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Microsoft plays with new non-Windows OS; If only it could start from scratch

Microsoft Research has developed a non-Windows OS for academic types to play with. The subliminal message from Microsoft: Folks, we'd love to start from scratch with an OS, but we just can't go there.
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Written by Larry Dignan, Contributing Editor on

Microsoft Research has developed a non-Windows OS for academic types to play with. The subliminal message from Microsoft: Folks, we'd love to start from scratch with an OS, but we just can't go there.

That connection between Microsoft's research and actual company desires may be a bit of a leap, but not by much. Windows is saddled with a legacy code base to ensure that all of the old applications work even as Microsoft trudges forward. Simply put, that means Windows will never be perfect--it has to satisfy too many people. Unlike Apple, Microsoft can't just start over. Apple built OS X and left its predecessor OS--and the applications that went with it-- behind as a relic.

But Microsoft can dream can't it? Along those lines, Microsoft Research made the code of an OS called Singularity available. It's a proof of concept OS that features a set of tools, libraries and managed code. As Mary Jo Foley notes, Microsoft's research gang was happy to build an OS that didn't rely on 30 year old technology.

The Singularity effort raises a few interesting questions:

  • Could Microsoft start over with a new OS separate from Windows?
  • If Microsoft started over with Windows and didn't have compatibility with older applications what would the corporate revolt look like?
  • Will Microsoft ultimately need a clean break from that monolithic Windows code at some point anyway?
  • When would you make such a clean break?

I'm not going to pretend to have the answers, but the questions do make you go hmm. Should Microsoft start over?

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