Thurrott: ‘Longhorn is in complete disarray and in danger of collapsing under its own weight’

To those MDN readers who tire of our coverage of Windows tech writer Paul Thurrott, please forgive us. Our recent wall-to-wall Thurrott coverage will be winding down soon, but we just could not pass this one up. Plus, it bodes very well for Apple’s Mac platform. You see, Thurrott is at WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) 2005 this week which ends tomorrow. We kind of wish it’d never end as the disappointment over Microsoft’s next version of Windows, code-named “Longhorn,” is pervading the entire conference and driving Thurrott to despair.

Today Thurrott writes for Connected Home Media, “At last year’s WinHEC 2004, Microsoft showed off its Longhorn OS and made promises about shipping it in late 2005. It showed off hardware advances, such as auxiliary displays for notebooks and Tablet PCs that would let you access email, calendar, digital music, and other services while the machine was closed and powered down. The company touted small-form-factor Tablet PCs that would straddle the increasingly blurred line between PDAs and ultra portable notebook computers.”

Thurrott writes, “Flash forward to this year’s WinHEC 2005. Longhorn is in complete disarray and in danger of collapsing under its own weight: Since WinHEC 2004, Microsoft hasn’t shipped a single public beta release of the product, which is now delayed until late 2006. Now, we get a new build of Longhorn, finally, but it’s surprisingly similar to the version we got last year. In fact, it’s almost less exciting, because it looks more like the existing Windows version—Windows XP—than the year-ago version did. You can literally see the backtracking.”

Thurrott writes, “Microsoft once again showed off auxiliary displays and small-form-factor Tablet PCs. Neither technology is any closer to shipping: They’re expected to show up in late 2006—yep, about the same time frame as Longhorn—which means we might be lucky enough to see them again at WinHEC 2006 next spring. You know, if I actually show up for that one.”

Full article and readers’ comments here.

MacDailyNews Take: Analysts and pundits have been wondering how effectively Microsoft will be able hold off Apple for the next year-and-a-half until Longhorn debuts. Thurrott has been one of Longhorn’s biggest cheerleaders, but is now describing Microsoft’s Longhorn project as being in “complete disarray and in danger of collapsing under its own weight.” Earlier today, he wrote that Longhorn “has the makings of a train wreck.” Other media outlets are sounding similar themes and writing such things as, “many of Windows Longhorn’s features have been in Mac OS X since 2001” and “Longhorn so far looks shockingly like a Macintosh,” for just two examples. If so, where is the light at the end of Microsoft’s tunnel? Is there a light? If Apple can just get the word out to the general public by whatever means possible, Apple’s Mac OS X platform stands to benefit big time. Now we know why Microsoft brought in a former Pepto-Bismol brand manager to be the new Longhorn chief.

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Related MacDailyNews articles:
Thurrott: Longhorn ‘has the makings of a train wreck’ – April 26, 2005
Thurrott: Longhorn demos ‘unimpressive, fall short of graphical excellence found today in Mac OS X’ – April 26, 2005
Microsoft employees leaving due to (and blogging about) malaise smothering company – April 25, 2005
eWEEK Editor Coursey: Longhorn so far ‘looks shockingly like a Macintosh’ – April 25, 2005
Due in late 2006, many of Windows Longhorn’s features have been in Mac OS X since 2001 – April 25, 2005
Apple’s Tiger debuts Friday while Microsoft’s Longhorn is burdened with one delay after another – April 25, 2005
Nearly every segment of the PC food chain needs Longhorn to succeed – April 22, 2005
Microsoft’s new mantra: ‘It Just Works’ ripped straight from Apple’s ‘Switch’ campaign – April 22, 2005
Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Microsoft’s Longhorn: ‘They are shamelessly copying us’ – April 21, 2005
Apple shows off Mac OS Tiger in Microsoft’s backyard while Microsoft previews Windows XP ad push – April 19, 2005
Apple’s Mac OS X reality vs. Microsoft’s Longhorn fantasy – April 19, 2005
Microsoft’s Windows Longhorn will bear more than just a passing resemblance to Apple’s Mac OS X – April 15, 2005
Analyst: ‘Microsoft’s Longhorn is going to have hard time upstaging Apple’s Mac OS X Tiger’ – April 13, 2005
Analyst: Apple in ‘position to exploit Microsoft missteps, claim leadership’ with Mac OS X Tiger – April 13, 2005
Apple’s Schiller: Mac OS X Tiger ‘has created even more distance between us and Microsoft’ – April 13, 2005
Will Mac OS X Tiger add fuel to Apple’s recent momentum in the computer business? – April 13, 2005
Why doesn’t Apple advertise Mac OS X on TV? – April 12, 2005
Analyst: Tiger proves ‘Apple is light years ahead of Microsoft in developing PC operating systems’ – April 12, 2005
Apple to ship Mac OS X ‘Tiger’ on Friday, April 29; pre-orders start today – April 12, 2005
Apple Announces Mac OS X Server ‘Tiger’ to ship Friday, April 29 with 64-bit application support – April 12, 2005
Analysts: Apple’s new Tiger operating system could really impact Mac sales – April 12, 2005
Piper Jaffray raises Apple estimates on Mac OS X ‘Tiger’ release news – April 12, 2005
Apple’s Mac OS X ‘Tiger’ vs. Microsoft’s Windows ‘Longhorn’ – March 31, 2005
New Microsoft Longhorn chief was former Pepto-Bismol brand manager – March 18, 2005
Microsoft’s Longhorn fantasy vs. Apple’s Mac OS X reality – September 14, 2004
Is Microsoft’s stripped-down ‘Longhorn’ worth waiting for? – September 10, 2004
Silicon Valley: Apple CEO Steve Jobs previews ‘Longhorn’ – June 29, 2004
PC Magazine: Microsoft ‘Longhorn’ preview shows ‘an Apple look’ – May 06, 2004
Microsoft concerned that Longhorn’s look and feel will be copied if revealed too soon – August 25, 2003
Windows ‘Longhorn’ to add translucent windows that ripple and shrink by 2005 – May 19, 2003

53 Comments

  1. Honestly, I don’t tire of the Thurrott stories. Lately, they’ve been refreshingly honest. It doesn’t change my opinion of the guy much, but if even HE can see how bad Wronghorn is turning out, Microsoft is in MAJOR trouble.

    I doubt the man will ever stop being a Microsoft Cheering section…but I think he’s beginning to realize just who has the upper hand now.

  2. I’m glad MDN’s “… recent wall-to-wall Thurrott coverage will be winding down soon”

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  3. What are the reasons for this? M$ has BILLIONS of dollars! Is it the trouble with having to be backwards compatible? No talented, creative people at M$? An unproductive business culture? I’m glad to see the giant stumble, but I’m really a little perplexed… anyone?

  4. Stillborn is clearly M$’ Copland. What they need to do is what Apple did. Take Unix, and put their own (and I use that term loosely) GUI and assorted code on top of it. But wait! Perhaps Apple should do the same thing for x86 machines. I’m not saying it should port Tiger to Intel/AMD machines. Puma or Jaguar perhaps. Apple’s own Macintoshes, with the tightly integrated hardware and OS, should remain cutting edge. If Apple were to port and older version of OS X, it could steal Stillborn’s thunder, yet not cannibalize Mac w/Tiger sales. As many of us know, even Jaguar is way ahead of XP.

  5. Maybe it’s more serious than it appears.

    Perhaps the developers are going back and rewriting parts of longhorn for security purposes. Perhaps they’re busy putting out fires in the current releases. Perhaps they’re not really as good as one would hope they would be working for the biggest software company on the planet.

    Makes you wonder what the hell is going on if this years release has less than last years. Are they in trouble or are they really trying hard this time to get things right?

    This is the same as it always was – they delayed what was Windows 95 for ages, XP was delayed. They have these setbacks all of the time, and somehow their software gets shipped.

    The basic issue is that it’s a very complex OS release and I sometimes feel that they deliberately make it more complex than it needs to be.

  6. If you know the history of Microsoft, they bought most of what they’ve been successful with – like DOS. You can’t just go out and buy a successful OS. OSes are incredibly hard to write. The other two successful OSes are both Unix-based: Linux and Mac OS X. Microsoft has no answer and they can’t come up with a better solution. They’re screwed because they are tied to backwards compatibility. If they would just suck it up and ditch the whole Windows OS and start from scratch they’d do better, but they’d lose huge market share. All old and current Windows programs would have to be rewritten. Apple has done it twice, because they could – once with the move to PowerPC RISC and again with Mac OS X. Microsoft is screwed and I’m loving every second of it. They bigger they are, they harder they fall. Timber!!!

  7. Microsoft bought Connectix and still it cannot grasp the concept of virtual machines. Write a new OS based on SCO UNIX (logical since M$ already has invested a big chunk of $$$ in SCO). Graft new interface elements onto it as promised two years ago. Run 32-bit Win, 16-bit Win, and DOS apps in virtual machines to maintain backwards compatibility.

    Can we please start calling Longhorn by it’s proper name, “Copland”?

  8. The only other thing I can think of is to question who’s actually writing the code? I mean, lots of people are managers at Microsoft, so how many actual code cutters/developers/software people are there per manager????

    Is this what happens when a company has too many chiefs and not enough Indians???

    Michael’s suggestion isn’t bad either – rewrite and ditch the past. They could also hack at VPC to maintain backwards compatibility.

  9. I think I’m understanding all of you. M$ ought to just make Unix the foundation, and use Connectix’ technology for virtual machines running current and past Windows flavors. What really is intriguing, I think, is that Apple has a golden opportunity to target existing Intel/AMD machine owners (read: businesses), and create a “Mac OS X Lite” for them. It’s thinking that’s similar to the idea behind a Windows version of iTunes. Shoot, at the very least it can’t be too hard to simply take Linux and add some Apple touches to it. If Novell and Mandrake can do this, why not Apple? Apple can make a killing licensing to Dell, etc. either a “Lite” version of Mac OS or an Apple-flavored version of Linux. Existing Wintel owners can taste the Apple OS experience with their current hardware. Then when it comes time to get new stuff, they can buy Macs.

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