I confess: I was wrong about the "Save XP" movement. And I can't think of a better day than today to publicly come out in support of a bold new plan to bring back a truly great Windows version that Microsoft has sadly abandoned.
In 2008, InfoWorld presented their "Save Windows XP" petition to Microsoft President Steve Ballmer. At the time, InfoWorld's editor was practically in tears, as he admitted in his "Final plea to save Windows XP":
Last Friday, we FedEx'd the Save Windows XP petition to Steve Ballmer. I have to say that sliding the memory stick into the envelope was an emotional experience: More than 210,000 users have made their voices heard to the world's largest software corporation. I think there's still a slim chance that Microsoft will change its mind about making XP available after today, particularly if we get more major media pickup and another wave of signatures today.
At the time, I didn't understand how sliding a memory stick into an envelope could cause anything more painful than a paper cut. Oh, was I wrong.
Sadly, the mainstream media conspired with Microsoft to prevent that final surge of media pickup, and XP was entombed in Carbonite on June 30, 2008. Meanwhile, InfoWorld abandoned those 210,000 users and the Save XP movement they so proudly joined.
I spoke to one of those signers this week, a recently retired software industry executive named Craig B. (not his real name), who ticked off the reasons why Microsoft needs to return to its roots. That conversation is what convinced me to change my mind.
For starters, B. told me, Windows 7 is simply too complex to work properly. "Your own editors say that Vista contained over 50 million lines of code," he told me. "And Windows 7 is even bigger! If you printed out all that code your printout would stretch across three continents and eventually wind up in the middle of an ocean somewhere. And then where would you be?"
Windows 7 is also slow, my source argued. I didn't completely follow his explanation here, but the sheer volume of words and chiefly technical data (apparently derived from measurements uploaded by his global army of robot-controlled Windows PCs) was convincing.
And finally, he said, all these new versions of Windows are completely insecure. "The international hacking community targets Microsoft on the same day every month, almost always a Tuesday," he told me. "Microsoft is forced to release dozens of updates to handle these attackers. And still they keep coming back."
OK, it's big, slow, and insecure. So we should force Microsoft to bring back XP, right?
Wrong, B. told me. XP suffers from all those problems as well. He leaned in a little closer and whispered in a conspiratorial voice: "Bring back Windows 3.1."
He was dead serious. And when I thought about it, I realized how right he was. It's less than a million lines of code, even with MS-DOS 6.22 running underneath, and it's lightning fast on modern hardware. But best of all, it's amazingly secure. B. challenged me to find a single Microsoft security bulletin for Windows 3.1, and even after hours of searching on AltaVista.com I couldn't come up with any. He says the ultimate setup for power users is a fully loaded Apple iPad running as a hypervisor with multiple individual 4MB virtual MS-DOS machines, each running Windows 3.1. "None of them can connect to a network," B. said with obvious satisfaction, "and they can't talk to each other. Hell, on an iPad they probably won't be able to do anything. How much more secure can you get?"
I had to admit he had a point. And that's when I decided to start the "Bring Back Windows 3.1" movement. I'm collecting signatures on my online petition in the Talkback section below. If all goes well and Microsoft doesn't stamp out our movement before it can be born, I expect to collect a million signatures and present them to Steve Ballmer exactly one year from today, on April Fools Day, 2011.
Are you willing to stand with me?