The Future of Windows

How can Microsoft keep Windows relevant? We asked journalists, technologists, and former Microsoft employees that simple question, and got an array of answers.

By  |  Monday, March 8, 2010 at 4:03 am

In 1985, almost all PCs sat on desktops, the Internet was a Defense Department research project, and the cell phone revolution had barely gotten underway. It was also the year that Microsoft launched a DOS front-end called Windows 1.0.

Over the past quarter century, Windows has evolved many times, and it will change again in light of Microsoft’s investments in cloud services, mobile platforms, and other new technologies. And as the way people compute and communicate morphs faster than ever, the challenges ahead for Windows are huge.

With that in mind, Technologizer asked some of the industry’s big brains about what Microsoft needs to do to keep its operating system relevant in the years to come. Their advice ranges from merely simplifying the interface to borrowing ideas from other Microsoft products such as the Xbox to giving the OS a complete reboot. Here’s what they (and we) have to say.
–David Worthington, story editor

Kara Swisher

What to keep Windows relevant? Well, a more liberal policy on Windex, I suppose. Wait, you mean the software?

Ok, I will be honest and say I now mostly use Apple computers and have not used Windows on a constant daily basis in years, since when it was on the computer I used at work. That computer was kind of grimy and could have used some Windex too. But I digress.

I think the point is that to get me back Microsoft needs to really make Windows very different than it is now. I would switch if it nailed a touchscreen version, if I could easily use my top applications in the cloud, if it worked exactly the same across a range of devices. I would also like to see better integration with the devices Windows is on, which is to say, more Apple-like. Trust me, I am not wedded to Apple for life and could be enticed away a lot easier than you might imagine.

Try me.

Kara Swisher reports on technology at All Things Digital’s Boomtown, and co-hosts and co-produces the Wall Street Journal’s D conference.

Richard Brodie

Government interference has effectively put a stop to upward integration of Windows, so I think all we’ll see is continued adaptation to new hardware and networking technologies. The next huge shift in home computing is the transition from the cable box to the streaming video player, saving the end user a large monthly subscription fee. Microsoft has known this for years, producing Media Center Editions of Windows way ahead of the curve.

With early innovators now using dedicated hardware such as Roku and Microsoft’s own Xbox to stream videos to their TVs, the time is ripe for Windows to reenter the fray and attempt to become the de-facto standard for home video viewing, either through embedded integration with HDTVs themselves or easy wireless connection to TVs. Home wireless networks are fast enough now that the Windows PC can be located anywhere in the house as long as the TV has a wireless input.

As to the threat from open source software, the problem remains the same as always. With no revenue, there is no money for marketing, sales, or support. All three of those, despite the pipe dreams of software engineers, are required for a product to be successful. Windows in particular requires a huge amount of pre-release testing because it attempts to work with such a wide variety of third-party hardware. That’s expensive.

Richard Brodie, employee #77 at Microsoft, the principal author of Microsoft Word, and once the company’s chief software designer, is also the author of Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme. Photo by Tony East.

Robert Scoble

Some things I’d like to see in Windows 8, or future versions:

1. Far better understanding that our computing devices play different roles. I’d love to click a button on the bottom and have my computer switch between an entertainment mode (like Media Center) to a work mode (with Outlook/Gmail/Spreadsheets up) to a collaboration mode (working with Google Wave or Zoho, etc). Right now switching between these various modes is very difficult.

2. I want everything I touch to be socialized. Why doesn’t Outlook know anything about Facebook? Why don’t my photos automatically get pushed to Flickr? Why don’t I have a news app on my desktop that brings in Tweets from Twitter? Why aren’t notifications built into the system at a deep level?

3. We are collecting digital crap like photos, videos, and documents at a dizzying rate. But how do you organize it better? Or, worse yet, once you get it organized into folders etc how do you back it up? Remember, my HD video files are many gigabytes and pushing them around is difficult, not to mention that I lose track of which hard drive has which files and there isn’t an easy way to upload some of these megafiles to online storage.

4. Cross-device working is pretty difficult. I’m going to have computers in my car, in my pocket, on my coffee table, and hooked up to my TV soon. Moving back and forth between all of these different screens isn’t easy, and if it’s doable each screen isn’t used appropriately in many cases (fonts don’t switch to bigger sizes for TV playing, and documents don’t get simpler for small screen viewing the way they should in all cases).

Why can’t my Xbox be a Windows 7 PC and vice versa?

5. Why can’t my Xbox be a Windows 7 PC and vice versa? Does the world really need separate devices for all these features?

6. The world is moving to touch screens, yet the UI in Windows is still pretty heavily mouse-centric.

Anyway, these are some of the areas I hope to see Microsoft work on in the future of Windows.

Robert Scoble is an author, blogger, and technical evangelist. He is a former Microsoft evangelist and presently works for Rackspace on Building 43. Photo by Ken Yeung (TheLetterTwo.com)

Mary-Jo Foley

Microsoft is already doing some things to keep Windows relevant. It is making Windows available in the cloud. (That’s what Windows Azure is). And it is researching how to make Windows — or whatever its ultimate successor is called — a concurrent, distributed OS. (That’s what the incubation codenamed “Midori” is.)

But what the majority of people think about and see when it comes to Windows is whatever ships on new PCs. On that front, Microsoft is making fairly incremental changes to Windows. Under the covers, Windows 7 is built on top of the Windows NT kernel Microsoft has been using for the past decade or so. Microsoft is making efforts to better organize the guts of Windows, reducing its footprint and improving its stability. (That’s what “MinWin” is.) The company also is investigating how to improve the Windows Update process, making it less intrusive and cumbersome, while still providing users with improvements in between Windows OS delivery cycles. And the Redmondians are investigating ways to insure compatibility of older legacy apps with next-gen Windows releases. All this stuff is goodness.

At some point, in the not-too-distant future, Windows is going to need to be supplanted by “the next big thing.”

But what Microsoft really needs to do to insure Windows’ continued relevance is to be unafraid of introducing a whole new operating system at some point. At some point, in the not-too-distant future, Windows is going to need to be supplanted by “the next big thing.” Because Microsoft has an installed base of over 1 billion, company brass (rightly) give backward compatibility a huge amount of importance. But Microsoft needs to find a way to offer customers a choice of operating systems–Windows and Doors (meaning whatever follows Windows — probably some microkernel-based, developed-from-scratch thing, which may or may not have any relation to Midori). Maybe Windows and Doors will dual-boot; maybe they will just co-exist. Maybe Doors will be some kind of variant of the evolving Windows Phone OS or an offshoot of its Mashup OS/Gazelle research project that is somewhat like Google’s Chrome OS.

In any case, some time in the next five-plus years, Microsoft is going to need find the courage (and the correct marketing message) to cut the existing Windows cash-cow cord to stay relevant.

Mary-Jo Foley blogs about Microsoft at ZDNet’s All About Microsoft and is the author of Microsoft 2.0. She has reported on technology for two decades.

Rob Helm

For Windows to remain important, it will have to win and hold the world of low-end Web terminals–smart phones, netbooks, and notepads–just as it won and held the PC. That means offering a small footprint, strong power management, and well-designed packages of software and hardware that are less open and more secure than a typical PC. For Microsoft, that’s a technical challenge, but even more a business one, because it will have to work more closely with hardware and software developers than it ever has before.

Rob Helm is director of research at Directions on Microsoft.

Ed Baig

The comparison is far from perfect. But as I think about the future of Windows, I actually believe the folks at Microsoft responsible for its ubiquitous computer operating system can take a lesson from their cousins in mobile. With the recently unveiled Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has more or less been willing to start from scratch and offer something that looks potentially very sweet. (I say this based on a demo, of course, and well aware that phones based on the new mobile operating system are still unproven and months away.) We’ll have to see, but what this may represent is a new way thinking out of Redmond: the realization that we as a company no longer have to do it a certain way because, well, that’s the way we’ve always done it before.

Microsoft shouldn’t be burdened by the shackles of legacy computing as it looks ahead.

Now, I’m by no means suggesting that Microsoft has to start from scratch when it comes to the traditional Windows OS for computers, much less prescribing specific changes. Microsoft’s sagging fortunes in the highly competitive smartphone market hardly mirror its still-dominant position in the core operating systems arena. I happen to be a fan of Windows 7, certainly compared to the much-maligned Windows Vista. But what I am saying is that Microsoft shouldn’t be burdened by the shackles of legacy computing as it looks ahead.

To be sure, Windows has evolved through the years, and at a certain point Microsoft has (in other areas anyway) been willing to make a break with the past. Consider how the “ribbon interface” altered the status quo with Office a few years back. And yet when it comes to Windows, Microsoft seems reluctant to take the bold leaps that rival Apple has been willing to make when it feels its software has reached retirement age–OS 9 anyone?

Given Microsoft’s still monster-sized market share with Windows you can’t blame them. And I’m sure Microsoft’s corporate customers wouldn’t want to see anything too radical. But at a time in which so much more everyday computing is moving to the cloud, Microsoft may have to (to borrow an old Apple slogan) “think different.”

When to change is never an easy call to make. My belief is that Microsoft should ride Windows 7 as long as it can–it is generally a fine operating system. But a fresh emphasis on flexible thinking may ultimately open up rich new possibilities for Windows.

Edward C. Baig is the personal tech columnist for USA Today. Photo by Renee Blodgett (Magic Sauce Media).

Next page: Scott Rosenberg, Ed Bott, Edward Felten, Richard Bennett, Guy Kawasaki, Matt Buchanan

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110 Comments For This Post

  1. Tom B Says:

    Rosenberg and Belmont are closest, Enderle, as usual, is the most detached from reality. What MSFT needs to do is what Apple did; get on UNIX. Half-a$$ed, interim solutions are just that, and increasingly feeble-looking in a connected (security-issues), performance (media, video) driven market where MSFT is like an asthmatic marathoner– they just can’t keep pace. Add in MSFT’s tyro UI design and all you have left are the plethora of PC games–but , wait– get a console for games instead and a Mac (or a LINUX box) for real work!

  2. Scott Says:

    Tom B has hit the nail on the head, Windows has simply become too bloated for it to compete on arguably the two most important fronts for an OS; stability and performance. Windows 7 is a huge imporvement over Vista in terms of performance (lets face it, that doesn’t say much!) but it’s clear to see that the age old failing of the Windows platform are still there underneath with perfromance degrading gradually from the time of install. All the nice glitzy UI improvements are nice but give me a slick stable OS over that any day of the week.

  3. Lakia Says:

    Things have changed so much. Just thinking about the technological advances our country has seen within the past few years is scary…From 1990 up until 2010… I can’t believe how things have advanced. I know for the older generations, they probably thought they would never see the day when everything became so high tech… thinking of the future is even more exciting!

  4. Rob Says:

    Windows will not stay relevent because it won’t do the one thing it should (and no one touched on it above): Stop making market dominance the goal. Apple can get crazy innovative because they’re number two; they have nothing to risk. Every move Microsoft makes has to be done under the umbrella, “will this cost us dominance?”

    Barring that, Windows has to be smart enough to know how I want to use it. It must learn from my behavior, update that stupid Ribbon with MY needs, and gently offer me more solutions by analyzing how my current behavior is a problem.

  5. Marc Says:

    Some interesting opinions. For me, Microsoft need to not only make sure Windows works on a variety of devices, but needs to make sure they connect to each other. Live Mesh is an example of something that should be included with Windows. Just as Chrome can sync my bookmarks, Windows should be able to synchronise everything else. The strength of Windows is that it is supported for a long time and Microsoft don’t break backwards compatibility unless they really need to, and this is why businesses use it.

  6. DD Says:

    Ok here is some free advice for Microsoft. If you want Windows to be relevant in the future, start by reforming your company!

    The glory days of Microsoft were driven by a rapidly growing company with outrageous stock options. Those days are gone and so the pathologies that were suppressed by the crazy amounts of money have now risen to the foreground. There seems to be crazy amounts of politics, dysfunctional human resources issues, and widespread morale problems. Fix the company by restoring appropriate incentives, get rid of useless middle management and enable the smart people to get their ideas into your products.

    Sadly, I don’t think this will be possible with current management (starting at the top).

    DD

  7. Andre Da Costa Says:

    I believe Windows will be around for a long time, I can safely predict it will be here still in the next 10 to 20 years simply because Internet ubiquity and the level broadband access needed to have that magical streaming access to things we take for granted like watching a DVD movie without interruption, listening a song on demand, or editing photos or video without glitches don’t exist in a world of ip addresses, well at least not for the majority.

    When you think about the over 6 billion people who live on this planet, its definitely a big enough pie for a lot of the competing technologies, whether its the traditional fat, thin clients, web browser or mobile devices. But to say one will rule them all is just nonsense. I am still using GPRS because my ISP has no interest in supporting a rural area, that means a Chrome OS PC is out of the question and a Windows PC still remains the best choice for compatibility, ease of use and accessing the Internet while still being productive. This is the state of computing for hundreds millions of people around the world today and will probably remain such a state for decades.

    I am not saying we won’t have a fully Internet enabled society, just that we won’t have a fully enabled broadband society, which will still make products such as Windows and Office still important to many. You have to also look at factors such as do businesses really want push all their information into the cloud, do end users want to do that too? I still believe millions of people will still have confidence in having something they can keep off the Internet, and that’s a Windows PC.

    Of course, I do see the Internet shaping future releases of Windows (my personal opinion and nobody else), by of course, offering a smaller footprint, providing a lot of more hybrid, web/local apps that kind of offer the best of both worlds, meaning a Windows that’s less prone to attack, easier to manage, setup and deploy. I see Windows Live being critical to this, just the other day, I pondered, what would Windows look like in 2016, I think its a possibility that there will be a melding of the browser with the desktop. Its possible Microsoft might infuse some of Googles concepts by having a different type of PC that loads a small embedded version of Windows with just the basics. When you log in, it actually loads a Remote Desktop Session of Windows in a IE web browser tab which are setup as separate processes hosted on Microsoft servers. You will still have things like local storage, but the essence of the Windows experience will remain, you can install applications or load streamed ones like (Office 2010) Microsoft will need to bring in partners on this like Adobe, AutoDesk, Intuit, Quark.

    So you will have the desktop in the browser and still be able to browse the web in a separate tab. I will need to create a concept of this.

  8. Bob D Says:

    Many of them had it right. Do what have should have been done with Windows 7 – start over with a small, fast, secure kernel, and use virtualization to run older software, If Windows XP or Windows 7 can run well under virtualization in OS X or Linux, no reason why it couldn’t run well under whatever Windows 8 turned out to be, and Microsoft already has the needed technology.

  9. bdk Says:

    If Microsoft hasn’t been working on a brand new operating system other than Windows, then it’s probably too late for them to remain on top.

    Windows tries to be everything to everyone and it’s collapsing under its own weight. What’s the difference between Windows 95, which fit on floppies and Windows 7 which uses most of a DVD? You can play games on both, browse the internet, chat, video conference, etc. The difference is Windows 7 is more complicated by magnitude tenfold.

    While Apple has lost it’s vision of making OS X east to use, it’s still easier to use than Windows. And the iPhone has shown that you don’t need a gigantic computer and operating system to do the same everyday tasks. This simplicity has resulted in tens of millions of iPhone users.

  10. Philo Cavecci Says:

    Kara Swishwer’ comments are are clear illustration why she shouldn’t be taken seriously. To win her back!?? Surely she jests. If I was Walt Mossberger, I’d be embarrassed by such frivolous comments. If Swisher can get by using a Mac, she isn’t doing any serious business computing. Worse, she dosen’t understand what that means.
    Scoble? What would you expect from someone who doesn’t ever have a serious thought. He wants to socialize excel. Right.

  11. David Worthington Says:

    @Philo Thank you for your comments. there are four other pages to the story with additional opinions that you might find interesting.

  12. ediedi Says:

    Microsoft maybe has a future in new hardware+software platforms: the xbox is a good example.
    As for Windows: it’s the main downside to buying PC hardware.

  13. Paramendra Bhagat Says:

    I feel like the Chrome OS might be onto something and I eagerly await its arrival later this year. Windows might not want to ditch most of Windows, which is what the Chrome OS wants to do. The Chrome OS wants to get out of the way so you can go straight to the browser where most of us reside. Windows, on the other hand, is in your face. The reason for its success will also be the reason for its decline.

  14. John Dingler Says:

    Brodie wants MS to become an even bigger predatory monopoly, you know what that is, right? It’s where a company stifles innovation via predation. The more predatory MS would, the more Brodie would like it.

  15. freshmalta Says:

    What makes Windows still relevance is probably the lack of knowledge about the alternatives. This isn’t the case everywhere but there are quite a lot of places where this problem exists.

    Being Maltese, I have grown up knowing only about Windows and only little knowledge about Open Source products. I had all my training based on Windows and therefore regularly opted to use Windows – simply because I knew more how to use it. This is changing as we speak and more training is being provided. Personally, I have no problem using Linux Operating Systems but only because I had the initiative of installing and ‘exploring’ the new OS. Many stop at windows simply because its the only OS they know how to use and manage. More training on Open Source products would definitely increase their usage in my opinion.

  16. Wello Says:

    Windows is only designed for desktops and laptops. Other operating systems are going to rule other markets such as in cars, fridges.. heck even in toasters. Linux has a lot of potential there so we can just hope Microsoft won’t go with the flow.

  17. dude Says:

    Few of these comments are about the operating system, the boring middleware that controls the hardware. Most are about the UI and applications that run on top of the OS. You can buy or write software to meet nearly all these “complaints”. The issues for an OS are security, performance, modularization, error management, and other shared services. The desktop wallpaper has nothing at all to do with the OS!

  18. johnkerr48 Says:

    If the future means more overhead for infrastructure people, and higher costs for goods and services because companies have higher overhead, then I’ll stay at home with my Mac. Doesn’t anyone notice all the stuff they have to bring into the building when they go with Windows machines and networks? Would it be any more stable or cheaper if Windows were also based on Unix?

  19. britmic Says:

    To make Windows relevant again it must own a positive word in the mind. Today, after 25 years, it has earned word associations like “bloatware”, “BSOD”, “complexity” and “unreliable”. The cause of this is irrelevant, because it is what is in the mind that counts, not out there in the real world (which is why brand awareness with negative connotations is actually a positive – not such thing as bad publicity, etc). Compare to Apple who pretty much own the word “premium”, “design”, “excellence” and “simplicity”. Microsoft needs to set its sights on a word and go all out to meet expectations of that word. “Cheap” just doesn’t cut it, they should go for a position the exact opposite of Apple and Google so they can differentiate on perceived value. If Apple is Design/Media and Google is Search/Advertising then perhaps Microsoft should in future aim to stand for Innovation/Science (but is that already owned by GNU/Linux perhaps?). Not just in lip service, but in actual deeds and products.

    I wish Microsoft well with future iterations of Windows but fear their culture has scaled beyond a healthy balance and inertia may be its undoing.

  20. GQB Says:

    Wow…
    I always wondered why Fake Steve Jobs mocked Scoble, but now I know.
    The best in 1980’s thinking.

  21. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Microsoft should merge with HP and Dell and stop being a “software company.” That is an antiquated idea. It’s a way to absolve yourself of responsibility for delivering solutions because you only ever ship part of a product. It’s a way to absolve yourself of liability because software has no warranty. With CD/DVD going away, the rationalization for a 3rd party operating system gets even more ridiculous. Compare Windows 7 Ultimate DVD $399 to a Mac mini which is $599. There is a serious problem there.

  22. Eric Says:

    How to make Windows relevant?

    Stop living in an echo chamber.

  23. SurlySue Says:

    The idea that MS cares about home users is somewhat dated, as they make the vast majority of their profits in the business market. They OEM licenses to companies like Dell, who then sell 10,000 PCs at a time to large companies, and sell all the ancillary licenses for all the other MS enterprise software that goes with them. No home user is going to set up Exchange or Active Directory or other cash cows for MS, so they really don’t care. And it’s unlikely that companies need anything much more than MS currently delivers as an OS, except that they’d like to make things easy to administer over vast networks (software updates, security settings, etc.). In this vane their is hardly MS needs to do to earn vast sums of money, so it is unlikely they will change direction. Home users who buy Windows are putting round pegs into square holes–its a product not designed for their needs.

  24. davesmall Says:

    Microsoft is yesterday’s news. This is a company in decline. Ever since Steve Ballmer took over in 2000 the stock price has been going sideways.

    Microsoft employees traditionally made their fortunes via appreciation of their stock options. With zero appreciation in ten years most of the talent has flown the coop for greener pastures. Goodbye Mark Lucovsky, etc.

    There is no hope for a rebound with Ballmer in charge. Even without Ballmer, it’s going to take a miracle worker to challenge Apple.

    Adios Microsoft. It’s been nice knowing you.

  25. Mariusz Says:

    1. realize the gravity of the situation MS is in (mobile and desktop)
    2. abandon proprietory technologies in web, video, programming frameworks, etc. in preference of international standards and open source
    3. completely redesign the Windows UI. Make sure everything has a clear purpose, especially any “fancy” animated transitions, i.e. don’t do anything simply because it seems cool (it almost always isn’t)
    4. make everything a lot more consistent, from Windows UI, Office, to programming tools and APIs – it’s chaos at the moment to say the least.
    5. completely touch based version of Windows and Office could be cool but take care of points 1-4 first

  26. Mike Says:

    I’ve got to start contributing to Wine or ReactOS. What, at least three of these pundits have it that Windows’ biggest problem is all these “legacy” programs it’s able to run. Basically, you’re telling Microsoft to kill the company I work for when you say to kill the native API. I hope they’re not listening. Yeah, don’t you hate operating systems that run lots of software. Kill those APIs! Get rid of those MFC and C runtime dlls pronto!

  27. DTNick Says:

    Microsoft needs to let go of the past. That is, to some extent they need to do to Windows what Apple has done: they need to kill off older technologies in favor of newer ones and let go of a lot of the legacy baggage. Sure, it won’t be easy. Sure, some people will be upset. Sure, there will be a transition period. But Windows–and Microsoft–would be a lot better off in the end.

  28. Andre Richards Says:

    “This is a horrible thing for Microsoft. You don’t see Apple having to put up a ballot screen”

    Why do people keep whining about this? MS has to submit to these kinds of demands because it has been determined that they have illegally leveraged their monopoly power to create an anticompetitive environment. One of the tools they used to do so was bundling of their own applications, so the remedy focuses on that. Apple has not been judged to have ever done anything illegal in that manner and therefore can continue bundling with their OS whatever they see fit.

    What is so hard to understand about that?

  29. Mick Says:

    Sheesh…some of these comments are incredible. Moving to Unix/Linux is not the answer. Windows is becoming more modular with the creation of MinWin…which is the stripping down of the kernel for use in more modular devices…like toasters.

    In addition, Microsoft has made some incredibly smart business moves…like giving away developer tools and making it *easy* to develop software for their platform. You can download C# Express, VB.NET Express, C++ Express.NET all for free right now and have an application up and running in minutes thanks to their free tutorials, and excellent tutorials (http://blogs.msdn.com/coding4fun/).

    Ballmer was right when he screamed “Developers, Developers, Developers!”. Microsoft has made it easy to write applications for their platform, which is why there are so many high quality programs for their OS which controls 90% of the market…that’s an important statistic to remember.

    I use Linux on a daily basis, and I write a lot of code…love it or hate it, Microsoft will be here in 20 years, and will still be a major factor.

  30. Marc Says:

    Microsoft would have gone bust 15 years ago if some of the people commenting here were running it! Who in their right mind “redesigns their UI” when it’s the most successful UI in the world? You want consistent APIs? have you ever coded in C#/.NET/WPF? As for ballot screens, it makes me laugh how still nobody uses Opera, yet Firefox came from nowhere and now has around 30% of the market. I think it says more about Opera than about Microsoft, plus most people don’t care what browser they use.

    On the UI front, I would like to see some of the great looking innovative new screens Microsoft have shown off on Windows Mobile 7 making their way into the desktop version of Windows, much like we have Media Center, we could also have ‘Touch Center’ or something. That way tablet PCs can become more usable.

    I can’t see why Microsoft would want to “start over” as many people have suggested they should. Apple didn’t write a new operating system from scratch, they took a 20-year-old tried and tested code base, added some of their own technologies and made it user-friendly.

    At the lowest level, Windows powers PCs, servers, games console, phones, ATM machines, set-top boxes, robotics and other weird and wonderful devices. Why throw away 20+ years of innovation? Microsoft *is* deprecating old APIs (there is no 16bit emulation in x64 versions of Windows for example) but one of its strengths is that is will support software for years to come. While consumers may be OK with having to upgrade their OS to change their web browser, most businesses won’t be. After all, when people upgrade their OS and something doesn’t work, they won’t think “well good on you Microsoft for removing horribly old-fashioned that API” they curse at their PC for not working and assume it’s Microsoft’s fault.

  31. Ricardo Says:

    I read all the answers, and what popped out at me where the number of times the respondents suggested that Microsoft borrow this or that idea from Apple. So why would someone hang around waiting for MS to implement these “new” ideas if they can be had already from another company?

  32. batitude Says:

    I don’t understand the apparant “mass” of people who want touch screen computers! I don’t want to touch my screen (just the fingerprints alone would annoy me!). Oh, it is fine for things like flipping pictures, or scrolling, but 95%+ of my time is spent actually working – and that requires being able to type quickly – tell me how you do that on a touch screen? I understand some applications, but I use my computer for working #1, and outside of some inventory taking, hospital medical records, etc. I don’t see very many business applications where touching the screen or even using a tablet PC is going to make sense.

  33. Removing Legacy won't work without industry support Says:

    Microsoft tried to remove the ‘legacy’ support with Vista…. the web cried out that it BROKE all of their hardware as unless you had the newest piece of kit AND the manufacturer had created drivers for Windows Vista, it wouldn’t work. Many companies run all sorts of legacy hardware, which windows *needs* to support… unless the world all changes to modern kit overnight, legacy hardware support needs to stay.
    Apple is able to do it because they are completely vertically integraded (communist), controlling everything from hardware to the applications you run.

  34. Mark Newhouse Says:

    While the answers were very interesting (and often amusing) to read, I think the wrong question was posed. Windows will continue to exist for a long time, whether or not it is relevant. A better question to ask would be, “What does Microsoft need to do to stay relevant?”

    Many of the pundits references to Google’s Chrome OS and the iPad bear this out – the game is changing, and there are others who are already writing the rules. MS’s new mobile OS shows that there are still those in Redmond who recognize this, but it is obvious by the name – Windows Phone Series 7 – that the message has not gotten through to the entire company.

    They really should break free of the ball and chain nomenclature that is Windows and move forward. I would even be so bold as to say that they should think about getting into hardware as well – control the whole widget. This would allow them to continue to develop Windows in parallel with the new direction and migrate people over as it makes sense.

  35. cmd Says:

    @Removing Legacy won’t work without industry support:
    linux works with more legacy hardware than Windows, and works with plenty of new kit too, and still stays fast and flexible.

    also,
    Microsoft either needs to just give up Windows or adapt and embrace open-source / open standards not tear them apart into their own ‘standard’

  36. Richard Says:

    Plug ‘n’ Play software (installation) anyone?
    (a-la Java Beans & Classic Mac OS’s drag-n-drop)

  37. Christopher Tracy Says:

    Honestly, I’m not convinced Microsoft is capable of staying relevant. It has routinely dissed new products from other companies, only to adapt it later. They’ve been quite arrogant about it too, boldly dismissing cloud computing and seemingly paying no attention to Apple’s mobile products. Yet, not only are they producing cloud-based products, but are revamping their mobile devices in the image of the iPhone.

    Specific to the OS, I think Microsoft will continue doing what it has been doing, in part because they don’t know anything else. Eventually someone else is going to make the OS we’ve all dreamed of (Google maybe?) and then Microsoft will find itself once again playing catchup.

    With that said, there is one thing that Microsoft could do that would not only allow them to remain relevant, but erase some of the stigma they gained when found guilty of monopolization. Stop trying to be all things to all people. Focus more on selling and developing products with manufacturers and allow them the freedom to customize Microsoft products. Much like the mobile space works today, manufacturers could hire (or outsource) 3rd party developers who can customize the OS or MS Office to suit the needs of the manufacturer’s audience. Outlook could then be more socially focused. Meanwhile, Microsoft could stop branding everything they touch (which makes them appear to be a monopoly) and allow others to brand SOME of their products. In other words, sell the house, let the customer furnish it.

    Finally, the one thing I’ve seen MS do right, kill off the products that aren’t working. MS Money (hated it) bit the dust last year. They need to get rid of more such products and focus on what they do well.

  38. Gene Trumbo Says:

    I think most comments are ignoring the fact that most of humanity is living on $2 a day. They are going to find uses for the internet that are very low cost. Their numbers will dominate the new standard. Eighty five percent of all babies born on the planet are born into poverty. Linux is being adapted faster in most of the world because it is more affordable.
    Google has the financial strength from targeted advertising revenue to back the improvement of Linux through Chrome. The largest body of application software seems to be with the Debian/Ubuntu distribution, which I think Chrome will be based on. So I think that flavor of Linux will become the new defacto standard. I think OpenOffice.org will also further develop with the help of Sun’s new owner. I think Microsoft is in the same boat as Studebaker, De Soto, AMC, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer. The smart people at Microsoft will be able to make a living, but like NASA after the Apollo program, they will have to find their own ways without Microsoft.

  39. tracyanne Says:

    Personally I see nothing about Windows that is ever likely to drag me back to using Windows for personal use, or even for my personal business, I’m a Consultant. I use Windows (and Mac) if that’s what the Client depends on, but never from choice.

    Windows would have to change in ways that I simply cannot see that happening, before I would go back to using Windows by choice. I’ve been spoiled by my current Operating System, and I miss it’s capabilities when required to use something else.

  40. VMFTW Says:

    Virtualize everything, keep everything portable: Decouple the OS from the hardware. Decouple the apps from the OS. Decouple the user experience from the apps, that is, be task-oriented rather than app-oriented.

    I want to play a game or use an app – or several ones, as a task – save its state, and continue using it immediately wherever I am, regardless of the hardware (as long as it meets the requirements, which I assume it will). Everything runs always.

    Make routine things intelligent and automatic, such as file management by clustering files automatically by file name, time, access time, used with a particular app, etc. Make the file system behave as if it was kept in order by a professional librarian.

    Make the UI scale adapt to user viewing distance and display size.

    Display UI elements only on a need-to-see basis. I hate the superfluous, never used craphics my eyeballs have to feast on every day. The screen would be mostly nearly empty, black or whatever color or wallpaper or video or live stream you want it to be. Every UI element should be customizable and hideable.

    Make developing highly modular apps easy so that the user can grab just the needed functions from an app and keep the rest never seen.

  41. Wevenhuis Says:

    I believe microsoft has a lot of good things going with the windows OS and office.

    I’m getting the impression that the current society is slowly increasing their grasp and use of the Internet and the improved communication technologies.

    Windows is apprantly trying to embrace or stimulate this movement ever more. But I agree with Xavier that the OS is still too complex for the average user. I agree that more should be automated, yet transparant when necessary. Because individualisation is ever increase each computer user has different needs and uses. I think microsoft windows has a lot of basiscs available, but are not tailored enough to the individual user. I think this can be solved by improving the user interface so that individual personal programs can be made using powerful templates. Let’s say more easy accessible and easy and intuitive open source programming. Current programs like the visual basic language and use are still too complex.

    I also agree with Veronica Belmont that the OS needs to keep the possiblity of running old applications. For many the recent quick paradigm shifts are every more difficult to keep up with. People do not want to lose what they understand and what they are accustomed to. Having to be forced to adapt to new technologies is counterintuitive and scare people off.

    If you want to keep your clientel and improve sales, I think the above issues should be adressed.

  42. Tim Sternberg Says:

    I find it quite fasinating that a product (Windows OS) that started out strictly as a business tool has morphed into what we (personal computing) have today. Perhaps we should be asking: “if today, we never obtained the World Wide Web, never advanced past 1G cell phone technology, never figured out MPG2/3/4 compression technology, and never advanced past the 8088/286/386 processor, where would Microsoft Windows be today?

    It is the necessity that drives the mother of invention. I belive that whatever microsoft (Windows OS) comes up with in the future will be just fine and will be JIT with technology for PC users for tommorrow. This does not mean that Microsoft has to scratch and destory 25 years worth of code and neccessarly start from scratch. Nor does it mean that Microsoft has to fully cater to whims of the faddish Social Networking trends that come and go (anybody still remember BBS’s and IRC# chat rooms?) are they not what we presently have today? Just in a different form?

    I truly beleive that Microsoft is on a great path and will be even into the future.

  43. Michael Schipp Says:

    My 2 cents – Next 10 years

    2012 Windows 7 R2
    2012 Windows Mail Removed – Office Outlook Included (never happen, but I can dream)
    2014 Windows 8
    2016 Windows 8 R2
    2016 API frameworks, driver frameworks and beta delivered to 3th part software/hardware companies. C# etc at this stage too
    2018 New OS

    Now new OS
    Native 128bit CPU Kernal
    No lagecy Windows support
    Atempting to install an application automatically installs into fully intergrated virtual Windows 8 R2
    No application can be install (see next item)
    Apps run in sandbox (aka Thinstall)
    GUI completly skinable and GUI creation kit on public MS site for all
    Different apps to be assigned different GUI skins
    No filesystem – Fully index database and metabase

    2020 People might accept it.

    PS MS coders – Job well done on Win7

  44. Rick Bellefond Says:

    We are a Microsoft partner specializing in CRM. The number one thing our clients want is for better integration.

    They hate having to enter the same information in multiple places and then keep all of that information up to date.

    I think that in the future that will be the key focus of Windows and other Microsoft applications.

  45. morta1ez Says:

    Or they could re-release every OS under the GPL once they choose to end support for it. that way others can continue to update them after they abandon the users of xp,me,98, etc etc……. they should also stop just paying lip service to the opensource community and make there on linux and bsd distros. MSlinux and MSBsd, in other words be good cyber neighbors.

  46. Bill in Houston Says:

    Chrome? Are you kidding? Back to the dumb terminal? No thanks.

    I do think that Windows is bloatware personified, but taking the Google route (especially with Google’s abysmal record regarding privacy) is suicide.

    Zeichick, out of all the opinions expressed, is the most thought out and rational one.

  47. Bob Says:

    for all these big words you people are using you sure aren’t very bright. Sure id love to have an apple but the cost is ridiculous compared to the same performance or better from a regular PC. Which is why windows biased PC’s will always remain dominant, Forget about all of the advantages of owning an apple if its cheap people will buy it! Also if apple reverses the role with windows and becomes number 1 you can bet your arse that the luxury of having no viruses or limited crashing will quickly diminish.

  48. Fandom Says:

    For those of you who are begging for Microsoft to start over are wrong and don’t understand how this works. One from the basic stand-point, one of the main reasons for lack of adaptation of other OS from the general public is backwards compatibility. If Microsoft started over, developers would be forced to start over, meaning people would be stuck with older versions of Windows until developers catch up, leaving the door open to the “competition”, which is not in Microsoft’s best interest.

    Another thing is that Windows is a VERY complex system that offers MANY options and capabilities, many of which remain transparent to the average user but are very relevant to developers and power users. Windows is worth BILLIONS and would cost WAY too much to redevelop and we may see another XP disaster, ie a long gap between versions and a drastic change from the status-quo meaning developers and users found it difficult to adapt.

    Software, especially software as large, complex, valuable, and powerful as Windows is best worked on with improvements and not reinventing the wheel. Windows is find how it is, its great and it does not need to be, nor will it change anytime soon.

  49. Robert Says:

    I think microsoft is a great company they really know how to make software, but they have some trouble in hardware design, If microsoft do thing like apple but with windows, they could have a lot of success, and launch product early.
    the ipad it has great sensitivity, is very easy to navigate, but heck it need windows to run the tons of apps for windows, apple is to boring, is for people who only cares about fashion, there is nothin you can't do in apple in not in windows, but there are a tons thing you can do in windows and not in apple, also apple is not even something new, is a modified unix!!

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    Macs are cheap if times equals money. Working on windows takes many more clicks and f@* king around with I don't want to deal with. So I think they are dead to many consumers.

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