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Tue 19 Aug 2008 04:00 AM

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Windows in the clouds

Microsoft has promised to reveal details of its new operating system, but after the debacle with Vista, should we be excited?

Recent news on ITP.net that Microsoft is going to release some fresh details of its upcoming operating system in October is, ultimately, underwhelming.

Remember the days when talk of a new Windows release would propagate endlessly around the tech world, generating such excitement everywhere? Windows 95 ensured us of this; in one glorifying swoop, shattering everything we’d come to expect from an operating system.

Windows 98 also made significant improvements and Windows XP tied together its years of experience – with more than a few niggles at first – to become the de facto standard in operating systems.

But in Vista, Microsoft’s position has drastically taken a turn for the worse. A buggy performance, inexcusable security flaws and system faults meant that its market life hasn’t been as inspired as its predecessors.

Even some of its highly-vaunted capabilities, have found themselves on the receiving end of vitriolic criticism. (Remember all that talk about speech recognition and new ways of interacting with your computer? Well, it turns out that if a hacker could access it, he/she could simply tell the computer to delete files and Vista would do it – thanks Microsoft).

Of course, there are plenty of external reasons for Vista’s stuttering performance. The growing popularity of Apple products mean many more people are using MacBooks and Mac OS X is increasingly seen as a neat and stable alternative to Vista.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is constantly accused of anti-competitive practices around the world, and this only degrades its market reputation. It is increasingly perceived as a bully, most recently in its attempted takeover of Yahoo! In the online world, the company is being overshadowed by the rise of Google, which has usurped Microsoft as arguably the world’s biggest and greatest innovator.

So when we hear talk of a so-called Windows 7, it’s natural that there are a few groans of disbelief. Continuing to flog what seems to be a dying horse isn’t the answer to get Microsoft back to the top of its game.

So with that in mind, Microsoft is reportedly planning to abandon its flagship product, Windows, in its current configuration. It is now building the new OS entirely from scratch to deliver a completely different offering to anything before it.

The new OS is expected at the end of 2009, and new information will be released at two Microsoft conferences in October. The Engineering Windows 7 blog has also been set up to provide a forum for users to discuss pertinent issues surrounding the project.

While customer feedback is said to be essential to the development of the OS, bloggers have categorically said that they will not discuss features that won’t end up in the final product.

These two points come after a troublesome Vista launch; Microsoft wants to ensure it improves its user experience, while also making sure it doesn’t lead people on about what to expect from the new OS.

Bill Gates has been harping on about cloud computing and virtualisation for quite some time. In this latest operating system, we might begin to see the first fruits of this mindset, with an operating system that’s better suited to Internet-based computing.

Apparently, it’s been reported that Midori will be able to run across several virtual environments on multiple computers at once. Interesting stuff indeed.

There is, however, a niggling concern that the latest release will simply be Vista Part II, with the bugs corrected and additions tacked on. If it can release a new OS that successfully overhauls our current way of computing – like Windows 95 – then all power to it.

One problem in that circumstance is how to appease the legacy users, because there will still be millions of Windows XP users out there, unwilling to make the leap. If the new OS is fully capable of backward-compatibility to Windows users, without the compatibility issues plaguing Vista, then there might be hope yet.

Derek Francis is the deputy editor of Windows Middle East English.

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Ash Zaki 12 years ago

Personally I am very happy with Windows Vista. The performance and reliability is way better than Windows XP, plus all the other new features and improvements in graphics. I'm very excited about Windows 7 and can't wait to try it. I don't understand how people can easily blame Microsoft for mistakes that other hardware vendors do. Previous Vista issues were all related to unstable hardware drivers and crapware people install. God bless Microsoft.

Hatim Ali 12 years ago

You've stated: "A buggy performance, inexcusable security flaws and system faults" I believe it is not correct. The most resilient factor in Windows Vista's slow adoption is its newness, lack of backward compatibility and hardware availability. Its certainly more secure and less buggy than XP. Please be realistic in your reviews.

Ash Zaki 12 years ago

I agree with Hatim. Vista's performance is much better than Windows XP, and especially after SP1 released, most of the problems were resolved and people now should have no excuse to upgrade. As for compatibility, I think ISV's should start upgrading their software to Vista. Microsoft should not be blamed for badly written 3rd party software and applications.