Gartner: Windows collapsing under its own weight; Radical change needed

Gartner: Windows collapsing under its own weight; Radical change needed

Summary: Microsoft's Windows juggernaut is collapsing as it tries to support 20 years of applications and becomes more complicated by the minute. Meanwhile, Windows has outgrown hardware and customers are pondering skipping Vista to wait for Windows 7.


Microsoft's Windows juggernaut is collapsing as it tries to support 20 years of applications and becomes more complicated by the minute. Meanwhile, Windows has outgrown hardware and customers are pondering skipping Vista to wait for Windows 7. If Windows is going to remain relevant it will need radical changes.

That sobering outlook comes courtesy of Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald. Half of a full room of IT managers and executives raised their hands when asked whether Microsoft needed to radically change its approach to Windows. "Windows is too monolithic," says Silver.

Silver also gave another anecdotal point to show the conundrum Microsoft is in: Clients are calling him to ask whether they should skip Vista entirely and wait for Windows 7, which promises to be more modular and potentially lightweight. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has also found an impact on Vista from all of the Windows 7 chatter. Silver's recommendation: Go with Vista but on an attrition basis. As XP PCs die, replace them with Vista PCs.

MacDonald argued that Windows may need multiple kernels to support increasing demands from customers and hardware makers. "One size doesn't fit all," says MacDonald. For instance, look at the various demands an OS has to deal with:


If Microsoft's response is to become more complex Windows' fall will accelerate. As Windows stands today it's already too bulky.


So what does Microsoft need to do?

For starters, Windows should create versions for specific uses. These modules would be able to swapped out depending on the customer. From Gartner's presentation:

The more interesting question here is whether one OS can address both architectural requirements. Microsoft believes that it can take its core Windows software offering and package it to address these different architectures. But can this same approach be extended to embrace cloud computing and real-time architecture demands?

Also see: Jason Perlow: If I were to design Windows 7

Mary Jo Foley: Why Windows 7 might go to pieces

Multiple Windows--that will be virtualized of course--will screw up Microsoft's business model. "Microsoft doesn't like anything in between Windows and the hardware. Ninety-five percent of its revenue comes from OEM's," says MacDonald.

Regardless of the pain for Microsoft, the software giant needs to shorten development times and innovate on an ongoing basis, make its experience consistent between platforms and solve compatibility problems among various flavors of Windows.

A few key redesign ideas from Silver and MacDonald:

Windows should be able to be tailored to specific applications. MacDonald questioned what the OS will become once applications are virtualized. Do you need a full OS everywhere? No. The job of an OS may be taken over by the hypervisor. Stray thought: Taking that logic further perhaps VMware becomes the real OS.

Better security. MacDonald says Windows should link identities to applications so software doesn't act abnormally. For instance, Notepad would be limited to inputting text. Why would notepad.exe have rights to network ports, the registry and scan a file system? Notepad should be assigned an identity and limited to a specific use. "Microsoft doesn't do this today," says MacDonald. "It would require significant kernel changes." MacDonald added that few operating systems limit what applications can do. The one software project that takes this approach is the One Laptop Per Child project.

Make migration to new versions easier. Application packaging takes forever, says Silver. There's also the problem of "Windows rot." Windows rot is what happens to a machine after running Windows for three or four years and it gets slow and barely functions. The fix is to reinstall everything and rebuild the PC. That's a manual effort that takes too much time.

Simplify licensing to focus on specific devices. "Licensing is too difficult for mere mortals to understand," says Silver. The problem: A version of Windows is tied to one PC. The way people work today will require a licensing do over, argues Silver. From Gartner's presentation:

It is possible that several entities will own different hardware and software components on a single machine, and there needs to be flexibility in ownership, management and movement of the assets. Microsoft Windows and Office licenses are ultimately tied to the device and not to the user, which makes no sense in a world in which a user's work space migrates between multiple devices.

"Something as common sense as 'I'd like Office to go with me' doesn't work under current licensing," says MacDonald.

The bottom line for Gartner is that Windows needs to be replaced, lock-in needs to end and product schedules need to be more predictable. Windows should also be more manageable. The Windows user experience will become less integrated to become "a composite adaptive work space," which means in English that some applications will be tied to location and the user's identity.

All of these items are good ideas that are very academic. Will Windows 7 become this adaptive thing that Gartner describes? Probably not. Gartner argues that Microsoft should use virtualization to solve the backward compatibility issue plaguing Windows. Will Windows 7 jettison its current kernel for multiple versions? Not likely.

Some of these changes may happen, but the move will be gradual at best. I agree that Windows has too many legacy constraints with reverse compatibility, but what would happen if Microsoft did a clean break from older apps? Meanwhile, these "legacy constraints" have also provided billions of dollars in revenue for Microsoft. One of the reasons Microsoft has a monopoly is because it still works with older stuff. If Microsoft did a clean break it would give you an excuse to pick a new operating system.

Windows clearly needs to change, but the question is really timing. How fast will Windows collapse under its weight? It'll take longer than folks think.

Topics: Operating Systems, CXO, IT Priorities, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • ...

    LOL... get too greedy and lose your focus. This is the eventual outcome, and Like IBM, Microsoft will have to pare down, rethink and take some serious blows. I don't think Microsoft will go away (too bad...) but they are sure going to get a lot smaller.

    I have to be honest here, while I would hope for a complete down fall the reality is I see Microsoft dropping from 90% of the desktop to more like 60-70% as Linux and Mac will make up the difference.

    Microsoft will suffer losses but the truth is (and that's barring some major miracle) they will still be the dominate player in the desktop arena. Just not as big or strong as they used to be. And this is good for US the consumer. ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • Smaller MS = Better competition

      Yes indeed, luckily monopolies don't last forever and the
      market will become a nicer place for the alternatives. Good
      for the consumer in other words.

      I could not care less though what MS will do as long as they
      don't break a bunch of laws again, kill a competitor, and so

      ZDNet's focus on ONE company is unhealthy.
    • RE: Gartner: Windows collapsing under its own weight; Radical change needed

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  • of course windoze will colapse

    but not under its own weight - OSX is doing just fine by suckering people to upgrade everything every other year, M$ could try the same trick.
    It will be Linux that will deliver the fatal blow!
    Linux Geek
    • hahahah

      linux has had less than 1 percent of the market for 10 years and it's going to deliver the final blow the MS! LOL good one!
      • Coke thought that ... then came Pepsie

        The only thing keeping me from running Linux on this machine is that I need this laptop to do lectures and ATI refuses to co-operate with the people at Linux when it comes to the drivers on their Radeon X1300.

        When this changes or I upgrade to a machine that does have a video card that works, I and hundreds like me will leave the sinking ship.

        M$ tenuous grip is currently held by companies loyal to M$ NOT making their info available.

        My 3 other machines are already Functioning on Linux Ubuntu.

        For the last 24 years I have waited for M$ to deliver on the promise of a functional machine. Each change that I have PAID for ... each upgrade ... has sadly missed the mark.
        The Smoking Man
        • It's all going towards Unix anyway

          A few years ago (1998) I looked at my boss and said, "[i]You know, the NT kernal looks so much like Unix, it won't be long until it is.[/i]" Was this predicting the end of M$? Hardly.

          Is Unix going to take over? Well, I would have to say that it would be through no effort of their own. I do think it will be a natural and VERY gradual process of its own.

          As much as we'd all like to see M$ get its come-uppence, the fact is, they are and will be around for many more years as the industry leader as well as steering the industry in directions that only benefit them.

          But, you know what they say about "Opinions."
          • NT Kernel = UNIX

            The NT kernel resembles UNIX so much largely because of legacy support for POSIX. This was originally required for a large portion of the government business MS wanted to get into in the 80's. Since MS never removes stuff from the monolith, only adds, it is there to this day.
          • ?

            I think you meant NT Kernel resembles MVS

            POSIX was just a snapped on subsystem like win32
      • Really... You make a great argument!

        You are the reason people still use M$... Read your comment. You haven't yet grasped your language. Linux my friend is where it is at. Take a look at Google, Yahoo, and so on... Linux and open source projects make the world go 'round, not M$. We have made great strides in the server and desktop arena, hell in all arenas for that matter and these days it's easier and faster to install Linux than it is to install XP. Why is it so hard to get you folks to realize that you pay M$ to sing their praises(by the by, good marketing scam M$)? It's always amazed me how they duped you into paying for the license and then get you for that fee to tell people how great they are. Shouldn't they pay you for your bad english skills ;-)
      • 1 percent of what market?

        You don't know what you're talking about. 1 percent of the desktop market, that's a little short today but close enough. But you're not seeing the big picture...probably hard to get that view over a cubicle wall.

        You have to look at everywhere an operating systems are used. Servers and embedded systems come to mind and Linux is making huge inroads to those markets.

        Point of sale systems, Linux growth is double digits year over year.

        Now get back to work before the boss comes by and catches you loafing.
      • RE: Gartner: Windows collapsing under its own weight; Radical change needed


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    • The OS will fade in importance... technology becomes more productized. Owners of PSx or any other game console (ditto for set-tops) don't know or care what OS it is running. Such will also be the case when you can buy an product that runs a suite of productivity apps. Gigabytes, megahertz etc. will also become irrelevant when products run their apps at the speed of thought you simply don't care how or what.
    • Another freetard in deep denial

      To quote the Fake Steve

      "Freetards, face facts. You've lost. You've had sixteen years to try and build a desktop operating system, and you still can't get your shite together. Nobody wants your software. It's not Microsoft's fault. It's yours. Because trust me, if you truly developed a kick-ass OS with tens of thousands of drivers and easy installation and reliable performance, you'd be winning. But you're not. Firefox caught on, right? Why? Because it rocked."
      Duke E. Love
  • RE: Gartner: Windows collapsing under its own weight; Radical change needed

    [i]So what does Microsoft need to do?

    For starters, Windows should create versions for specific uses. [/i]

    Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the role all the Linux distros have. I thought that was supposed to be a liability. How many times has the Linux community been told by Windows users that too much choice is a bad thing?

    Go figure.

    none none
    • RE: Gartner: Windows collapsing under its own weight; Radical change needed

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  • Cue the Linux fanfare....

    The fanbois have arrived...

    Although I would agree MS will come down a few notches if they don't clean up their act. All it will take is most likely Balmer to leave and the ship will right itself.
    • Very true, why o why has Steve Balmer been at Microsoft so long???

      They need to put somebody professional in the position.
      • They enjoy the Monkey Boy Dance's

        I guess ...
  • OLPC?

    "The one software project that takes this approach is the One Laptop Per Child project."

    Umm,. no. SELinux does. That's MAC.