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Friday, November 4th, 2005, 5:11 am

Microsoft Back to Day One?

Longhorn

Longhorn spherical desktop screen-shot
Taken from a Microsoft meeting/demo in Chicago (click to enlarge)
Apparently, over-complexity did not permit this to become a reality

PERHAPS struggling to cope with existing Windows code, an operating system like Longhorn/Vista had to be re-built from scratch. To weed out competition, Microsoft face some serious dilemmas and have just taken some action.

Windows code, which was admittedly insufficiently modular, could no longer be run properly. Troubled and over-occupied with bug fixes and time-critical security patches, the O/S ended up ‘plastered’ all around. Consequently, Longhorn (Vista) lacked several long-promised features. This disappointed many customers and gave no compelling reason to ever upgrade. At present, Windows is conspicuously lagging behind some innovation and development over at Apple, not to mention Linux.

Major news are flowing in as I speak. Microsoft now turn their attention to a new operating system that will be built from the ground up and be named Singularity. Is it possible that Windows is so flawed (beyond our comprehension) that even Microsoft recognise a need to restart? Is the market unaware of the mess Windows closed-source actually is? With so many necessary patches and bloat, it seems to have gone out of the programmers’ control. With managers and staff leaving Microsoft (notably Lee), experience, competence and leadership are lost as well.

Apple was once in a similar situation. Mac OS 9 was rather weak. It seemed to have reached a dead-end and was often complemented by Windows software such as Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Then, Apple took Darwin as codebase while merely discarding OS 9. Nowadays, we can only behold what a good product they ended up with. Marketing, however, has a limited budget at Apple.

From Microsoft’s Web site:

Singularity is a research project focused on the construction of dependable systems through innovation in the areas of systems, languages, and tools. We are building a research operating system prototype (called Singularity), extending programming languages, and developing new techniques and tools for specifying and verifying program behavior.

It sounds as if Microsoft primarily target the research niche, which is dominated by platforms other than Windows (predominantly Linux).

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