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

Tim Bajarin

It is hard to believe that Windows is 25 years old. I had the privilege of being one of its earliest beta testers. I remember the excitement back then of moving from DOS to Windows and its radical new graphical user interface. While GUI’s have become the standard way we now interact with a computer, this type of an interface is not keeping pace with the next generation of hardware and software that is on track to transform the way we work with computers in the near future.

For Microsoft to make Windows more relevant, it needs to harness the new computing power that is inherent in the next generation of microprocessors, screens, storage, and the Internet and reinvent the way we interact with our computers. For example, touch screens will become standard fare in PC’s, laptops, and other forms of mobile computers and Windows must embrace these screens and innovate within them to make touch interfaces the norm. HP has done a marvelous job of creating their own touch interface on top of Windows on its TouchSmart PC’s, but Microsoft should be doing HP one better and creating a much more extensible touch UI as part of Windows that works across every Windows based device.

The technology inside of project Natal should be standard in Windows of the future.

And gestures need to also be part of the future Windows. Microsoft’s Project Natal, which uses a camera in the Xbox platform to make it possible to play games by using hand gestures to interact with Xbox games, needs to be part of the Windows UI. Imagine if you are sitting at your desk and leaning back and can just move your hand to change a page, scroll down through an online article or even point to a screen app and activate it.

Speech and voice should also be part of making Windows on all devices more functional and relevant. Speech recognition and voice commands could dramatically enhance our interaction with personal computers of all types. It too should be integrated into Windows as the part of any future interface.

And while Windows today is very PC-centric, it must evolve to become more Internet and cloud-centric. Google’s Chrome OS will become a major threat to Windows in the future and Microsoft must figure out how to create a lighter, and dare I say, cheaper version of Windows to serve as a front end on devices that are designed specifically to connect to the cloud to get applications, information and media.

Windows has come a long way in 25 years. And so has the technology and devices that it could work on. If Microsoft wants Windows to stay in tune with the future of personal computing, it must do a lot of work to enhance this OS’s user interface and make it consistent across all Windows based devices.

Tim Bajarin is president of Creative Strategies, where he’s covered the PC industry since 1981. He also writes for PCMag.com.

Jim Louderback

How about give giving Windows away for free? Create a Windows layer for Unix, ala KDE or Gnome. Or perhaps deliver some real, true, easy networking tools that aren’t built around a LAN Manager core that still reeks of 1988?

Well maybe all that, but here’s what I’d settle for. A complete and total break with the 32-bit past. I’d really like a complete 64-bit product that has no support for legacy drivers, programs or code, except in a compatibility (aka pentalty) box. Remember that Windows 95 did this – it made a complete break from the 16-bit world, and it was one of the best versions of Windows ever. The industry needs to cast off 32-bit now, just as we said goodbye to 8 and 16-bit environments years ago.

But barring that, I’d simply like something that would keep all the supercilious mactards from lording their precious Pumas and Tigers and Leopards over those of us that still think computers are for getting something done, rather than simply being an expensive fashion accessory to a chimerical lifestyle.

But that’s just me.

Jim Louderback is CEO of Revision3. The former editor-in-chief of PC Magazine, he also covered Windows at publications such as Windows Sources and PC Week.

Steve Wildstrom

How can Microsoft make Windows more relevant? Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Windows 7 is an excellent product for some users. It will serve the needs of large enterprises very well, once Microsoft pries Windows XP out of their fingers. And it’s a fine platform for content creators of all sorts, especially software developers, and for tinkerers. But for the great majority of people who consume a lot of content and rarely create anything much more complicated than email messages and the occasional letter or school paper, Windows is an intimidating source of daily frustration.

In designing Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has finally shown that it is constitutionally capable of making a clean break with the past and offer a product that, at least based on what was shown at Mobile World Congress last month, seems tightly focused on delivering a good user experience. While Microsoft should obviously continue to offer Windows 7 for those who want or need its power, flexibility, and complexity, it should also create a new, radically simplified Windows for everyone else.

Microsoft needs to strip Windows down to the essentials.

Microsoft should out Apple Apple, which is leading the way toward simplified and improved experiences. Microsoft needs to strip Windows down to the essentials. This will also mean, as in the case of Windows Phone 7, setting strict hardware specifications for manufacturers, because simplifying the hardware is a key to simpler software. The iPad should be an inspiration, but only as a starting point. Microsoft should, for example, support a variety of designs: tablets, clamshell laptops in various sizes, and desktops. It needs limited peripheral support to allow printing and the transfer of photos and videos.

But above all, it should incorporate something Jeff Hawkins told me several years ago about the philosophy he employed in designing the original Palm Pilot. If a function or an application generated an error and the engineers could not quickly guarantee that users would never see an error message, the function went overboard. Microsoft needs a Windows that does less but does it flawlessly and without intimidating or confusing users.

Steve Wildstrom is a technology blogger and analyst. He was BusinessWeek‘s technology columnist for fifteen years.

Todd Bishop

I’m a tech reporter, not a software engineer, so asking me what Microsoft should do with Windows is like asking the guy in the press box how the Steinbrenners should run the Yankees. But I’ve been keeping score long enough that I have lots of opinions.

Of course, there are the obvious ones, such as making the core of Windows more simple, secure, and flexible enough to easily scale down and work on a wider variety of devices. But in my view, one fundamental change will be required to keep Windows relevant in the 21st Century: Microsoft needs to take complete responsibility for the experience of using its product — starting by designing, developing, and selling its own Windows PCs.

Microsoft has the power to determine its own destiny, and improve its product, by completely changing its mindset and entering a new era.

Over the years, Microsoft’s willingness to license Windows to a wide variety of hardware makers has been one of the biggest keys to its success in the market. Despite the company’s efforts to work more closely with PC makers, in many cases the software and hardware still feel disjointed, like they come from completely different worlds. At this point in the Windows lifecycle, Microsoft has the power to determine its own destiny, and improve its product, by completely changing its mindset and entering a new era.

The company should still make Windows available to many hardware makers, but that should shift over time to a secondary business. Operating systems are becoming a commodity anyway. Microsoft¹s market position is strong enough that it can risk alienating its partners by competing with them, setting an example with its own flagship line of Windows machines.

Todd Bishop is managing editor of TechFlash.com.

Paul Boutin

If Windows is to be seen by both home and workplace buyers as something more than a default operating system, the brand needs a reboot on the scale of Bing. In fact, one obvious upgrade would be to have the people who pick Bing home page photos create a set of Windows desktop backgrounds and idle screens that will grab Best Buy shoppers by the eyeballs. They should update themselves daily, but you can save your favorites.

Windows is still too damn slow.

Second, Windows is still too damn slow. I have a laptop on which I’ve run first Vista, and now Windows 7, both installed fresh. Every day when I come into the office, I spend a couple of minutes watching my computer’s hard drive activity light flicker before the login screen appears on my display. Multiple malware searches found nothing. Re-installation did nothing. What on earth could Windows be up to that takes so long?

But as a consumer brand, what Windows needs most is a Bing-sized marketing campaign that doesn’t ignore the world’s doubts. Take them on, head first. Instead of TV spots starring do-nothing Jerry Seinfeld, show me a trio of teens bickering about which operating system sucks the most. The guy or gal whose stylin’ PC runs the new Windows shows them they’re totally wrong about Microsoft. Complaining about Windows? Dude, that’s what my parents do.

Paul Boutin covers technology for VentureBeat, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Photo by Jackson West.

Next page: David Worthington, Miko Matsumura, David Sobeski, Alan Zeichick, Harry McCracken

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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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