Microsoft’s “marathon effort to come up with the a new version of its desktop operating system, called Windows Vista, has repeatedly stalled. Last week, in the latest setback, Microsoft conceded that Vista would not be ready for consumers until January, missing the holiday sales season, to the chagrin of personal computer makers and electronics retailers — and those computer users eager to move up from Windows XP, a five-year-old product,” Steve Lohr and John Markoff report for The New York Times. In those five years, Apple Computer has turned out four new versions of its Macintosh operating system, beating Microsoft to market with features that will be in Vista, like desktop search, advanced 3-D graphics and “widgets,” an array of small, single-purpose programs like news tickers, traffic reports and weather maps. So what’s wrong with Microsoft?”
“A crucial reason Microsoft holds more than 90 percent of the PC operating system market is that the company strains to make sure software and hardware that ran on previous versions of Windows will also work on the new one — compatibility, in computing terms,” Lohr and Markoff report. “As a result, each new version of Windows carries the baggage of its past. As Windows has grown, the technical challenge has become increasingly daunting. Several thousand engineers have labored to build and test Windows Vista, a sprawling, complex software construction project with 50 million lines of code, or more than 40 percent larger than Windows XP. ‘Windows is now so big and onerous because of the size of its code base, the size of its ecosystem and its insistence on compatibility with the legacy hardware and software, that it just slows everything down,’ observed David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. ‘That’s why a company like Apple has such an easier time of innovation.'”
“Last Thursday, Microsoft reorganized the management of its Windows division… The move is seen as an effort to bring greater discipline to the Windows group. ‘But this doesn’t seem to do anything to address the core Windows problem; Windows is too big and too complex,’ said Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology… Skeptics like Mr. Cusumano say that fixing the Windows problem will take a more radical approach, a willingness to walk away from its legacy. One instructive example, they say, is what happened at Apple… It took Mr. Jobs and his team years to retool and tailor the Next operating system into what became Macintosh OS X… ‘Microsoft feels it can’t get away with breaking compatibility,’ said Mendel Rosenblum, a Stanford University computer scientist. ‘All of their applications must continue to run, and from an architectural point of view that’s a very painful thing.'”
“It is also costly in terms of time, money and manpower. Where Microsoft has thousands of engineers on its Windows team, Apple has a lean development group of roughly 350 programmers and fewer than 100 software testers, according to two Apple employees who spoke on the condition that they not be identified… And Apple had the advantage of building on software from university laboratories, an experimental version of the Unix operating system developed at Carnegie Mellon University and a free variant of Unix from the University of California, Berkeley… And Apple, which makes operating systems that run only on its own computers, does not have to work with the massive business ecosystem of Microsoft, with its hundreds of PC makers and thousands of third-party software companies. That ballast is also Microsoft’s great strength, and a reason industry partners and computer users stick with Windows, even if its size and strategy slow innovation. Unless Microsoft can pick up the pace, ‘consumers may simply end up with a more and more inferior operating system over time, which is sad,’ said Mr. Yoffie of the Harvard Business School.”
Full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: Not good news for Windows sufferers. Windows is already quite noticeably inferior to Mac OS X today. Backwards compatibility is vastly overrated for people with the ability to adapt and learn new things. Mac users know this intrinsically and from experience, but Microsoft is hanging itself and dooming its users in the name of backwards compatibility that stifles real innovation. Where do you want to go today? Into the past, clinging eternally backwards to accumulated dreck or into the future like a rocket? Mac OS X. The future is here.
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