Mainstream media writes Windows obit

Mainstream media writes Windows obit

Summary: Wow, a tough day for Windows.BusinessWeek reports that HP, the world's biggest PC company, is so troubled by Vista's 'tepid reception' and Apple's resurgence that it is developing its own operating system.

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Wow, a tough day for Windows.

BusinessWeek reports that HP, the world's biggest PC company, is so troubled by Vista's 'tepid reception' and Apple's resurgence that it is developing its own operating system. Meanwhile a New York Times columnist writes on his blog that Windows is "already dying a death by a thousand cuts."

Sounds pretty dire. But like the Steve Jobs obituary that Bloomberg accidentally sent out last week, this Windows epitaph may be a bit premature.

HP has a "Skunk Works" team of engineers secretly working on its own variant of Linux for desktops and notebooks, according to the BusinessWeek story. A company executive downplayed the R&D project, saying HP isn't devoting "large-scale resources" to it. And it turns out what they could really be working on is a set of driver and utilities that make it easier to use PCs running Linux with HP printers and digital cameras, backed by technical support. Given that many PC companies already sell a handful of systems with Linux, that doesn't sound like a big leap. Having used a Dell Latitude notebook with Ubuntu, I'd say enhancing the driver support is a necessary move.

Where HP really is spending R&D resources is on a customer experience group that aims to "develop software that would make Windows Vista easier to use, or bypass some of its more onerous features." That includes features such as the touchscreen technology found in its TouchSmart PCs, the QuickPlay utility that lets you work on e-mail or other common tasks while waiting for Windows to load in the background, and other graphical interfaces for improving music, movies and digital photography. None of this is that new. Asus and Lenovo also offer some systems with a Linux micro-OS that pre-boots, and Dell has announced it will offer a similar feature on some Latitude laptops. And, as the story points out, Dell's new Studio line includes a Dell Dock that cribs from Mac OS X. In fact, many PC players have offered docks for quickly accessing commonly-used applications over the years.

Google's new Chrome browser is hyped as a Windows killer, but setting aside the whole debate over whether (or when) the browser and Web-based applications will overtake Microsoft, The New York Times's Joe Nocera writes that "ever-so-gradually, the Internet is upending its business model just as surely as it has upended models for the music, television and newspaper businesses." His reason: No one really cares what operating system they use anymore. Users spend most of their time in browsers and Web-based mail clients, file formats are largely interchangeable, iTunes works on both Macs and PCs, and even many games--the last bastion of Windows users--can be played online.

I'm convinced that iTunes and the iPhone are not the only reasons Mac is gaining market share. The other is that people have come to realize that they do not really need Windows anymore. Any ol' operating system will do. The browser and the Internet have already rendered them largely irrelevant.

It's fairly obvious at this point that the software landscape is changing. The business of selling software on DVDs in boxes is clearly shrinking (Microsoft recently announced that its Money personal finance software would be sold online-only once the retail inventory runs out). The market is suddenly flooded with smartphones, Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), and netbooks running Linux (or Windows XP). And it does appear that after a brief honeymoon with Vista, the PC companies are once again experimenting with ways to take back some of that desktop real estate. But this has everything to do to with differentiating their PCs from the competition, and nothing to do with competing with Microsoft.

Windows is proving to be a durable and--despite all of the bad press for Vista--lucrative franchise. The truth is that browsers and Web-based applications have a long way to go before they will match the features, stability, security and off-line capabilities of the Windows Vista and Microsoft Office ecosystem. Furthermore Microsoft saw this coming a long time ago. The real question is: How well will they will respond to it? The latest indication is likely to come at its Professional Developers Conference in October, where Microsoft is expected to offer up an alpha of Windows 7.

The real bad news for Microsoft? If the first of its new ads are any indication, its $300 million marketing campaign with Jerry Seinfeld could be a bust.

Topics: Browser, Software, Operating Systems, Open Source, Microsoft, Linux, Hewlett-Packard, Hardware, Dell, Windows

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76 comments
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  • MS should have never...

    killed off XP. Especially when such a huge segment of the market is tired of being forced fed what they do not want.

    This article makes a good point about users beginning to realize that as long as they can hit the web rather painlessly they are basically happy. And Apple is riding that wave. It's too bad that all of the numerous Linux distro's can't come together to make their desktop offering more user friendly.
    bjbrock
    • I agree with your points, but

      they still should have killed off XP. Rather, they should have made Vista more versatile.
      Michael Kelly
      • Products to Sell Other People's Products

        Is XP really dead? I thought it was the Windows OS for
        sub-notebooks.

        I think a large mistake they made with Vista was in trying
        to use it to leverage hardware upgrades. It impeded the
        rate of transition and meant ISVs would delay the Vista-
        only releases which exploit the better graphics and
        printing subsystems and provide a better user experience.
        (Ewww, I used the e word, I feel so dirty.)

        I think I can identify another missed opportunity; I don't
        know if it qualifies as a mistake. It expands on Michael
        Kelly's last point.

        Taking as premise that as successful as Vista was (or
        wasn't), as a product in the market place, Microsoft wanted
        it to be more successful. If we do, then in early 2007 it
        must have become apparent that Vista wasn't going to hit
        its numbers (there was a special, Microsoft extended some
        XP dates, I think evidence supporting the premise is there.)

        So what if, at that time, Microsoft had set up a skunkworks
        with the goal of in 12-18 months producing Vista
        Versatile, which would give a full experience (eww) to the
        bargain systems of a few years age? I think the effort
        would have benefited Vista all around (anyone can do stuff
        with lots of resources, it's maximizing functionality in
        constrained circumstances that is real capital-e
        engineering) and I think it would have made a better case
        for enterprise adoption if the upgrade could be made
        without hardware expenditures.
        DannyO_0x98
    • Linux desktops.

      I have to confess I don't get it: What's the big deal with "the desktop?" A desktop all by itself doesn't do a blasted thing. It just sits there, blankly, until you want to do something. And not that I do things with Windows or OSX, but I just don't see that there are a lot of different ways of "doing things" that they do that Linux doesn't.

      I've been using a variety of "Linux desktops" for fourteen years. All of them have ways of starting apps and telling me things. Am I missing something else they ought to be doing?
      Henry Miller
      • what you're missing: "intuitively" or "attractively"

        the key word for why people complain about linux desktops is that the complainers either:
        A) are so set in their ways that they aren't very adaptive/versatile... and thus want the desktop to be intuitive to what they're used to/familiar with;
        -or-
        B) want it to look very nice and elegant... or "pretty". They want a beautiful desktop that is aesthetically pleasing, while maintaining the functionality.

        To be quite honest, I use both windows (2000 professional, XP and Vista) and linux (KDE only at the moment, I don't like gnome, haven't gotten around to trying out the other desktops yet) and I have no trouble using new desktops... but I still go back to my preferred ones, of course.
        shryko
        • A Desktop is

          A GUI replacement for a batch file menu.
          Update victim
        • I use OSX, Windows and Linux at work Linux at home

          MAc OSX is prettier than the others, but from a functionality viewpoint it's no easier to use, it's no more intuitive.

          The people I've upgraded to Linux (mostly people who are not particularly technically literate) don't have any trouble using a Linux Desktop (KDE, GNOME), they seem to find it quite sufficiently intuitive, and they certainly don't require any hand holding.
          tracy anne
  • Imagine a different kind of competition

    Imagine HP, Sony, Toshiba, Dell and other PC manufactures not just competing on case aesthetics and price:features ratios but on their own desktop experience. This would be mindblowing. Your choice would be more compelling in the store besides trying to figure out which computer to buy based on esoteric specifications, you would have different experiences with different computers. Chose which one suits you best.

    This is probably why Apple is also gaining market share. It's a different experience.

    But you don't have OS compatibility issues anymore because they are all Linux-based systems.
    glocks out
  • Mainstream media, specially in the US, is just about SALE$

    Yeah, right! Like it's going to go away soon...! As usual, some so called "journalists", schooled in infomercials pretend to know what's going on in the industry without having the foggiest idea of what they are talking about.
    Gruffydd
    • And your post added what value?

      This is a serious threat to the Windows hegemony in that having suffered numerous image damaging blows, based on facts or not doesn't matter, it shows Microsoft is long in tooth and soon ripe for picking off.

      A move to Linux by HP would accelerate the adoption of Linux by removing many of the perceived barriers so many ignorant barkers spread in an attempt to curb the uptake (which by the way doesn't seem to work overseas...).

      If HP plays this correctly Microsoft will be facing yet another foe which only increases the number of fronts it must fight on. Which means more bleeding from the coffers. One other thing of note, if HP does move forward with such a plan, they in essence would become another Apple, since they control much of their own hardware.

      Interesting to see how this plays out. I hope that HP makes the step and takes on the challenge to produce a viable Linux solution that is marketed and supported well. The battle lines are redrawn again.
      Jim Blaine - Bellingham WA.
      • Re: And your post added what value?

        HP isn't the only PC maker contemplating dumping
        Windows as the default install, but do myriad desktop
        systems really do that much to help standardize the
        formatting and sharing of data across application and web
        services environments?

        It's silly to write obituaries, though warning that something
        is suffering from "death by a thousand cuts" seems
        reasonable to me, and from the Times' perspective it
        probably makes sense to cover it at that level rather than
        the at the techie nitpicking level. Something for us to do
        here at ZD and on many other sites -- but Chrome, too, is
        merely a variant on the same theme, a threaded
        application environment that runs inside a browser.

        I still have to think, as a content/media developer, how to
        write to all these different clients. It's great that hardware
        innovation continues, but only if it helps users of all these
        divergent systems and software share and use information.
        Mitch Ratcliffe
        • See that is where you make a small error...

          Linux does have a standard, and contrary to popular belief all the distro's will interact with each other just fine. Linux has open standards that apply not only to Linux but to Windows, Macintosh and the various BSD's.

          Who has broken standards is Microsoft by trying to impose their own standards. And had they actually succeeded in locking all other possible competitors out with their closed standards, then the computing world would look much differently today than it does now.

          As we have seen, diversity breeds safety. It's more difficult to infect or negatively affect a mixed environment. And yet we all use the same communications protocols and standards that are open.

          And since everything seems to be moving to a web based delivery method (which I see pros and cons to, but still prefer a local application) Linux is already there since it adheres to W3C, TCP/IP and numerous other standards.

          It's the developers and their insistence to lock users into a single proprietary solution that are the real problem.

          As for Chrome, I have no need or desire for it. Firefox suits my needs perfectly fine.

          As for the hardware manufactures, with them getting on board and supporting more than Windows then we will see some serious innovation in both camps, hardware and software. All OS vendors will have to compete on merit and not fall back on a massive fiscal chest to hold their position. I say damn the code bits and full speed ahead!
          Jim Blaine - Bellingham WA.
        • Fundamental fallacy

          [i]I still have to think, as a content/media developer, how to
          write to all these different clients. It's great that hardware
          innovation continues, but only if it helps users of all these
          divergent systems and software share and use information. [/i]

          You write to all of those different clients precisely the same way that television stations provide content to all of those different clients: you produce a standard signal and the rest is their problem.

          Of course, if you're in the habit of creating programming that's specific to Sony televisions because they dominate the market and somehow Samsung becomes popular it might seem very threatening.
          Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Agreed, except

            content isn't just signal anymore. it's metadata+signal.
            Mitch Ratcliffe
      • Suicide for HP

        [i]One other thing of note, if HP does move forward with such a plan, they in essence would become another Apple, since they control much of their own hardware.[/i]

        They can't afford to. Right now, they're at the top of the heap as a Microsoft OEM. If they throw that away to go head-to-head with Apple for 5% of the market, they'll lose (if only thanks to the fanatical loyalty of Apple's customers) and have nothing left.

        If they try to have it both ways, going non-MS for home users and MS for business users, they'll price themselves right out of the business market due to the per-seat cost of MS preloads rising.

        Bottom line: unless another round of Fiorina-grade management insanity drives them over the cliff, they're not going to do more than flirt with non-MS offerings (and that only to get concessions from Microsoft.)
        Yagotta B. Kidding
        • You are probably correct...

          And your logic is pretty sound, but it's still a possibility. They may have a much better marketing ad than Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld.
          Jim Blaine - Bellingham WA.
          • Ads are nice

            [i]They may have a much better marketing ad than Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld.[/i]

            Ads really only matter when decisions are based on something other than raw power.

            Microsoft has power (and logic, and economics) on their side. Apple has ads. Which has the business world locked up?
            Yagotta B. Kidding
        • I dunno about suicide, but...

          It isn't going to be an easy road for them.

          Mind you, I rather think that this is more about HP developing a "universal driver" model for their printers etc. Something that would guarantee their stuff "just worked."

          Anyhow, I think if they pulled that off, they'd probably do well out of it. After all, who wouldn't want hardware that just works? Especially seeing I'm guessing they're looking at both a significantly different windows landscape in terms of viable versions, and the rise of Apple and *nix in their marketplace.
          zkiwi
          • Look somewhere else

            [i]Mind you, I rather think that this is more about HP developing a "universal driver" model for their printers etc. Something that would guarantee their stuff "just worked."[/i]

            Mind you, I don't [u]like[/u] the way HP kludged up a "universal driver" for their printers, but they've had one for years and years and as a result their printers [i]do[/i] "just work" on Linux (and I presume Mac OS, since Apple can use the same CUPS infrastructure.)
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Hmmm...

            Well, for me I hope whatever they're doing with this does improve what they do with their hardware. Perhaps (again speculation on my part) they may be able to do a better job because of Windows seems to becoming a bit more *nix like.
            zkiwi