Good News for Microsoft About Windows

You didn’t misread the title, and April Fool’s day is indeed 13 days behind us. The good news for Microsoft is that it has some customers who are passionately attached to Windows, some eager for the new version, and, I think it’s safe to assume, some who fall into the intersection of the two sets.

One of my sources for this, and the place I saw the word passion used to describe attitude toward Windows, is an article by AP’s Jessica Mintz. She refers to the Save XP web petition organized by InfoWorld journalist Galen Gruman.

While XP arouses passion, Windows 7 arouses eagerness. This is because it is expected to address the criticism that Windows is too monolithic. Gartner Group’s recent version of this criticism gathered a lot of print and pixels. Matt Asay’s (perhaps partisan) pixels arranged themselves to suggest that Windows needs to become more like Linux in order to avoid such criticism.

So, let’s sum up (by the way, did you know that sum up comes from the Latin for over-simplify) about three generations of Windows. There’s the passion-inducing one (XP), the excessively-monolithic one (Vista), and the eagerly-awaited one (W7). If Microsoft listened to Meatloaf, they’d realize that two out of three ain’t bad. Trying to force Vista down throats that lack the need or hardware capacity for it, on the other hand, could turn out very badly.

Dramatic Vista: Show’s Not Over Yet

Randall Stross, in Sunday’s New York Times, described the story of Windows Vista as “a tragedy in three acts.” The voices of the chorus reveal that all is not well in Vistaville. For example:

Jon… upgrades two XP machines to Vista. Then he discovers that his printer, regular scanner and film scanner lack Vista drivers. He has to stick with XP on one machine just so he can continue to use the peripherals.

Did Jon simply have bad luck? Apparently not. When another person, Steven, hears about Jon’s woes, he says drivers are missing in every category.

Then Randall unmasks the chorus members.

Jon A. Shirley, a Microsoft board member and former president and chief operating officer… Steven Sinofsky, the company’s senior vice president responsible for Windows.

You can probably tell that I like Randall’s dramatic framing of the Vista story. That’s why I extended it to refer to the chorus, and that’s why I’m going to take it yet further, and refer to five-act structure. I’ll leave you to read about the fourth act, falling action if you want.

Let’s think about the fifth and final act, dénouement. Wikipedia tells us that “tragedy ends with a catastrophe in which the protagonist is worse off than at the beginning of the narrative.” Again, I’ll provide an exercise for you dear reader: provide a

I note that tragedy is not the only type of five-act drama: “comedy ends with a dénouement (a conclusion) in which the protagonist is better off than at the story’s outset.” I wonder what conclusion to the drama of Vista could leave Microsoft better off? Maybe it can sell Windows! But who would buy it? That would surely require a deus ex machina.

redditpython.pngI’ve been rather slow to post this: two days is a long time in blogging. I was far quicker to post it to reddit, where it has done rather well. Yes, this is a rather gratuitous last paragraph, but I just wanted to include the cute reddit alien and yet another picture of a snake.

Linux on the Laptop

There’s an excellent article by Glyn Moody in Thursday’s Guardian. It’s about the ASUS Eee PC (which I want still, by the way), its likely effect on Microsoft, and lots of good points between.

The size of a paperback, weighing less than a kilogram, with built-in Wi-Fi and using Flash memory instead of a hard drive for storage, the Eee PC has been winning positive comments… it’s so small, the build quality is high, it boots up quickly, it just works… One thing that is almost never mentioned as a problem is the fact that the Eee PC is running not Windows, but a variant of GNU/Linux…

One of the signal achievements of the Asus Eee PC is that it has come up with a front end that hides the richness of the underlying GNU/Linux.

GNU/Linux has always been less successful on the desktop than on the server side. Now we see that it can work on the laptop, and not just for geeks. It requires less memory and storage than Windows, and much less than Vista. This is particularly important for the Eee PC, which uses flash memory.

More generally, solid state drives are a better fit for battery-powered devices than are disk drives, with their fragile and power-hungry moving parts. And solid state prices are falling quickly…

In fact, the article bears the rather lame title “Why falling Flash prices threaten Microsoft.” In my unbiased opinion, any of the following would have been a better title.

  • Hasta la Vista, Windows: Linux Eats Your Laptop Lunch
  • Linux Leaps to Laptop, Deferring Desktop Dominance
  • Linux on the Laptop

Top 5 Microsoft Internal Emails

There have been some great Microsoft-internal-then-leaked emails over the years. Todd Bishop, who blogs about Microsoft for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, picked his top 5 yesterday. Recent Vista-related emails show that Microsoft still has it.

But for me, you can’t beat the class Halloween documents. Here’s where the author asserts that OSS (Open Source Software) may be proof against the (FUD) (fear, uncertainly, and doubt) tactics for which Microsoft is well known.

Loosely applied to the vernacular of the software industry, a product/process is long-term credible if FUD tactics can not be used to combat it… OSS systems are considered credible because the source code is available from potentially millions of places and individuals.

The likelihood that Apache will cease to exist is orders of magnitudes lower than the likelihood that WordPerfect, for example, will disappear.

A tip of the hat to Matt Assay for the link, and for a typically even-handed assessment.

They illustrate that Microsoft has long been one of the most forward-thinking and self-aware companies in the business…but also one of the most threatened (and threatening).

Microsoft was first to spot the open-source threat. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t also recognize the open-source opportunity.

DRM at the Home Movies

This year will, I hope, see the death of DRM. For an example of why it deserves to die, let’s go to the (home) movies, and to Seth of the EFF. The central character is Davis Freeberg, but his blog has been so busy it’s been down recently.

The trouble all started when Freeberg bought a new monitor for his Vista computer. When he decided to watch streaming movies from Netflix, Netflix documentation warned him that the recommended means of fixing a problem with DRM-restricted Netflix programming “may remove licenses to other content using Microsoft DRM” — including, in particular, restricted programming he had already purchased through Amazon Unbox…

Freeberg’s conundrum is likely the product of… (mis)features that have been added to Microsoft’s Vista operating system… Unfortunately, these kinds of (mis)features generally (1) don’t stop pirates and (2) result in compatibility headaches for paying customers.