
|Compatibility issues will loom larger in the future. Longhorn is unlikely to co-exist peaceably with existing software that sits atop the operating system. Mr. Enderle said that gaining enhanced security necessitates making a break with the complementary software of the past, which means "compatibility is going to suffer."
This is a big deal if it's true. If in addition to buying BumSteer, you also have to upgrade Office, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Acrobat, and a hundred other things you've collected over the years, it could turn into a thousand-dollar software upgrade. That's a serious impediment to adoption. I can't believe Microsoft would shoot themselves that way.
I almost bought a mac (mini mac $499) yesterday until the tech help at CompUSA told me that i could not hook it up to my KVM switch. I like to be able to use a single keyboard/mouse/monitor for all my computers. Just hit a button for the one I need to work on. I run old P1 and P2 since I mostly just write java code and don't need a super duper cpu for that. But right now I need to simulate a server farm and need a box on my intra net with little more horse power. Suggestions are welcome, didn't what to buy a celeron PC, an AMD pc would be ok, but it ight be fun to have a mac hanging around.
As I understand it, Longhorn is a 64 bit OS. Apps will has to be ported to a 64 code or CPU needs 32bit co processor. Does intel have a 64bit CPU? AMD does and apps run ok on it.
|Does intel have a 64bit CPU?
Yeah, in addition to the (incompatible) Itanium, they have an extended x86 chip that is -- heh heh -- "AMD compatible."
Wasn't that when Apple fell off the tree? I think it was an Seattle Sue that crapped on the Apple after it fell.
Jobs has to be one of the stupidest men to ever head a big company. Both Gates and Jobs were shown the Graphical User Interface (Icons) developed in the Palo Alto research labs by Xerox. Both were impressed. Both decided to implement it.
Stupid Jobs decided to go from the Apple II to the Mac in one big jump. Gates knew that would be a disaster. No company running either DOS or Apple II was going to instantly transition to a graphical user interface. It would require a company to go from a command like interface to graphical in one jump. Companies demand time to gradually adopt new technology. To be successful an operating system had to support both the old (Character) and the new (Graphical) interface or be a very large failure.
The only group to stay with Apple were educators. If you need proof that educators don't understand the real world, just look at their decision to educate with a system used by far less than 10 percent of employers.
Jobs after the screw up of the LISA came out with the Mac. Which was totally incompatible with the Apple II.
Gates over a ten year period gradually went from DOS to Windows. Making sure that each version of Windows could support DOS applications. It was far more difficult than a clean break, but it was the only way to hold and grow market share.
It was a brilliant strategy. Apple lost market share by making the immediate transition. Gates gained market share by taking 10 years to make the transmission.
Gates faced the problem of how to make a single process, single user operating system compatable with a multi user multi process operating system. It would have been much much easier to just do a new multi user multi tasking operationg system. Jobs took the easy way out. It destroyed Apple's chance of ever being a major player again.
Companies like Lotus and Word Perfect went with copy protection to keep people from "stealing" their software. Gates did not. He knew the people taking the software were mostly employees of big corporations. Gates knew they would have their company buy a "stealable" software rather than buy a better software that they couldn't steal. There was no way the employees were going to buy personal copies of Word Perfect and Lotus. Typical of Gates oppostion, they only looked at their spreadsheets. Gates understood what was really happening and what real customers would do.
Gates watched Word and Excel take nearly all the market share from the superior products of Lotus and Word Perfect.
If you argue that Gates doesn't know what he is doing, then you have to confront the fact that the people at Apple, Lotus and Word Perfect knew even less.
Jobs only understood what the technology could do and did it. Jobs focused on what he wanted to do. Gates focused on what customers wanted.
At every stage of the contest, Gates understood how consumers would react to technology and sales policy. Gates gave them what they wanted.
What ever happened to Apple 'Newton'? He-he.