Windows is 'collapsing,' Gartner analysts warn

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Due to poor response to the marketplace and decades of legacy issues, Microsoft must either radically change Windows or risk its collapse

Calling the situation "untenable" and describing Windows as "collapsing," a pair of Gartner analysts said recently that Microsoft must make radical changes to the operating system or risk becoming a has-been.

The latter might not be all that bad a thing seeing the things that are going on presently as regards to the Vista operating system and the intrusive practices of Microsoft.

In a presentation at a Gartner-sponsored conference in Las Vegas, analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald said Microsoft has not responded to the market, is overburdened by nearly two decades of legacy code and decisions and faces serious competition on a whole host of fronts that will make Windows moot unless the developer acts.

"For Microsoft, its ecosystem and its customers, the situation is untenable," said Silver and MacDonald in their prepared presentation, titled "Windows Is Collapsing: How What Comes Next Will Improve."

Among Microsoft's problems, the pair said, is Windows' rapidly-expanding code base, which makes it virtually impossible to quickly craft a new version with meaningful changes. That was proved by Vista, they said, when Microsoft – frustrated by lack of progress during the five-year development effort on the new OS – hit the "reset" button and dropped back to the more stable code of Windows Server 2003 as the foundation of Vista.

But still Vista is about as stable as an ordinary chair that has lost a leg. That is to say that it is not, according to what one gets to hear from users.

"This is a large part of the reason [why] Windows Vista delivered primarily incremental improvements," they said. In turn, that became one of the reasons why businesses pushed back Vista deployment plans. "Most users do not understand the benefits of Windows Vista or do not see Vista as being better enough than Windows XP to make incurring the cost and pain of migration worthwhile."

It also would appear that recently Microsoft had to admit to all and sundries that Vista is not a complete program as yet but remains a “work in progress”. Well, that has been quite obvious from nigh on the very beginning when it was tauted as the safest (Windows) operating system the first crucial security updates followed rather quickly.

Other analysts, including those at rival Forrester Research, have pointed out the slow move toward Vista. Last month, Forrester said that by the end of 2007 only 6.3 percent of the 50,000 enterprise computer users it surveyed were working with Vista. What gains Vista made during its first year, added Forrester, appeared to be at the expense of Windows 2000; Windows XP's share hardly budged.

The monolithic nature of Windows - although Microsoft talks about Vista's modularity, Silver and MacDonald said it doesn't go nearly far enough - not only makes it tough to deliver a worthwhile upgrade, but threatens Microsoft in the mid- and long-term.

Users want a smaller Windows that can run on low-priced – and low-powered – hardware, and increasingly, users work with "OS-agnostic applications," the two analysts said in their presentation. It takes too long for Microsoft to build the next version, the company's being beaten by others in the innovation arena and in the future – perhaps as soon as the next three years – it's going to have trouble competing with Web applications and small, specialized devices.

Such a small Windows does not seem to be something that MS is capable of producing. Therefore many people are migrating to the likes of Linux operating systems that offer just that, such as Puppy, DSL and such.

"Windows as we know it must be replaced," Silver and MacDonald said in their presentation.

While rumor had it that Microsoft recently granted Windows XP Home a reprieve from its June 30 OEM cut-off, saying it would let computer makers install the older, smaller operating system on ultra-cheap laptops through the middle of 2010, the latest message out of Redmond is, yet again, the June 30 cut-off date for XP as a OEM software – though this may relate to XP Pro – to be installed and all new PCs and Laptops, so it is said, will from then on be preloaded with one or the other version of Vista. Thanks, but no thanks.

© M Smith (Veshengro), April 2008