Microsoft employs some 70000+ people world wide. Among them are probably some of the smartest and most talented minds in the world of software engineering. Most of us who really care, probably realize it's not necessarily a question of Microsoft's talents but a question of how Microsoft builds products inside its enormously complex bureaucracy and heavily proprietary development world. Microsoft is clinging to a development model that this author feels is increasing threatened by a changing world. Those of you making those changes know who you are. Let's not forget the fact that it just doesn't work that well. As evidence I submit Windows Visa.
I see varying numbers all over the Internet but it appears Vista has 50+ million lines of code. That's pretty amazing when you think about it. I'm a lousy developer so I can't comment, you know what though, I will since it's my editorial and in this little B&W world I can do what I want. 50+ million is probably 50+ million too much. What I'm really saying is Microsoft should have STARTED FROM SCRATCH. Bite the damn bullet and be gone with that "START" button already.
Yes I'm going to do it. I'm going to make a comparison to Apple AGAIN! Mac OS X is probably one of the better consumer operating systems on the market today, some would say the best. Maybe it is. Apple bit the bullet and went from OS 9 which was pretty much a piece of garbage from a stability/maintainability standpoint, to a well matured, aesthetically pleasing modern operating platform. Apple did this in less than 6 years. In all fairness Apple does control the hardware platform and therefore has better control over overall design and quality. Microsoft must support hundreds if not thousands of hardware vendors. This is no small feat. But that very fact puts Microsoft in the position to leverage these companies to help build an entirely new "Windows platform". These companies depend on Microsoft for a large part of their revenue. In a nutshell they listen to Microsoft. Won't you help lead our crusade?
Microsoft's biggest competition to Window's Vista is of course, Windows XP. At least this is what they tell me. For the most part I agree with this. We live in a world that is brainwashed by aesthetics and after cruising the isles of Best Buy, every 30" LCD sporting Vista's eye candy sure makes XP look pretty boring and uneventful in comparison, yet it's not too different to scare us away. Us folk in the technical world know better. A large portion of the computer using public doesn't and it's not their job to know.
From a technical standpoint, Windows XP is Microsoft's biggest competitor to Vista because apparently no one at Microsoft uses Windows XP daily (yes that's a false statement, I'm sensationalizing to emphasize a point) to see the poor design and functionality quarks. Let me ramble off a few that make me want to physically abuse a computer...
Some of these issues have been addressed. How much so remains to be seen by the masses doing the real beta testing now (no offense to MSDN beta testers, you may have done your best to help). Why does OS X feel so much more fluid and responsive to what I want to do when I want to do it? Vista doesn't have that feel. Maybe it simply boils down to Vista being overly huge, complex, and lacking any original thought.
Now I am not saying developing software is easy. Developing an operating system is a monumental challenge. Microsoft is the software company with the talent and resources to do almost anything. Dazzle me with a revolutionary operating system that proves Microsoft really can be innovative (because right now, your not). Then give it to me at a fair price with a license agreement I can read without my lawyer.
A long term issue we will now face with Vista is its absurd resource footprint. The vast majority of computer deals today (Dell, HP), are pushing new systems with 2GB of RAM (sometimes more). Besides the fact that this is ludicrous for an operating system to run "optimally" it has a much greater (and negative?) affect on the Windows development community inside and outside of Microsoft. "On that project where I'm building the next 'Killer app' for Visa I realize most people will have at least 1GB of RAM and most likely 2GB. I can take advantage of that. So if I keep up with today's tradition of crappy code, before you know it the next version of 'time wasting app' takes 4GB just to install". I understand newer advances in operating system design and more sophisticated capabilities require power but we're talking a SIGNIFICANT increase in power for an operating system that is in many instances slower than its 6 year old predecessor (or all predecessors for that matter). This is unacceptable. Get your act together Microsoft. I'm trying to write a paper in bloated Office 2007, not plot the orbital trajectory to the outer rim of Zeta Reticuli.
They tell me smart papers have quotes. Here's a quote:
"Nobody will ever need more than 640k RAM!" - Bill Gates, 1981.
Apparently Bill is human after all.
I support Microsoft's decision to move the desktop compositing to the graphics subsystem. As Apple has shown us, this works well. Mac OS X has a very responsive and fluid GUI. Yes I do like visual effects and you should too. Let's not forget, relatively speaking (to what people actually do) most modern computer systems have very capable stock graphics cards. I'm willing to bet the vast majority of the time they are spending most of their GPU clock cycles waiting around for something complex to brighten up the screen. So there you go. You have a fairly abundant area of computational power that's available for the taking. I just hope Aero (WPF) was designed well enough that it's efficient both now and in the future.
Operating System design is an art. No one said it's easy, no one has demonstrated it's easy. Microsoft had an opportunity to make Windows as if they were really trying to innovate and forget about a past known as DOS. Take the fluidity and ease of use (could be better itself) of OS X, build it on top of BeOS's speedy core and principals, add a dash of UNIX stability and we could have had the Vista we were promised.
Or at the very least, the Vista I kind of had in mind.
Would you please crack the floodgates of criticism open?
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