We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
80,258 News Articles

Opinion: the future of Windows

Do you want the bad news or the good news?

When Microsoft sprung the fact that Windows Vista wouldn't reach most folks until next January, it was momentarily startling - but it was also déjà vu all over again. After all, the tradition of Windows slippage began with version 1.0, announced in 1983 but a no-show until 1985.

Shortly after the Vista news came down, Apple unloaded a true bombshell: Boot Camp, its new utility for Intel-based Macintoshes, would let you install Windows alongside Mac OS X. All of a sudden, one system could be a Windows PC and a Mac.

The Vista delay amounts to only a few weeks - and with Microsoft saying it needs the time to get security right, no rational Windows user would want it to cut corners to hit a deadline. In other words, this is not that big a deal.

The larger question is whether Vista itself will be a big deal. As I write, there's no indication that it will offer much in the way of breakthroughs. In fact, much of what it promises - from tighter security to handy little desktop applets - is already here in the form of downloadable third-party enhancements.

Why isn't Vista bolder? In part, that's because for all of Windows' changes over the past two decades, the business model behind it remains the same. Microsoft still slogs away for years on a gargantuan update, sticks the finished product in a box, and charges $100 or more for it.

Compare that with the online world, where innovative tools and services pop up almost every day and get updated frequently. Oh, and there's the little fact that an amazing percentage of the best stuff doesn't cost a dime, at least for now.

It's increasingly tough for a product as antediluvian as Windows to remain relevant. The new Windows Live services are genuinely webby, but they're not really finished, and they're not really Windows as we know it. That's a depressing prospect for Microsoft, or for anyone who is pinning their hopes on being instantly wowed by Vista.

At the same time, there's reason for optimism about Windows' future. Boot Camp is a reminder that operating systems are ultimately about letting software work on particular hardware. All those Windows programs being able to run on Apple's inventive machines can only be good news.

And the most important thing about Vista may be how it will enable new software to take advantage of cutting-edge hardware such as 64bit CPUs and ATI and NVidia's latest graphics. True Vista programs won't arrive when the OS does - but without it, they'd never arrive.


IDG UK Sites

Where to buy iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the UK: Launch day price, deals and contracts

IDG UK Sites

Is Apple losing confidence in itself?

IDG UK Sites

Professional photo and video techniques for perfect colours

IDG UK Sites

How (and where) to buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus in the UK. Plus: What to do if you pre-ordered...