New York Times: Unlike Apple’s Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows an obese monolith built on ancient frame

“Microsoft Windows has put on a lot of weight over the years,” Randall Stross reports for The New York Times. “Beginning as a thin veneer for older software code, it has become an obese monolith built on an ancient frame. Adding features, plugging security holes, fixing bugs, fixing the fixes that never worked properly, all while maintaining compatibility with older software and hardware — is there anything Windows doesn’t try to do?”

“Painfully visible are the inherent design deficiencies of a foundation that was never intended to support such weight. Windows seems to move an inch for every time that Mac OS X or Linux laps it,” Stross reports.

“The best solution to the multiple woes of Windows is starting over. Completely. Now,” Stross opines.

Stross reports, “Vista is the equivalent, at a minimum, of Windows version 12 — preceded by 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, NT, 95, NT 4.0, 98, 2000, ME, XP. After six years of development, the longest interval between versions in the previous 22-year history of Windows, and long enough to permit Apple to bring out three new versions of Mac OS X, Vista was introduced to consumers in January 2007.”

MacDailyNews Note: Windows XP was first released on October 25, 2001. Windows Vista was released on January 30, 2007. Apple had released Mac OS X 10.1 (Puma) one month before Windows XP, on September 25, 2001. Since that time, Apple has released Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, August 23, 2002; Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, October 24, 2003; Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger on April 29, 2005. Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was released on October 26, 2007.

Stross continues, “The internal code name for the next version is “Windows 7.” The “7” refers to nothing in particular, a company spokeswoman says. This version is supposed to arrive in or around early 2010.”

“Will it be a top-to-bottom rewrite? Last week, Bill Veghte, a Microsoft senior vice president, sent a letter to customers reassuring them there would be minimal changes to Windows’ essential code. ‘Our approach with Windows 7,’ he wrote, ‘is to build off the same core architecture as Windows Vista so the investments you and our partners have made in Windows Vista will continue to pay off with Windows 7,'” Stross reports.

Stross writes, “But sticking with that same core architecture is the problem, not the solution.”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Citymark” for the heads up.]


  1. Windows started on a shit base, and progressed outwards from them. It’s like building a house on top of a cesspit. There ARE going to be BIG problems. Feeling the pain yet, Microsoft customers? Just drop the overweight pet and move on to the fit, strong and co-operative operating system that has for years been ahead of Microsoft; Mac OS X. Expect Snow Leopard to be faster, more efficient and smoother. Expect Windows 7 to be crumpled, slower, full of the same recurring errors, and still ridiculously prone to hackers of all kinds. There’s not much to choose from as far as I can tell. But some people, in my telling them, move to a Mac, is still “But I work on a PC.” Well duh. Fucking idiots.

  2. Snow Leopard’s diet is all part of a plan to move serious computing to mobile devices. Apple will never dominate the desktop (merely making huge profits in it); instead, Apple is skating to where the puck is going. By this time next year, Apple will have far more copies of OS X in people’s hands with the iPhone than with the desktop. 5 years from now, there will be more copies of OS X out there than Vista.

    Microsoft can keep 80-90% of the desktop space, just like Kodak & Fuji can continue to keep the analogue film business. We’re moving on.

  3. It isn’t really like Windows is “broken” simply because it’s so much older than OSX. The two code systems are similarly old, at least compared to Linux. One major difference between OSX (and Linux) and Windows is that it has shed older code along the way while Windows has felt the need to retain older, possibly broken, code when such was required for backward compatibility. Apple is quite willing to break someone’s code if they code too close to the “iron”, MS is not.
    Which is why Stross advocates a top-to-bottom re-write, which Vista was supposed to be, rather than a touch-up, like Veghte has already claimed 7 will be.

  4. Windows 7 doesn’t need to be decent. It just needs to be like Windows XP, and the people out there will be amazed by it, saying it is better than Vista.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Windows 7 was XP code, with Vista paint work.

    I hope Windows 7 is decent, usable, secure & fast. I don’t mind Windows, even though I prefer Mac OS X.

  5. Please, please let Microsoft keep things as they are! The more wedded Microsoft is to the past, the better it will be for Apple. A key strategy of Windows is backwards compatibility, so that old legacy apps can run on it. And that is precisely what makes Windows such a cluster____. So long as Microsoft does not do what Apple did, and completely rebuild its OS from scratch, present and future versions of Windows will continue to be a mess.

    If you are Steve Jobs, you couldn’t ask for more.

    Frankly, Apple has sometimes demanded a lot from its users, and has made clear that as the Mac OS moves forward, that some of us will be left behind. That might smack some people as arrogance, but in many ways, it’s a logical strategy. What Apple has done in moving users from OS-9 to the much more modern OS-X would be derided as being risky by some, but how Apple executed on it was brilliant. Ditto for the transition from Motorola to IBM to Intel.

    As Apple makes the move to Snow Leopard, again, some of us will be left behind or forced to upgrade our hardware. The way I see it, this is the right thing to do. I sit here writing this on a G4 Mac running Tiger, knowing fully that at some point, I will need to invest in new hardware and software. For me, the biggest pain is not the jump to new hardware or to Leopard/Snow Leopard, but leaving some apps behind that developers like Adobe refuse to upgrade (Freehand being a perfect example). If there is a weak link in Apple’s strategy, it’s not the lack of backwards compatibility or the fact that we’re being forced to move to new machines. Instead, the weak link is the arrogance of companies like Adobe to provide current users of its software with a better upgrade path.

    My hope is that Apple can pressure its partners to be more accommodating to their customers. In the long run, that would serve the interests of developers such as Adobe and the rest of us.

    By the way, am I the only one to notice how Adobe is charging abusively high prices for software upgrades to their legacy apps? THAT is an example of an abusive monopoly, something I hope will be addressed.

    One final thought: A poster above astutely pointed out that Apple is preparing to fight the next war. By making the core of Snow Leopard smaller, and shrinking the size of apps like Mail, Snow Leopard could become more agile, both on the Mac and also on new handheld platforms. It will be fun to see this strategy unfold. I think Apple has a bright future ahead by concentrating, as the other poster said so well, where the puck will be, not where it’s been.

  6. There were two lineages of Windows, each with a different code base.

    The first one was Windows 1, 3, 3, 3.1, 95, 98, 98SE, and ME. Both 98SE and ME primarily existed to accommodate new hardware. Microsoft killed this code base off on purpose.

    The second one began with Windows NT 3.1. It had the same version number as its contemporary (Windows 3.1) because it had the same user interface. It was completely new code. It went through these versions:

    Windows NT 3.1
    Windows NT 4.0
    Windows NT 5.0 (marketed as Windows 2000)
    Windows NT 5.1 (marketed as Windows XP)
    Windows NT 6.0 (marketed as Vista)

    It ended up spaghetti code despite plans to the contrary. NTFS, which they invented for NT, was not supposed to need defragmentation. (In other words, Microsoft has had more failures than is generally known.)

    Because there never was an NT 1 or an NT 2, and because XP was a dot release, Windows 7 is actually the sixth version, not the twelfth version, but unless it is a total rewrite, it will identify itself as NT 7 in web server logs and the like. It might be marketed under a different name.

    I suggest “Windows Surrender.”

  7. To say Windows has a 22-year-old history is deceiving. Windows 1.0 and 2.0 were very weak attempts at a GUI, a feeble attempt to steal Apple’s thunder. When 3.0 came out, that is when sales of Windows started to climb. Anyone could tell it was a huge ripoff of the Mac at the time, but MS licensed the OS and made gobs of money doing so. Apple chose not to do that – they wanted control over the software and hardware. One can argue that choice was good or bad, but it’s history now.

    And then there was Windows 95, announced with such fanfare with Rolling Stones music to boot. And it just kept getting worse from there. 98, Me, 2000, XP, and now Vista. I work with IT departments all the time – NO ONE is adopting Vista. And that report that just came out about Macs in 8 out of 10 businesses is probably on target. So, it may be one Mac, or maybe hundreds, but the tide is turning. Here’s hoping that Windows 7 is the biggest piece of shit to come out of MS in history, worse than Vista.

  8. Good article.

    So, MS thinks that changing nothing but the name will make Windows 7 a success? Windows is becoming the equivalent of the old hand-cranked adding machine.

    I stumbled on the shill Paul Thurott’s apologist response. Hilarious. Don’t go there.

  9. A complete re-write is impossible at this point. Think about when Apple converted from Macintosh to OS X. It took years. Actually in the same time they released OS 8 and OS 9 before they were even up to beta with OS X 10.0. And then the didn’t really push it to consumers until 10.2. AND the bought the bulk of OS X from NeXT. They weren’t even starting from scratch.

    Now look at Google and Android. Android is much MUCH smaller than a desktop OS would need to be and even they are having lots of trouble getting it going. And it’s Linux. They didn’t even do most of the hard work with it either.

    I really don’t believe anyone, not even MS or Apple or Google could write a brand new OS from scratch today.

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