What do you want in Windows?

Some of you say Windows needs to be lean and mean without all the bloatware. But others want all the bells and whistles you can get. Sounds like the anti-trust trial.

COMMENTARY--Imagining the features expected in future versions of Windows is a bar game for the technology-minded. Despite the intellectual benefits of this recreational pastime, many of you grumbled that it will take too long for Microsoft to deliver fixes to problems with Windows XP.

In a recent column, my colleague David Coursey discussed a forthcoming Service Pack release due late this year, as well as the next major version of Windows, code-named Longhorn. While there will be gains in the new version, such as improved security, home and business users may see some losses as well.

"Today, Windows XP Professional has all the features of the home version, plus the networking and management features you need in an enterprise environment," he wrote. "But in the future, operating systems are likely to diverge again. Some of the advanced features of a new home version of Windows--things the company isn't talking about yet but can be imagined--just don't make sense in a business. And there will be pieces of .Net and security that don't make sense at home."

MAYBE. MAYBE NOT. Some of you wondered if this approach will meet the favor of computer owners as well as another important constituency--third-party software developers.

"Microsoft's strategy is to win the hearts and minds of developers by making it easier to write stuff that will just work on Windows. Differences in Windows will make it more difficult for developers," William Newton expounded. "Windows will just become more bloated in future releases. What is bloat anyway? If features are bloat, then for goodness sake, (Microsoft), make it a whale. Just an easy-to-control whale. Like Shamu."

"People who buy the home version typically end up wanting a feature of the business version. It might take a while, but then who ever dreamed that computers would need more than 64K? Put all the power and features in one package--people will need it," Pamela Ammond wrote. "That's not to say that Microsoft won't be better off with two versions--people will think they are getting a bargain by paying less (up front), but they have to upgrade sooner. Microsoft ends up making more money and faster with two versions, while satisfying people's desire to save a buck with a less-expensive version."

THE WORD that this fall's Service Pack 1 might include new capabilities also met with resistance from some of you. Then again, others were looking for bug fixes slated for SP1.

"When is Microsoft going to recognize the fact that people want Service Packs to fix bugs, not add new features and NEW bugs? There needs to be a clear distinction between SP (Service Pack) and FP (Feature Pack). Let the user decide when they want to add the new features!" Steve Pasikowski argued. "This is incredibly important for server-based products from MS, like Exchange 2000. Service Pack 2...adds new features that I have to explain to my users and test to make sure they work correctly--all of this because I need only some of the fixes that are included in SP2."

"I installed Windows XP on my computer with high hopes, only to learn that it removed my modem, as well as the drivers for my printer, scanner, and CD Writer," Nina Carter complained. "I went to great lengths to locate these drivers. Once they were all installed, XP told me I had drivers that would cause instability and they had been disabled. I have a collection of software--arts programs, etc.--that are incompatible with XP. So, I have now 'permanently' removed XP and will continue on with Windows ME. Is there any hope for XP?"

"The surest way to kill Windows is for Microsoft to continue the way it's presently going. I've had XP on my system for three weeks and it will not work the way I want it to. I set it and it resets itself back to its 'shipped' defaults--I am unable to change them," Windblad railed. "I installed my preferred antivirus software and Windows disabled its functions. I cannot install my preferred firewall; Windows comes with its own. Last night I found a file that looked suspicious, so I manually started my antivirus program. This morning I got the results:...number of infections, 1,200."

However, Joe Cazana wrote that all is well. "We should all be grateful. I remember computing on my PC in 1981. I can't tell you how much happier I am with Windows XP. I'm sure half the people on these boards don't even know what WYSIWYG means anymore. So XP gets bloated, (it's countered) by a faster processor. Support Intel. Without it or AMD, we would be in deep doo-doo."

HE HAS that last bit right--for every change in the operating system, there will be an equal and opposite effect on hardware performance. Integrating new features as well as the results of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing effort must take their toll. Certainly, no one could believe that Longhorn will make things go faster!

So when do we buy the new machine--sooner or later? Maybe sooner. According to another published report, Intel reportedly will try to spark our sales this year with significant price drops on its Pentium 4 processor line, even the 2.2GHz version. Ka-ching!

David Morgenstern, past editor of eMediaweekly and MacWEEK, is a freelance editor and branding consultant based in San Francisco.