Why XP was Microsoft

Mike Elgan, who writes for Computerworld U.S. and a numberof other publications, has rendered his own verdict on the XP-or-Vistadebate. Microsoft will probably not be happy with him. Full columnbelow.

“Everybody’s talking today about “Drivergate” — internal Microsofte-mails that show senior Microsoft executives personally struggling touse hardware products sporting the “Windows Vista Capable” sticker. Thee-mails also show that Microsoft lowered its standard for some hardwarecompatibility, apparently to help Intel impress Wall Street.

“This revelation is simply the latest in a long series that add upto one inescapable conclusion: Windows Vista sucks. (And making itcheaper won’t help, either.)

“Compatibility of drivers is just one issue. Another is a convoluteduser interface that prevents ordinary users from gaining a sense ofcontrol over the OS.

“Windows Mobile, Microsoft’s operating system for cell phones,suffers from a similar problem. The Windows Mobile OS isn’t horribleper se, it’s just that it’s completely wrong for cell phones and othersmall screen devices.

“Windows Mobile clearly compromises usability to mimic the WIMP(Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointing device) focus of Microsoft’sdesktop operating systems. To quote Dr. Phil: How’s that workin’ forya? It hasn’t helped eroding desktop Windows market share, and ithasn’t helped Windows Mobile, either.

“The biggest problem isn’t that the company’s newest products areunusable, but that Microsoft may have actually lost the “ability” tomake good operating systems. It may not be able to let go of itsdogmatic insistence on the flawed vision of the same Windows“experience” from wristwatches to supercomputers.

“And there is evidence that delusion or, at least, wishful thinking,prevails at Microsoft. The company’s founder and chairman, Bill Gates,said last week that “Microsoft expects more Internet searches to bedone through speech than through typing on a keyboard.” Hey, Bill: Doyou want to bet $10 billion on that? I doubt even that Microsoft willfix its Vista driver problem within five years. This is the same guy,by the way, who bragged that Microsoft would “solve” spam by 2006 .
Microsoft has never understood the importance of “simplicity,” afundamental design concept it has always swept aside to make room for“feature rich” (i.e., bloated and complex).

“Right now, the Windows Vista type user interfaces are in theirfinal days. The future belongs to what I call the 3G user interface ,which replaces flat icons and folders with multitouch, gestures,physics and 3-D. It’s imperative for Microsoft to get the next major OSright. But how?

“The secret lies in the company’s Surface initiative. Sure, Surfaceis at present a little more than a semishipping demo usable for productmarketing.

“The Surface demo dazzles with its 3G goodness. But what’simpressive and surprising is that somehow someone at Microsoft wasallowed to create a user interface unburdened by “compatibility” withtwo decades of spaghetti code. What a concept! And no “Start” button!

“Another hopeful sign is that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer appears toagree that Surface is important — or, at least, urgent. He announcedearlier this month that Microsoft is accelerating the development of aconsumer version.

“Here’s what I believe Microsoft needs to do to save its vitally important operating systems business:

“Microsoft: I’m rooting for you. I really am. But you’ve got to getyour act together with your core business and ship an operating systemthat works, or this could be the beginning of the end of the company’sleadership role in the industry.”

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