Microsoft Versus
Dissecting Microsoft | Directory

Microsoft's Plans For The Future Of Its Products

Operating Systems - 2007 and Beyond

The next release of an addition to the Microsoft® Windows™ family of products is not expected until 2007 with the availability of a product named Vista. With Vista comes yet another new application model and set of APIs. To use Vista's features will require developers to drop much of what they've learned about Windows™ [development] and start again. First there was Win16, then Win32, then COM, ActiveX, WinForms ([.NET]), and eventually Vista. Microsoft would like application developers to stop what they're doing again and start over by 2007.

As for servers, Windows Server Vista is scheduled for release later in 2007. Also on the schedule is a Windows Server Vista Update in 2008. Windows Server Blackcomb is expected in 2010 or beyond. (Foley, Mary Jo. "From the Horse's Mouth: Microsoft Details Windows Server Roadmap." eWeek 12 May 2004)

File Systems

The next operating system will also have an embedded database service to supplement the NTFS file system found in current versions. This file system is called WinFS. The "file system as a database" idea is not new. IBM created the Shared File System and the Byte File System long ago for network storage. BeOS also had a database file system, and a few are in development and in use for Linux®. Current tools for Linux and Unix® already provide many of the benefits which WinFS will provide (e.g. "locate" for fast searches).

The FAT and FAT32 file systems will no longer be supported with the advent of Vista. While other operating systems provide a plethora of file systems to best support every possible user need, Vista will continue Microsoft's tradition of providing one solution that fits their needs.

It may not seem obvious to many why having a variety of file systems to choose from is a good thing. When most of us think of file systems we only think of saving and opening files. There are underlying features which may or may not be beneficial. Journaling file systems, for example, can increase performance by not immediately writing to the disk, but at the expense of potential data loss at the occurrence of a major failure such as a power outage. So this file system may be appropriate for a home PC but not a critical database server. There are many other features by which file systems differ. The point is that having a choice is a good thing.

Hardware Requirements

Abiding by tradition, Microsoft's future software will likely require far more powerful [hardware] than today. The minimal operating system they offer today requires "average" hardware, i.e. hardware just a few years old is barely sufficient to run it. It's planned that Vista's GUI will require a graphics card with 128 MB of memory, a rare feature in today's average computer especially when running business applications which are not graphics intensive. The minimum system memory requirement will be 1 GB of RAM, an absurd amount for just an operating system. Continuing with Microsoft's schedule of upgrades will require continued substantial upgrades in hardware. This has become expected by most computer users but is not a requirement of all software. The operating system, the bare minimum amount of software for hardware to be useful, does not need to have such high demands. The operating system needs to support available hardware rather than determine purchasing requirements. The current trend is only to the benefit of hardware vendors and Microsoft at the expense of computer users.

Office Suites - 2007 and Beyond

Microsoft customers have found little added value in the latest version of [Office] applications over their predecessors. Therefore Microsoft is looking to add features to spur further sales. The primary focus will be collaboration. Where today Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are completely independent client applications using individual files, plans are to add servers for easier sharing and other teamwork enhancements. Expect the software for the collaborative workplace to continue the trend of proprietary file formats and protocols. Even if users opt for XML Office documents their sharing abilities will likely be locked into Microsoft if their related collaborative tools are used.

Along with easier sharing will come restrictive digital rights management. Microsoft believes companies will want to strictly control the extent to which their files can be shared and read. Servers, applications, and maybe the documents themselves, will continue the trend of limiting users rights. With the positive aspects of security and author control come many implementation complications and potential abuse. Customers will use these features as they see fit for their own benefit (or loss). Microsoft, however, will continue to use these proprietary controls to limit competition. This isn't anti-Microsoft propaganda. They already require license fees and non-disclosure agreements for the use of many protocols. This will only continue with the networking of Office documents.
Copyright © 2004-2007 Matthew Schwartz