Yesterday, I wrote about Microsoft’s efforts to reduce the size of the Windows kernel as part of its MinWin project. Early today I learned of a top-secret parallel development effort being run by a separate group at Microsoft. The hush-hush project is called MaxWin, and if my sources are correct you’ll see it soon.
The idea behind MaxWin is simple. As a development lead explained to me: “You have a terabyte hard disk and 16 gigabytes of memory. We plan to use it all.”
In the MaxWin dev center, large posters remind every developer, tester, and product manager of the team’s motto: “Bigger is better.” When MaxWin is released, it will consolidate every version of Windows ever released into a single binary package, delivered in a 13–DVD boxed set. At startup, you’ll go to a home screen with 26 virtual desktops, one for every letter of the English alphabet, containing all the program icons that begin with that letter. If you click the icon for Paint (1993), for instance, MaxWin will launch Windows 3.11 in a full-screen virtual session and let you edit and save files in the popular GIF and eight-color BMP formats. “I’m living on the I desktop,” a beta tester told me. “We’re super excited about the security benefits our users will get from running Internet Explorer 2.0, which doesn’t support any malware written after 1996.”
The installation process, which takes about 24 hours using current builds, should be cut to no more than eight hours for the final release. “So, our goal is to allow a trained IT person to do a full install on one machine in one working day,” my source told me. What’s the hangup? “We have 22 years of debug code in there, and our M3.14159 milestone requires a reboot every 15 minutes during installation. We should be able to get rid of at least 25 percent of that old code before we ship and cut the number of reboots down to one or two per hour.”
If you’re interested in getting in on the beta program, Microsoft has worked out a partnership with the entire FedEx Kinko’s network in the U.S. and all of Canada except Quebec. You can pick up beta packages all day today. In anticipation of the expected high demand, most Kinko's locations will be staying open until 11:59PM tonight.
Under orders from Windows boss Steven Sinofsky, the MaxWin project will be updated on a predictable annual schedule. Updates will be available only one day per year. In a press release that someone left behind in a color photocopier at the Kinko’s on Redmond Way, Sinofsky said, “We believe the day for MaxWin has arrived, and that day is April 1.”