Coming soon to a PC near you: more of the same

In a June column, InfoWorld's Oliver Rist wrote, “Vista may just mark an OS revolution.” By September, the glitter of shiny things had worn off, and in “Vista's not so revolutionary after all.”

“I just finished previewing Vista Release Candidate 1 for the Test Center, and I suddenly realized I[base ']m more underwhelmed than I anticipated. A few months ago, in this very column, I used the adjective revolutionary instead of evolutionary. I[base ']m changing my mind.”

These positions are striking, and I wonder how much of that is due to the way Microsoft has spent millions positioning and repositioning the product. In the years (and years and years) before the product shipped, Microsoft regularly announced earth-shaking features that would make Longhorn/Vista the most incredible OS on the planet, keeping the buzz going among the techorati and tempting the early adopters. When the product finally (Finally!) is getting close to shipping (*exactly* on time, regardless of all of the press to the contrary), wouldn't it be in Microsoft's interest to make the new OS as harmless and uninteresting as possible, so that the vast majority of users just accepted it as an update and not a revolution? If the choice isn't revolutionary (read: risky), there's a lot less reason to consider alternatives like OS X or RedHat or SuSE.

It's the same disk file system, despite all the initial buzz over WinFS. It's the same AD-domain-group-user permission scheme, despite the fundamental security failings of that design. It's the same old desktop metaphor, albeit with outrageous demands for graphical processing power. (When the vast majority of business still gets by on black-and-white printouts of words and numbers in rows and columns, the point of enough GPU power to play video games at 10x7x32pp@120fps is baffling to me. What new information are they conveying in translucent dialog boxes?). It's the same old apps.

Where are the solutions to the hard problems? Where's universal and ubiquitous and secure access to your stuff? Where's immediate backup and recovery of all of your files, settings and gestures? Where's secure, unimpeachable, identification in a wallet where you control your personal information and can enforce iron-clad privacy? Where's simple wireless roaming? With five years in the making, thousands of employee's efforts and millions of dollars expended, where are the solutions that you can't download from any free Linux distribution? Where's the innovation?

Microsoft fought hard to be the dominant leader in the industry. It is sad to see them abdicate their leadership with yet another more-of-the-same product.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.