Monday, 17 November 2003

ZDNet UK - Insight - Lifting the lid on Longhorn

The desktop is where Microsoft rule. They didn't get there through robust, flexible systems, or efficient code. They got there through ease of use - both to programmers and end-users. It's like an inverse telecoms model: they own the 'last mile' but not the bulk of the infrastructure. But the last mile is where the money is, and it's where change is most expensive, effective and visible (nobody gives a poo if the transatlantic backbone doubles in size, or if Unix Oses are 5x faster and 2x cheaper, except for sys admins, and most of them don't want the desktop config hassle on 5000 desktops).

They want the internet to be their new OS. It's quite clever the way they're going about it - by exploiting the desktop peer model. As long as the guy at the other end has the same handset make as me, we can do all sorts of clever & fun things, regardless of what's in the middle.

Where they may come unstuck is the underlying presumption that everyone will want to upgrade their handset. But even in that instance, they could give it away (but not opensource it). Could you imagine if M$ gave away the next client version of their OS? Which Intel users *wouldn't* have it on their desktop? They could still make their lucrative money out of bolt-on modules: want video IM? Rent it. Want peer-to-peer music sharing? Rent it.

I particularly liked this quote:-
'The XML programming model is separate from Windows and is not packaged with desktop systems, but WinFX will be integrated into Longhorn, according to Microsoft. Once that happens, "it will be like Microsoft taking one hand from behind its back in its boxing match with Java companies," said Rob Helm, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. "Potentially every PC will ship .Net-ready, which will make it much more interesting" for application developers, he added.'

A fine example of M$ suppressing end-user expectations. Mac OS has always shipped with an excellent dev environment. Also, OSX supports XML-SOAP natively - you can make SOAP calls from Applescript!

I also like the ClickOnce approach: rather than just the OS bugging you with updates every time you look at the machine, all of your applications will do it. Again, MacOS can do this already - many apps, even trivial ones, have a 'Check for Update' option on the menu. It's just a SOAP call after all. The key is discretion: OSX has it, M$ controls it and rents it to the highest bidder.
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