The Future of Windows

The Future of Windows

But what the majority of people think about and see when it comes to Windows is whatever ships on new PCs. On that front, Microsoft is making fairly incremental changes to Windows. Under the covers, Windows 7 is built on top of the Windows NT kernel Microsoft has been using for the past decade or so. Microsoft is making efforts to better organize the guts of Windows, reducing its footprint and improving its stability. (That’s what “MinWin” is.) The company also is investigating how to improve the Windows Update process, making it less intrusive and cumbersome, while still providing users with improvements in between Windows OS delivery cycles. And the Redmondians are investigating ways to insure compatibility of older legacy apps with next-gen Windows releases. All this stuff is goodness.

But what Microsoft really needs to do to insure Windows’ continued relevance is to be unafraid of introducing a whole new operating system at some point. At some point, in the not-too-distant future, Windows is going to need to be supplanted by “the next big thing.” Because Microsoft has an installed base of over 1 billion, company brass (rightly) give backward compatibility a huge amount of importance. But Microsoft needs to find a way to offer customers a choice of operating systems–Windows and Doors (meaning whatever follows Windows — probably some microkernel-based, developed-from-scratch thing, which may or may not have any relation to Midori). Maybe Windows and Doors will dual-boot; maybe they will just co-exist. Maybe Doors will be some kind of variant of the evolving Windows Phone OS or an offshoot of its Mashup OS/Gazelle research project that is somewhat like Google’s Chrome OS.

In any case, some time in the next five-plus years, Microsoft is going to need find the courage (and the correct marketing message) to cut the existing Windows cash-cow cord to stay relevant.

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