Windows is not doomed

windows For the last few days, articles about a recent Gartner report have been unavoidable in the tech blogosphere. The report suggests that Microsoft’s Windows operating system is going to collapse under its own weight, and that it needs major changes in order to stay relevant. You know, the usual anti-Microsoft FUD.

Finally, today, I came across Mary Jo Foley’s post on the topic over at her All about Microsoft blog:

It’s not news that Windows is huge and unwieldy. Many (probably most) of Microsoft’s own Windows developers would agree with that premise. But to suggest that Microsoft is burying its head in the sand and hoping its problems just go away is ridiculous. And to pretend that online advertising revenues will be Redmond’s bail-out money for its Windows/Office franchises any time soon is a joke.

Finally someone who tells it like it is. Like it or not, if you think Windows is going to disappear anytime soon, you’re seriously delusional. She finishes with:

Microsoft’s continued unwillingness to talk Windows 7 and Windows futures shouldn’t be confused with a lack of plans for how to keep Windows and its successor(s) alive. I think there’s still a lot more fight left in Microsoft than folks seem to realize. And Windows is going to be a key part of Microsoft’s future arsenal, not just a remnant of its monopolistic past.

Maybe we’ll look back on Vista in a negative light, but that doesn’t mean Windows in general is doomed.

Read: All about Microsoft

Vista SP1 coming early after all!

winlogo Well you can’t say that Microsoft doesn’t listen. Last week they announced that Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista was released to manufacturing, but that it wouldn’t be available until mid-March for anyone. Today, they essentially backtracked on that strategy:

We’ve heard the feedback and I want to update you on our plans and progress for making SP1 available to our beta participants, our Volume Licensing customers, and our MSDN/TechNet Plus subscribers…

Mike Nash, the author of the post, goes on to explain that Volume Licensing customers will receive SP1 on Friday, and that MSDN and TechNet Plus subscribers will have access “later this month.” Broad availability is still slated for mid-March.

It would have been better if they had just put the download up already, but this is a step in the right direction at least.

Read: Windows Vista Team Blog

Windows Vista SP1 RTM

winlogo This is very, very strange. Microsoft announced today that Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) has been released to manufacturing, which should mean that it’s ready to go. Yet for some reason, they have decided to not make SP1 available until March:

In mid-March, we will release Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Update (in English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese) and to the download center on microsoft.com.  Customers who visit Windows Update can choose to install Service Pack 1.

The post talks about some driver issues, but as Long Zheng mentions, it doesn’t sound like they are going to use the extra time to fix those issues. You would think they could at least put the download up at the Download Center. I’m really hoping that SP1 will have a positive impact on performance and battery life and I’m eager to install it!

In other "RTM news" today, Windows Server 2008 was also released to manufacturing! That’s about on schedule. Don’t forget the launch events are happening later this month.

Read: Windows Vista Team Blog, Windows Server Division Blog

Safari comes to Windows

Post ImageIt’s no secret that an incredibly large number of web developers build sites only for Internet Explorer, ignoring standards and other browsers. It drives me nuts. Unless instructed by the client to focus on a particular browser, I build sites that work on as many different browsers and platforms as possible. Take Podcast Spot, for instance. We want it to work anywhere, no matter what technology the user happens to have installed. So far, I think we’ve done a good job. There’s always room for improvement however.

Since we’re a “Microsoft shop” we don’t have any Macs in the office. For testing, we’ve relied on friends and the incredible BrowserCam service. It would be nice to just have a Mac though. Or, you know, Safari on Windows:

Apple® today introduced Safari™ 3, the world’s fastest and easiest-to-use web browser for Windows PCs and Macs. Safari is the fastest browser running on Windows, based on the industry standard iBench tests, rendering web pages up to twice as fast as IE 7 and up to 1.6 times faster than Firefox 2.

Let me first say that I think this is absolutely fantastic news! The more standards-adhering browsers available the better. That said – what about Opera?! Dammit why does everyone ignore the best cross-platform browser. Argh!

You can download Safari here. It’s just over 8 MB. I just installed it and already found a bug. I have three monitors, and dragging Safari to a different screen than the one it launched in and maximizing causes the application to disappear. Oh well, it’s beta. Looks exactly like Safari on the Mac to me though (and that kind of sucks, I hate how Apple completely ignores the Windows look and feel).

There’s lots more discussion from around the blogosphere here.

Read: Apple

Expression Studio and XAML bring markup to Windows

Post ImageOver the years I have designed my fair share of user interfaces. Sometimes they have been decent, other times they have sucked. I’ve taken a few courses on design and have picked up many tricks along the way. For the last few months I have been primarily working on web applications, though I have created a number of Windows applications in the past. The most important thing I have learned?

Markup is awesome.

You can’t appreciate this completely until you have designed both a website using something like ASP.NET and a Windows application using something like Windows Forms. The website job wins every time. That’s why the new Expression Studio from Microsoft is so important:

So, could Flash ever be “force fit” to be the UI of Windows? Not according to the engineers who’ve studied the problem.

They needed a system that could be used to design real pieces of Windows, if not the entire UI, and handed off to a developer, or team of developers, without having to have the developers touch the UI at all.

The rest of Scoble’s post is quite good – he explains exactly the problem that Expression and XAML attempt to solve. I’ve seen some demos of Expression Designer, and I came away truly impressed. Finally the ability to create Windows interfaces using markup. I can’t even describe how excited I am!

Markup has lots of advantages. It is XML-based, and therefore it’s human readable. Being XML-based also means we can validate, transform, and extend it. Markup is extremely easy to write and to parse. For interfaces, markup allows us to separate the interface from the underlying logic. There are a lot of reasons to like markup.

XAML brings the power of markup to Windows, and Expression Studio will make it easy to work with. Everything else (like cross-platform support, targeting Flash, etc.) is secondary.

For more on Expression Studio, check out the official press release, TechMeme, and the Expression website.

Read: Robert Scoble

How could Zune's software suck so badly?

Post ImagePerhaps you’ve heard on the news recently that Microsoft’s new digital media player, the Zune, is hardly flying off the shelves. I guess that’s not too surprising given the early reviews the device has received. Now I know Microsoft is pretty good at hardware (Xbox, mice and keyboards, etc.) but they are still a software company. How is it then, that they could have screwed up the software side of the Zune so badly?

Now I haven’t seen or tested a Zune, so I can’t say I have had similar experiences. And granted, not all of the reviews are so negative (indeed there are quite a few positive ones), but still. A software company should have gotten the software part absolutely right, don’t you think?

Windows Vista RTM

Post ImageMicrosoft announced today that Windows Vista has been released to manufacturing. Everyone is thinking the same thing – finally! Here’s what Windows chief Jim Allchin had to say:

“It’s rock solid and we’re ready to ship. This is a good day,” Allchin said in a conference call. He said that Microsoft is releasing Vista in five languages. The French, Spanish and Japanese versions were actually signed off on before the English version, Allchin said.

Now that we have some concrete dates, let’s compare Vista to XP:

  • Windows XP was released 62 days after RTM. Windows Vista will be released 83 days after RTM.
  • When Vista is released, a total of 1923 days will have passed since the Windows XP release. A total of 4177 days will have passed since the release of Windows 95.

Sources: ActiveWin, Wikipedia

If you’re looking for some related Vista RTM coverage, here are a few good links:

I’m looking forward to giving Vista a whirl!

Read: CNET News.com

Does Windows Vista need Beta 3?

Post ImageVia Scoble I came across a post by Robert McLaws, in which he states that Windows Vista simply isn’t ready to be released. He suggests that the team add a third beta and push the launch back another four to six weeks:

I’ve been defending Microsoft’s ship schedule for Windows Vista for quite some time. Up to this point, I’ve been confident that Vista would be at the quality level it needs to be by RC1 to make the launch fantastic. Having tested several builds between Beta 2 and today, I hate to say that I no longer feel that way.

Beta 2 was a disappointment on many levels. It was nowhere near as stable as it should have been, and was a huge memory hog. Later builds have improved stability and performance, and have introduced visual tweaks and enhancements that make Vista feel more like a finished product. But several events are conspiring to make life a lot more difficult for beta testers, and I forsee problems if they are not addressed.

He then goes on to detail each of the problems.

I’ve always been in the “don’t ship until it’s ready” camp, so I agree with Robert. I haven’t been testing Windows Vista (though I did install Beta 2 onto a virtual machine) so I can’t chime in with my own experiences, but Robert is an expert, he knows what he’s talking about. Additionally, he isn’t the only one sounding the warning bell – remember Chris Pirillo’s crazy interface posts?

When I get the final version of Windows Vista, I want it to blow me away. I want it to be the best version of Windows I have ever laid eyes on. I want it to be quick, responsive, and pleasantly surprising when I least expect it. I want it to be a solid, finished, and polished release. If adding another beta and delaying the launch is what it takes to get there, so be it.

Read: Robert McLaws

Download Windows Vista Now!

Post ImageIts another sign that Windows Vista is inching closer to launch. Microsoft today announced the “Customer Preview Program” that enables pretty much anyone to download and test out the latest version of Windows Vista:

The software maker is still cautioning that Vista is not ready for the average consumer, pitching the CPP as suited for developers and tech workers, as well as hard-core enthusiasts who don’t mind a few bugs and have a spare machine for testing. Microsoft also recommends those interested in the CPP run its recently released adviser tool, which helps detect how Vista-ready a PC is.

If you think you fit the bill, you can download Vista from the Microsoft website. I’ve had it running in a virtual machine for about a week now, and it’s pretty cool, but very slow inside the VM.

Read: CNET News.com

See Windows Vista

Post ImageI just stumbled across the SeeWindowsVista site via Scoble. It’s basically a marketing site that gives you some interesting information on what Windows Vista can do for you (when it finally launches).

Apparently the site got 39,000 unique visits in the first 24 hours of being live, which is pretty good. My only complaint with the site? Let me see the start menu! Gah, why put the icon there in the bottom left if it doesn’t do anything?! I was very disappointed I couldn’t activate a virtual start menu.

Read: SeeWindowsVista