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Technology CompaniesAppleThe Mac migration and where to go from here

The Mac migration and where to go from here

I see that Omar Shahine, who’s done some great work in the past with Tablets and OneNote, is sharing his enthusiasm for Mac PCs. Why? Because of the ways Apple simplified running Vista on the Macs via Bootcamp. In fact, Omar is so satisfied that he proclaims: “I think all my future PCees will be Macs.” Yep, the crowd is growing. The PC OEMs–and Microsoft too–need to take notice, if they haven’t already.

Chris Pirillo blogged about the Mac migration the other day too. He’s sees a growing number of “influentials” turning to Macs and was surprised at how many Macs were at his recent Gnomedex event.

I don’t think it’s just because of the state of Vista that’s at play here, although that’s a contributing factor (drivers, sleep/hibernate issues, IE stabillity, and the like). I think Apple has simply done a better job of running Vista than other OEMs. The key is in the drivers, the installation, the small touches that improve upon Windows itself. Apple deserves a star for effort in all of these areas. Microsoft is being “out-Windowed.”

As many people point out, Microsoft has a great challenge ahead of it because of all the partners it works with. It doesn’t control all the hardware. Well, Microsoft and the OEMs can’t keep going on like this. They are going to have to adjust. Here are some ways I think Microsoft and its partners can get back on track and create platforms we want to use for the next 10 years.

1. Bifurcate Windows. Yep, it’s time to split Windows into two versions: One that’s more legacy biased and one that’s focused on the future. Whether Vista fits into this, I’m not so sure. In some ways, I see Vista itself needing to be divided: The Desktop Composition Engine and the graphics moving forward in a new version and at the same time the old GDI world taking a step back. This could mean bringing an updated shell, network manager, and the like to XP for the backwards-compatible version and then moving on to a new version of Windows that’s more graphics intensive and network-minded. This version, for instance, would make the DWM API look like the straight-jacket it is. It would also be responsible for making sense of the whole .NET Framework concept. Either go all the way or take a seat in the luggage compartment, I’d say. This half-and-half world is optimized for too few. I also think a new OS would be a good time to bring C++ development back up to par. It’s a shame how it’s been languishing within the Microsoft language stack–much of it induced by backwards-compatibility concerns. This would be the chance to set things on a better path.

You know, for all the pains Longhorn went through, I think the original intent was right. It was time to make a break from the past. The problem was some of its most important design principles didn’t have the same priorities that most of us had–especially considering the rapid movement to mobility. There’s no doubt the challenge in changing so much on the only OS road that Microsoft had was too difficult. The solution was to not dump Longhorn. It was to split the effort–to leave two roads open. The single road effort was too restrictive.

2. Microsoft, Google, and Intel should join forces to build out an “open” WiMAX network. Rapidly we’re on another networking cusp as wireless broadband becomes available on the hardware and carrier side. However, I have big concerns that the major carriers are going to get it wrong. If history is any gauge: they’ll want to charge and control each connection point. That’s a recipe for market suppression and one that favors fewer devices at the endpoints under centralized, walled management. Old-school. Clearly this does Microsoft and Intel no good–both companies want to sell as many devices (or OSes) as possible. This isn’t going to happen if it’s a pain to maintain too many contracts on too many devices. So why should Google join the wireless broadband trio? First, because they have a philosophy consistent with solving the problems that others set out before them–whether it’s desktop search or ease, simplicity in maintaining tons of email, or minimizing deployment of a service. There’s a problem here and maybe Google will want to join forces to help solve the problem. The other reason is that Google doesn’t want centralized control to devalue its offerings. There’s lots at stake here and to cede control at such a fundamental level–the network is not good strategy.

When I read about how Sprint, for instance, is dedicating billions to WiMAX it makes me hope that the pending problems will be self-correcting, but I’d rather not hold my breath. Yes, a billion here and a billion there adds up, but with Google, Intel, and Microsoft joining financial forces what they could achieve could be phenomenal and set the industry on a strong path for another decade.

At the OS and app level, Microsoft and Google could work together to create standards and infrastructure that mitigates issues with moving apps and data online and offline. Today everyone is going their own way, which is fine. However, at some point–which I hope is sooner than later–we need a concerted effort that brings developers and networks together. The deployment of wireless broadband could be this chance.

No doubt that the industry will have many changes going forward–I just hope that some of them will help out to expand the industry as much or more as it has over the next ten years as it has the last twenty plus. I’m ready.

Update: Engadget asks what can be done to improve Vista. As expected there are quite a few commenters–many of them challenging Windows itself, which doesn’t help all that much and for the most part the commenter suggestions are all over the place.

There is a bit of a pattern that I see here and that I think I’ve been noticing elsewhere:

Doesn’t it seem like desktop owners of Vista are more satisfied than their notebook counterparts? Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but it seems like this is a pattern. It kind of makes sense. My guess is that for the most part Vista was developed on desktops. Likewise, people who have desktop systems can swap parts in and out to get things working as they need. Likewise, in desktop systems there’s more pound-per-pound investment in the hardware, so some Vista features may not be as critical or as noticeable as others–the machine itself is the king.

Am I being too mobility sensitive?

I do wonder if the mob isn’t simply piling on here. Vista is an improvement in several important ways over XP. The question is collectively (in terms of both the hardware and software) is Vista and the Vista experience where the market wants it to be. I’d say it depends. As a developer things are in a bit of a state of flux in terms of Microsoft development, but as a developer that’s OK. I’m looking down the road. In terms of customers, it’s not too bad as long as things are tweaked–but that’s nothing new, give a new computer to anyone and it takes time to get it “just right.” The issue I think is that people want Vista to “just work” the way they do even more. That’s a good thing. It shows how much they depend on Windows as it is.

Loren Heiny (1961 - 2010) was a software developer and author of several computer language textbooks. He graduated from Arizona State University in computer science. His first love was robotics.

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