Microsoft's Windows juggernaut is collapsing under its own weight, as it tries to support 20 years of applications and becomes more complicated by the minute, according to analyst firm Gartner.
To compound Windows' problems, it has outgrown the hardware it requires and customers are considering skipping Vista and waiting for Microsoft's next-generation Windows 7, the analyst firm has said, adding that, if Windows is going to remain relevant, it will need radical changes.
Speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald asked the audience whether Microsoft needed to radically change its approach to Windows; around half of the managers and executives gathered in the room raised their hands. "Windows is too monolithic," said Silver.
Silver added that clients have asked Gartner whether they should skip Vista entirely and wait for Windows 7, which promises to be more modular and potentially lightweight in comparison.
Silver said he recommends that IT executives do use Vista, but on an attrition basis, so that, as PCs with Windows XP are retired, they are replaced with PCs running Vista.
MacDonald argued that Windows may need multiple kernels to support increasing demands from customers and hardware makers. "One size doesn't fit all," he said.
If Microsoft is to fix Windows' problems, the company needs to do a number of things, the analysts said. For a start, Microsoft should create multiple versions of Windows for specific uses. These modules would be able to be swapped out, depending on the customer, they said.
"The more interesting question here is whether one OS [operating system] can address [cloud computing and real-time architecture]," the analysts asked. "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?"
MacDonald also questioned what the OS will look like once applications are virtualised, and whether a full OS is needed in every deployment. He suggested it was not necessary and that the OS may be taken over by the hypervisor. "Something as common sense as 'I'd like Office to go with me' doesn't work under current licensing," he said.
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, the analysts said, adding that Windows should also be more manageable. The Windows user experience will become less integrated and more "a composite adaptive work space", they said, meaning that some applications will be tied to location and the user's identity.