Microsoft Plays Russian Roulette with Longhorn

stridey

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Jan 21, 2005
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Massachusetts, Connecticut
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Every time I hear another announcement on what Longhorn will implement or what new tricks it will learn to perform, I have the feeling that I’m watching a show where the magician pulls rabbits out of a hat.

Microsoft’s strategy of releasing bits of information on Longhorn is understandable considering that December 2006 is far away and that hardware producers, software developers and users must be kept alert.

This strategy’s downside is that at some point Microsoft might give the impression of being unsure of what exactly is expecting from the software.

If you read all the announcements made by Microsoft so far regarding the functionalities implemented in Longhorn, you’ll start thinking that somewhere in one of the laboratories from Redmond, someone is constantly looking for the coolest technologies on the market and is integrating them in the next operating system, whether they were in the plan or not.

Microsoft’s ambition of developing an operating system that will last as long as Windows XP and even more is normal, but the way in which it will achieve this is somehow uncertain.

.RAW format support, a new graphics interface with 3D effects, a new search engine similar to Apple’s Spotlight, RSS integration, support for 64 bit processors, a better integration with the notebooks’ hardware, integrated Web service, a new Windows Media Player, these are just a few things Microsoft agreed to admit about the Longhorn operating system.

With Apple’s Mac OS X, which Longhorn owes a lot, and with Google, which is clearly doing a better job at desktop and Web searches, Microsoft is starting to look like a roulette player that is gambling on all numbers and colors hoping that he will win the big pot.

If the new graphics interface is not successful (the old one is also integrated, just in case), that’s ok, maybe RSS and Simple List Extension will. No one will use the integrated
security features? Maybe they will appreciate Windows Media Player 11.

All the features announced by Microsoft are extremely popular and demanded right now. The RAW format is starting to be adopted by more and more photographers, Longhorn announces the support for it. Notebook sales exceed desktop ones, Longhorn promises access to certain functions, such as music playback and calendar without having to turn the notebook on.

Google and other online advertisement providers study the possibility of including ads in RSS feeds, and two weeks after that Microsoft promises that Longhorn will be best friend with RSS, although Internet Explorer doesn’t even know the concept.

Microsoft has made the right decisions with these features, but Longhorn is taking too long to develop and I’m not sure it will be able to handle them properly.

I might be mistaken of course and perhaps Microsoft has a very good plan about all these, but from the speeches held by company officials at conferences one would think otherwise.

I am not questioning Microsoft’s ability to integrate all these technological wonders into Longhorn, but at what cost?

Stability? Hardware requirements? Price? Hard to say! Microsoft is facing a tremendous challenge: how to make an operating system that provides all the features a user wants without having to buy a server to be able to run it.

The amount of resources required has always been Windows’s problem and the fact that Longhorn already requires 512 MB of RAM is a clear indication that one will probably need 1GB of RAM to be able to run Longhorn in proper conditions.

Why is Microsoft now in the position of gambling everything on Longhorn? Today’s IT world is nothing like the ‘90s, when Microsoft supremacy was starting to shape and although there is someone up there who is aware of the market trends, he somehow fails to see the whole image.

Microsoft is actually paying now the price for all its precautions. The company from Redmond was never an innovator. Each time a new technology appeared, Microsoft preferred to wait and only after the practical value was proven, Microsoft went ahead and bought it, or created something similar under license.

For years now Microsoft has ignored the fact that PC is no longer just an interface between user and applications, but a tool used to access sites, online games, chats, e-mails, Web services and many other online resources.

By employing practices which we will not discuss here, Internet Explorer has become the main browser, but this didn’t mean Microsoft learned to innovate.

Although the competition coming from Mac OS X and Linux distributions no longer worries the software giant, its own products might become Longhorn’s worst enemies.

Windows XP has been doing its job for quite some time now, and Microsoft will have serious problems convincing companies and users to switch to Longhorn, which will obviously be more expensive and with more demanding requirements.

Windows XP is already complex enough, but considering what is known about Longhorn so far, Microsoft is planning an operating system that will be exponentially more complex than XP. And as we know, the more complex a machinery is, the higher the likelihood of one component to break down and cause the whole equipment to malfunction.

Microsoft has already announced that it will give up on some components originally included in Longhorn, so to me it’s pretty obvious they are trying to implement more than the system is able to handle.

We will see what Longhorn is capable of once the first beta versions of the operating system are released, but Microsoft’s involvement in several collateral projects– Windows OneCare for the PCs security, Metro (a replacement for PDF), Acrylic (an alternative to Photoshop), the spam offensive (MSN PostMaster and Sender ID) –point out that Longhorn is not the main project.

In a few weeks we will probably have the first beta Longhorn. And I sincerely wish it won’t be a big disappointment.
Nice bit of Windows bashing here. :D
 

astrocity20

macrumors member
Jul 23, 2002
40
0
Texas
I'm a windows user exclusively and after reading this I went ahead and looked for some screenshots of longhorn. I found some and surprise surprise it's the exact same thing. Hell if I could use Windows 95 or 98 I still would, same interface less taxing on hardware... but programs aren't having that.

I'm sure all revisions of Windows added something or another, some kind of hardware support and whatnot but for being non-technical and just looking at how it works... XP is exactly the same as 98 except with a shiny taskbar. For what they bring to the table they should keep things as low on requirements as possible and stop bloating the hell out of everything. All their products are bloated, Windows to WMP to MSN Messenger.
 

runninmac

macrumors 65816
Jan 20, 2005
1,495
0
Rockford MI
All Longhorn is right now (or appears to be) is a over polished version of windows XP. They seem to have made way to many promises that they haven’t been able to keep. From the demos ive seen there new search technology still lags behind spot light because it isn't search as you go. By the time Leopard comes out it will be doing circles around Longhorn.
 

Brother Michael

macrumors 6502a
Apr 14, 2004
717
0
runninmac said:
By the time Leopard comes out it will be doing circles around Longhorn.
Too think all we had to do this entire time was look at the animal kingdom to see what the results of these two OS's.

Mike
 

michaelrjohnson

macrumors 68020
Aug 9, 2000
2,174
1
53132
Well, to give them *some* credit, most of Longhorn's new features come from under the hood. However, from the reports I've read (and the one above), those "big" features won't be in the initial releases and will take a significant amount of more time to complete/implement.

Microsoft is looking like a big blundering idiot... making promises they can't keep, delaying schedules, etc...
 

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,915
1,466
Palookaville
michaelrjohnson said:
Well, to give them *some* credit, most of Longhorn's new features come from under the hood. However, from the reports I've read (and the one above), those "big" features won't be in the initial releases and will take a significant amount of more time to complete/implement.

Microsoft is looking like a big blundering idiot... making promises they can't keep, delaying schedules, etc...
Guess what? This is what they've always done. Microsoft virtually invented the concept of vaporware (and probably holds a patent on it). It's one part lack of competence and another part corporate strategy.
 

Sharewaredemon

macrumors 68000
May 31, 2004
1,927
83
Cape Breton Island
Windows XP has been doing its job for quite some time now, and Microsoft will have serious problems convincing companies and users to switch to Longhorn, which will obviously be more expensive and with more demanding requirements
I like that although every new Mac OS needs a better computer to run every feature. It actually SPEEDS up in terms of usability for older (and newer I guess) hardware.

It seems that Windows, does not, never has, and possibly never will do this.
 

michaelrjohnson

macrumors 68020
Aug 9, 2000
2,174
1
53132
Sharewaredemon said:
I like that although every new Mac OS needs a better computer to run every feature. It actually SPEEDS up in terms of usability for older (and newer I guess) hardware.

It seems that Windows, does not, never has, and possibly never will do this.
*VERY* good point.
 

Sun Baked

macrumors G5
May 19, 2002
14,874
57
Brother Michael said:
Too think all we had to do this entire time was look at the animal kingdom to see what the results of these two OS's.

Mike
Yes, but I think this gelded bull has BSE.
 

Sun Baked

macrumors G5
May 19, 2002
14,874
57
Sharewaredemon said:
ROTFL

Oh how longhorn is so ripe for parody!
Yes it is...

Hopefully the USDA testing will show that this diseased cow should be destroyed before it has a chance of reaching consumers and infecting them.
 

Sharewaredemon

macrumors 68000
May 31, 2004
1,927
83
Cape Breton Island
Sun Baked said:
Yes it is...

Hopefully the USDA testing will show that this diseased cow should be destroyed before it has a chance of reaching consumers and infecting them.
It's a good thing that this isn't a Canadian product, elsewise the US would ban importing it into America.....

:D
 

SiliconAddict

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2003
5,889
0
Chicago, IL
Interesting summery. A couple clarifications on what Longhorn is and is not. Under the hood Longhorn is NOT a rewrite of the OS. Microsoft originally was going to use the code from XP as the base for Longhorn. They were well into development when all of a sudden in Spring of 2004 it was quietly announced that they were dropping that code. No reason why but I’ll give you one guess. Instead they are using Windows 2003 as the core of Longhorn. What does this mean? Well other then the fact that they were well into production when they scrapped everything it means that whatever bugs are in 2003 will post likely be ported over to Longhorn. How many is this? No clue but if you look at the number of patches that have applied to XP and grandparented down to 2000 and NT 4 you will see that many don’t apply to 2003. If this could be because the code is tighter in 2003 who knows. It’s interesting nonetheless. The point is though that Longhorn is not a rewrite, which is what was promised initially.

So expect patches. But all OS’s will get patches. The question is the severity of those patches. Are we going to have more MS Blaster (The RPC security hole thing.) worms on our hands? MS is taking a different approach to security. Whether this is better or worse is subjective. What does a turtle, a castle, and Longhorn all have in common? Answer: A strong perimeter security. If anyone has been playing around with some of MS’s security solutions: read firewall, spyware scanner (FYI - Does more then just spyware scanning.) you will see that they are already working on solutions to secure the perimeter of Windows. The continuing problem with Windows is that you can’t lock down the desktop and give the user limited privileges without breaking backwards compatibility with a number of older apps. MS is in a serious bind with this issue. To a Mac user it may not be that big of a deal but to the enterprise environment it will be the difference between migration and saying screw you to MS. MS spent an unusual amount of time on Window XP’s compatibility mode. This wasn’t just for the hell of it. They know that there are A LOT of both consumers and corporate users who have old legacy apps and they need to cater to them so what is MS to do? Their answer: put a mote around their castle. A firewall is a good first start. Limiting services that run active ports on the computer is another. There are other technologies that MS will be using that escape me but suffice it to say that is their plan. This is all well and good but what happens when someone is invited into the castle (e-mail) and they run amok? Once you get past the mote or the shell of a turtle its easy pickings. So who knows how this is going to play out in the end.

Beyond security we still haven’t seen the full-blown GUI of Longhorn. People keep bitching about how the screenshots we’ve seen suck. Well yah. Mainly because the special effects and features that Longhorn has aren’t turned on. Tell me how good OS X would be if all the graphics features on X were turned off. It would be pretty bland. So is Longhorn simply a reimage of XP? Well only if 10.4 is a reimage of 10.1. MS has an OK GUI as far as I’m concerned. The biggest deal is two fold.

The first is continuing to streamline where the components of the OS are. When I say components I mean things like the control panel or how you view your files. I’m a windows veteran who has done his tour in the trenches of Windows and its ugly underbelly. I know where to go to configure and change things. But for the average user even with XP’s streamlining its still in need of some massive work. I’m not saying it needs to have the GUI thrown out but it needs some more refinement something MS just isn’t good with. Maybe they can contract Apple to design their GUI? They’ve been doing it indirectly for years anyways? Maybe its time to admit it and just contract Apple. :p ;)

The second is its graphics engine. OS X’s quartz extreme kicks the living snot out of anything XP has. Period. No debate on this. I’ve glared several pro windows users down when they start to rebuttal. This isn’t up for debate. It sucks. Period. OK. Right then. Moving on. IMHO beyond security THIS is Longhorn’s bread and butter. Their Desktop Composition engine is going to at last bring Window’s graphics into the 21st century. From everything I’ve read OS X still has the advantage but its narrowed drastically.
So in reality the GUI itself may not be all that advanced over XP’s but it doesn’t really have to be. I myself like how Windows works. The consolidation with the start menu makes running apps much simpler and having your control panel, search area and help all in one location. The grouping function in XP works well other then some bugs that never were ironed out. Well suffice it to say: I like the design.
Beyond that there are other technologies that will be present in Longhorn (God I wish MS would get rid of that codename call it anything: Maybe Operation Hoyvin-Mayvin?) The big deal is the same big deal that made OS X important. You’ve seen the incremental improvements that Apple has made to a solid foundation. OS X was built with a solid foundation. Screw the features that Longhorn adds. As long as the foundation is solid they can add crap into it later. The only question is how solid is that foundation. I question this simply from the standpoint that they are now on a tight deadline for the of end of 2006. Their current recipe smells like jock straps and gym sock soup. Take: Dropping your source code and starting over from scratch. Add a pound of depression from the shock of that decision. (I don’t care how much valium you are taking that had to have had a major moral impact to the team. No one does their best work when what you’ve been working on for 2 years is, for all intents and purposes, told its ****. So they begin again. ) Add a pinch of an ever moving deadline. Mix in stopping the project for Windows XP Service Pack 2 and starting it up again and you have a recipe for a freaking mess. I can tell you this much I won’t touch Longshot with a 10GB bittorrent pipe for at least the first 3 months. It’s going to be a mess for at least that long.
If MS had any failure in this project it was what they’ve done time and again in the past – Promise the world and expect their coders to deliver. Contrary to popular belief WinFS is NOT Spotlight. It would be like me saying Novell Netware is the same as OS X’s desktop client. WinFS doesn’t just search your desktop. It was intended to be not only a search technology but an API that could be leveled across an enterprise environment. Spotlight is cute and all but it focuses on the single user experience. WinFS was intended to take searching to the next level beyond the desktop. MS’s fault is thinking too big. Apple has been doing incremental steps. The reason MS may be thinking too big is that they simply can’t pull this 18 months release a new OS crap that Apple does. Every CIO on the planet would be on Gate’s doorstep screaming for Ballmer’s head on a pike. (IMHO this is why Apple will never overtake MS in the enterprise. Apple’s flexibility is also its curse.)
So this is MS’s big shot for the next 5 year or so. They were shooting for something big. But obviously couldn’t deliver. I’m not so sure about that statement anymore. I think MS could have delivered if they wanted to. I think. [insert massive wild guess here] that someone said that if we are going to deliver a secure OS we can’t keep focusing on these extra goodies and sadly those features got axed. Personally I’m all right with that. If MS can FINALLY learn that security is #1 that would make the whole Longhorn experiment worth it. We will see though. In the mean time mmmmm Leopard goodness. :( I want an OS X Ocelot damn it!
 

SiliconAddict

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2003
5,889
0
Chicago, IL
Sharewaredemon said:
I like that although every new Mac OS needs a better computer to run every feature. It actually SPEEDS up in terms of usability for older (and newer I guess) hardware.
Well it could be argued that since 10.0 had no where to go but up 10.1-10.4 were simply updates getting the OS to the speed it should have been at 10.0. Why do you think they released point versions after point versions year after year and only settled down to a slower pace after OS X reached a good speed.
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
SiliconAddict said:
The reason MS may be thinking too big is that they simply can’t pull this 18 months release a new OS crap that Apple does.
Well, the release proximity of Win98, Win2k, WinME and WinXP are pretty much on the Apple level. And an even more confusing morass in that they targeted subtly different, but overlapping markets.... But recently, this is currently true. And I guess, if you ignore that episode, it was true before that as well (e.g. the distance between Win95 and Win98)

To some extent, I agree with you that CIOs would not be happy dealing with Apple's upgrade pace. Apple's OS design really doesn't comprehend the managed environment in a lot of little ways, such as the slowness with which they're bringing back a credible network home directory type of option.

OTOH, considering how many large managed sites still use Win2k, as opposed to any release of XP, how much does it really matter? If Apple and MS reversed places, the reality is that there would be very, very little deployment of Tiger on the large site managed desktop, for some time to come. Just like XP, as old as it is, is so often not yet implemented on those desktops.
 

MisterMe

macrumors G4
Jul 17, 2002
10,650
28
USA
SiliconAddict said:
Well it could be argued that since 10.0 had no where to go but up 10.1-10.4 were simply updates getting the OS to the speed it should have been at 10.0. Why do you think they released point versions after point versions year after year and only settled down to a slower pace after OS X reached a good speed.
So you subscribe to that tired mantra that because the point release numbers of MacOS X 10.x indicate that the changes are small. Tired and pathetic. For fun and profit, look at the actual version numbers of Windows beginning with Windows 95. You might learn something.
 

szark

macrumors 68030
May 14, 2002
2,889
0
Arid-Zone-A
SiliconAddict said:
Why do you think they released point versions after point versions year after year and only settled down to a slower pace after OS X reached a good speed.
In my opinion, Apple slowed the pace of OS upgrades so that developers have a chance to update their applications to Intel versions without having to worry about a new OS version during the same time frame.


It will be interesting to see what Longhorn actually contains once it is (finally) released.
 

SiliconAddict

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2003
5,889
0
Chicago, IL
MisterMe said:
So you subscribe to that tired mantra that because the point release numbers of MacOS X 10.x indicate that the changes are small. Tired and pathetic. For fun and profit, look at the actual version numbers of Windows beginning with Windows 95. You might learn something.
No I subscribe to the notion that 10.0, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3 were all released year after year because they had nowhere to go but up which was the point of the bloody post.

And don't play windows games with my little man. I have every version of widows on disk since 1.3. I know what version of windows is what. :rolleyes:
 

BGil

macrumors 6502
Feb 13, 2005
333
0
Well, the release proximity of Win98, Win2k, WinME and WinXP are pretty much on the Apple level. And an even more confusing morass in that they targeted subtly different, but overlapping markets.... But recently, this is currently true. And I guess, if you ignore that episode, it was true before that as well (e.g. the distance between Win95 and Win98)
Actually,
1998 Windows 98
1999 Windows 98SE
2000 Windows ME
2000 Windows 2000
2001 Windows XP
2003 Windows Server 2003
2005 Windows XP Pro x64
And that list doesn't include Media Center Edition or Tablet PC edition.
 

BGil

macrumors 6502
Feb 13, 2005
333
0
The point is though that Longhorn is not a rewrite, which is what was promised initially.
1. They never promised a "rewrite".
2. That depends upon your definition of a "rewrite".

Win32 will effectively be replaced by WinFX and .Net
The command-line will be replaced by MSH/Monad
GDI+ will be replaced by WGF/DCE
Windows Explorer will be replaced by the metadata driven Document Explorer
All the Printing, document, imaging, and video services have changed
Windows Media has changed
The UI will change
NTFS5 will see a massive upgrade with NTFS6
Longhorn Server has more cool technologies than I can count
The main kernel and OS are now 64-bit
The driver models have changed
The security model has changed
and with SP1 the user data store and main data models will be replaced by WinFS

That definitely a "rewrite" in my book.

Interesting summery. A couple clarifications on what Longhorn is and is not. Under the hood Longhorn is NOT a rewrite of the OS. Microsoft originally was going to use the code from XP as the base for Longhorn. They were well into development when all of a sudden in Spring of 2004 it was quietly announced that they were dropping that code. No reason why but I’ll give you one guess. Instead they are using Windows 2003 as the core of Longhorn. What does this mean? Well other then the fact that they were well into production when they scrapped everything it means that whatever bugs are in 2003 will post likely be ported over to Longhorn. How many is this? No clue but if you look at the number of patches that have applied to XP and grandparented down to 2000 and NT 4 you will see that many don’t apply to 2003. If this could be because the code is tighter in 2003 who knows. It’s interesting nonetheless.
Yes, Win2k3 code is tighter. After XP was released MS did a major code audit and the result was Win2k3. It's immune to many of the worms that hit XP. The reason they scaped the XP code base was because it didn't support all the things they wanted to do with Longhorn Server and 64-bit. If you notice, XP Pro x64 is based on Windows Server 2003 and not XP. They had a choice of developing the 32-bit client on XP's code base with everything else (Longhorn Server and all 64-bit versions) being based on Win2k3 code or scrap the XP code base and put everything on Win2k3 code. They obviously choose the later.
BTW, Win2k3 code is also much faster than XP code.

The second is its graphics engine. OS X’s quartz extreme kicks the living snot out of anything XP has. Period. No debate on this. I’ve glared several pro windows users down when they start to rebuttal. This isn’t up for debate. It sucks. Period. OK. Right then. Moving on. IMHO beyond security THIS is Longhorn’s bread and butter. Their Desktop Composition engine is going to at last bring Window’s graphics into the 21st century. From everything I’ve read OS X still has the advantage but its narrowed drastically.
What makes you think that QE is better than the DCE and WGF? Everything I've seen and read points to Longhorn's technology being far superior. Longhorn utilizes the unified shader model and hardware accelerated everything including text, all video playback and decoding (MPEG-2, WMV, and H.264), all vector graphics and it completely ditches the notion of "resolution independence" by scaling bitmaps (like Tiger does) because it doesn't use bitmaps to draw anything on the screen ever. And as we already know, DirectX/WGF is much faster than OpenGL.

Their current recipe smells like jock straps and gym sock soup. Take: Dropping your source code and starting over from scratch. Add a pound of depression from the shock of that decision. (I don’t care how much valium you are taking that had to have had a major moral impact to the team. No one does their best work when what you’ve been working on for 2 years is, for all intents and purposes, told its ****. So they begin again. ) Add a pinch of an ever moving deadline. Mix in stopping the project for Windows XP Service Pack 2 and starting it up again and you have a recipe for a freaking mess. I can tell you this much I won’t touch Longshot with a 10GB bittorrent pipe for at least the first 3 months. It’s going to be a mess for at least that long.
I think you don't understand what happened. The only teams that stopped working on Longhorn was the core team. The team responsible for the kernel and other low-level stuff. All the Avalon, Indigio, WinFS, Windows Media, and other teams were hardly affected.
Furthermore, Longhorn Server will be in public beta (as in freely downloadable from Microsoft.com) starting in August or September. Longhorn Client will be in Public testing starting in Novemeber. That's a ton of time to work out bugs and that's a ton of beta testers having access to the product. The public testing of Longhorn will essientially given them the same thing Apple got when they released Tiger to the public in April-- the ability to see their OS in the wild and catch bugs that they never would have otherwise. there's very little reason for Longhorn not to be stable and high-quality at launch. Both Win2k3 and x64 went through the same public process and their launches were extremely high-quality.

If MS had any failure in this project it was what they’ve done time and again in the past – Promise the world and expect their coders to deliver. Contrary to popular belief WinFS is NOT Spotlight. It would be like me saying Novell Netware is the same as OS X’s desktop client. WinFS doesn’t just search your desktop. It was intended to be not only a search technology but an API that could be leveled across an enterprise environment. Spotlight is cute and all but it focuses on the single user experience. WinFS was intended to take searching to the next level beyond the desktop. MS’s fault is thinking too big. Apple has been doing incremental steps.
1. WinFS has nothing to do with Fast Search as you know it, even across the enterprise. WinFS is a new data storage model that enables lots of things including new ways to search, retrieve, and manipulate data. The patents clearly show this.
2. MS didn't originally plan for WinFS to be an enterprise technology. It was client only until they got a ton of feedback at the PDC2003 asking for enterprise solutions. Then they started adding enterprise stuff and moved the rest of Longhorn up into 2006. With the additions of enterpirse senarios and the dependence upon .Net 2.0 WinFS was stuck in the 2007 timeframe.
3. All Microsoft search technologies are very network and enterprise aware (unlike Spotlight). Even Windows Desktop Search and the default indexing service in Windows 2000/XP can index any UNC path including websites, remote computers, and FTP's.