How about a really bold Windows Vista prediction?

How about a really bold Windows Vista prediction?

Summary: Gartner boldly predicts that Vista is the last big Windows release ever. Oh, now that's daring. I connected a few extra dots and have a bolder prediction. What if Microsoft carved Windows up into pieces that didn't have to run on Windows at all?

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TOPICS: Windows
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I realize I'm a little late to the party on this story, but I'm just now emerging into the world again after three weeks of essentially 'round-the-clock work. Glad that's over.

So, anyway, I missed the original report where Gartner boldly predicts that Vista is the last big Windows release ever. Oh, that's daring. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict the sun rises in the east tomorrow. The difference is you'll know exactly how accurate I was tomorrow morning, whereas we'll have to wait 5-7 years to see whether Gartner was right. I guess after totally blowing their Vista ship-date prediction they decided to issue one with a longer time horizon.

But just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not interesting. Long Zheng tumbled across a particularly relevant Microsoft patent application. Mary Jo already did a good job of connecting a couple of other dots, rightly noting that Gartner's prediction is "sweeping and vague":

How is Gartner defining "big"? And what will count as an "operating system release," going forward? Will a service pack count? Does a rollup of hotfixes and new features constitute a new Windows release?

What about Microsoft's so-called "Cloud OS" project? Or Microsoft's ongoing moves to modularize Windows (as further evidenced by its patent application for a pay-as-you-go OS)? When elements of what used to be part of a desktop-based version of Windows debut as services, does that actually make an operating system release "smaller," in terms of size and/or importance?

Absolutely right.

Here's one observation I can add from personal experience. Gartner flubbed their Vista ship-date prediction earlier this year because they didn't notice that Vista is being built differently than any previous version of Windows. The modular nature of the project is what allowed it to come together at the end in record time (faster than I thought possible) and with better-than-average quality for a Microsoft OS release. (You may interpret that any way you want.) During the beta testing process, those pieces weren't always in sync, leading to some pretty miserable experiences for testers until the very end.

The point is that the modular Windows we're discussing already exists. The different editions of Vista are really just a base version plus some feature packs. The Media Center add-on is probably the best example, being in its fourth major iteration in just over four years and being developed separately from the underlying OS. Although it's been sold as a separate operating system, it's really just a big feature pack. When you upgrade from Vista Home Basic to Home Premium, you're essentially adding on the Media Center feature pack (and the Tablet PC feature pack and the Aero interface pack, etc.).

If you upgrade from Home Basic to Business Edition, you get what could be called the Advanced Networking and Business Tools package, with support for corporate networks, better file encryption, the ability to host a Remote Desktop session, image-based backup, and fax and scan tools. Plus the Aero pack and the Tablet PC pack, but not the Media Center pack. If you want the whole shootin' match, you get Vista Ultimate, which has all those modules included.

So it doesn't take much insight to predict that a future Windows OS will consist of some sort of basic package (a kernel plus more "other stuff" than most purists would like to see) plus feature packs and services. In fact, within a couple of years Windows Vista could easily be sold the way Dell sells PCs, with loss-leader base versions and a build-your-own-edition that you configure with a mix of features and services, and which can be upgraded at any time, the way you add features to your wireless phone provider's package.

And who says those features have to run on Dell PCs? If I wanted to make a truly bold prediction, I'd try something like this:

Within three years, maybe less, Microsoft will have a version of its Media Center software specifically designed to run on Intel-based Macs, using either native OS X or a Windows virtualization layer.

A Microsoft Media Center for the Mac could use the exact same interface as its Windows counterpart. If it supported all the add-ins that are being developed for Media Center, that would be a huge plus. It would need to support a very limited assortment of hardware and could even lag its Windows counterpart by a few months in the release cycle. The Office team has already proven that Microsoft can sell a lot of software and make a lot of money this way.

What if the Media Center Program Guide and scheduling features came with a monthly charge, just like TiVo, but purchasing this year's Media Center edition got you a free one-year subscription? There's your incentive to upgrade. And what if they found a way to support CableCard devices and conditional-access satellite decoders? That sounds like a TiVo killer to me.

Yes, crazy, I know. But if you're going to make predictions, you might as well be daring. 

And wouldn't it be ironic if the Mac won the battle for the living room but Microsoft wound up making more money?

Topic: Windows

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12 comments
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  • Message has been deleted.

    ronentzadok@...
  • more prediction

    You have seen the future!

    It is "pay by the month OS" !!

    They are practicing this with the

    "reduced functions" idea.

    The hackers have been tricked into

    helping Microsoft perfect the system.

    Look at Directv .

    You can set it up and look at "previews"

    all you want. But, to use all it's functions,

    you have to pay.

    Microsoft will eventually include the setup disk,

    and you call with a major credit card ,

    sign up for the exact parts of the OS you need,

    and start making monthly payments.

    But, I also, could be completely wrong,

    that's why it's only a prediction!
    knash
    • Haha

      "Hackers have been tricked by Microsoft". So true, but so funny. Genius.
      mrmckeb@...
    • Not likely. Not likely at all.

      Your prediction is only possible in a world where Microsoft stops doing market research and simple make the erroneous assumption that the 90%+ of the world that uses their operating systems would like to add one more monthly bill to the collection. Sure, that way when someone who is low on cash that month, out of work or whatever, not only will they loose their internet connection, their whole PC will shut down because they cannot pay their monthly Microsoft OS bill.

      Its my suspicion that Microsoft is figuring out ways to ensure they do not loose their market share,not discover new ways to put it at risk. Charging a monthly fee for a computers operating system; which used to come pre-installed for a nominal fee included in a computers purchase price, would have to be categorized as a move well beyond risk, it would be a virtual guarantee that many people who didn't want that extra monthly bill would explore other options. And if people found other options that worked...that would be the beginning of the end for Microsoft.

      Finally, we have all seen how long it takes to get the public to upgrade to a new version of Windows under the best of circumstance. Personally, if I was looking at a monthly bill coming in in order to facilitate an OS upgrade I would see just how long I can make the old OS run. About fifteen years sounds good for Vista if they want to charge by the month for the next one as XP has worked for 7 years just fine for me and I expect to get at least another 2 or 3 years out of it. Hell, there are some people who still run Win98se because they wont cough up the price for a new XP disk. Try telling them the operating system after Vista will charge by the month and they will learn to live off Win98 forever.
      Cayble
  • Hmm...

    I don't want to see Macs in anyones living rooms...

    But back to the modular design - my prediction would be that after launch, Vista customers that have the "Windows Genuine Advantage" will have access to a whole host of iLife style applications - many of them may even be better than iLife, making Vista (and a legal copy of it at that) worth the purchase over any other OS.
    mrmckeb@...
  • A Bolder Mac Prediction

    TV is push media and the attempt to compete with broadcast, cable and satellite
    TV is hopelessly misguided. "New use", hybridized and short form media will carve
    out a niche and appeal to a younger demographic, but IPTV will be a non starter
    for some time, and likely will continue to be delivered by cable co's, not Microsoft.
    The antritrust implications alone will torpedo it. The "winner" will be the first to
    legitimize the coveting of bits. Compare iTunes one click purchase with real
    money to the Zune/XBox monopoly money point sytem?who is making the most
    headway? Who supports the new forms like podcasts?

    These "killer" assumptions are just more chest beating. There is no iPod killer
    because no one wants the iPod dead. There won't be a TiVo killer because no one
    wants it dead either. The Zune, god rest it's soul, just committed suicide. Get a
    grip, the winner is no longer the technology kills but the one that allows good
    ideas and good products to coexist.

    But hey, coexisting and modularity are great. We're agreed. As Microsoft coats NT
    with more paint and starts a slow decline, it's entirely possible that 50 million
    lines of Vista code are destined to become Apple's gaming module.
    Harry Bardal
    • At least you're consistent

      Who mentioned iTunes or iPod or Zune or any of the rest of the ideas in this mishmash? I didn't mention killer apps either, As always, you're ready, willing, and able to change the subject. Nice work!
      Ed Bott
      • It's only nice work

        when it goes unnoticed...
        John Zern
        • Your right...

          It wasn't nice work...it was bizarre.
          Cayble
  • Really bold: The more things change

    the more they stay the same.

    Microsoft won't be able to change their model because Apple won't change theirs.

    More portability to OS X will increase the pressure on MS to lower prices and improve operability.

    The only big buyer of Vista in the first two years will be the US government because there is no real compelling new feature in Vista to justify the expense.

    But then, I'm an ABMer. LOL
    mlindl
  • Windows and Modulare should never exist in the same sentence... (NT)

    (NT)
    ju1ce
    • Windows and Modulare should never exist in the same sentence...

      Because you misspelled modular? Take a look at IIS7 coming in Longhorn server and that will give you an idea about what Microsoft is thinking when they say modular.
      justthinking