How to extend Vista without anyone noticing

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I’d really like to see the engineers keep pushing the envelope with Vista. I assume Microsoft is well along the way to creating the next iteration of Windows and I can’t wait to see what the engineers come up with–I just hope it won’t take 5, 4, or even 3 years.

So far Microsoft has mentioned that a Service Pack for Vista is on its way and that it will include some stability and performance enhancements, but it won’t contain lots of new features. That makes lots of sense. Stability first, then worry about new features.

I can’t help but be concerned though that the next iteration of Windows is going to come too late for most of us that thrive on the edge. Already almost everyone I know that’s an early adopter has purchased a Mac within the last year or is thoroughly thinking about it. They may run Vista or XP on the Mac, but the Windows slipping sound is hard not to notice.

The reality is that time is going to fly. From past experience, let’s say that there’s a beta of the next version of Windows available right now. If it were, I’d estimate a shipping date 18 months out or so. So we’re talking 2009. And that’s if the beta existed now. Which it doesn’t. So it does seem reasonable to guess that by the end of 2009 or more likely 2010 we’ll see a noticeable update to Vista. Do I want to wait that long for significant enhancements to the OS? Nope.

Vista still needs to catch up in some low-level areas, such as with boot and shutdown, but these are going to be things that I’m sure we’ll have to wait on. There’s no easy fix I’m guessing.

However, there are probably features that are more orthogonal, more independent of the core operating system that I’m thinking Microsoft should focus on until the next version of Windows makes its way to the marketplace.

Of course, if Microsoft isn’t keen on adding features to service packs, then what? Well, it’s game time, I presume. Time to game the system. What about pushing new features through the Ultimate SKU? Or what about channeling them through developer builds? Just say they are for developers. Give everyone a Go Live license when ready, but let everyone know that this is new stuff that only works in certain configurations.

In this way, Microsoft has a better chance to keep up with the competition. The IT industry can look the other way and ignore this kind of stuff. It’s not in Vista out of the box. No worries. The consumer market will love the injection of new thinking however.

What types of things would I like to see? Well, new APIs would be welcome. I’d still like to see a good SDK for apps sharing ink or whatever. It should take 15 minutes to build a whiteboarding app. Same goes for hooking or extending Messenger. Why isn’t Messenger embrassing Silverlight with a vengance? I also wouldn’t mind working with an alternate shell, if there was something worthwhile in it. No ideas here–just saying I’m open to some major changes too. Another idea? Integrate desktop capture and live stream sharing and recording. Talk about a game changer. What about adding meta data to the clipboard? Or while supporting easier SDKs for machine-to-machine communication, come out with apps that leverage it? And then what about multi-touch? Is this a feature that Microsoft can wait 3 or more years to integrate into their products? I bet there are dozens of these kinds of things that people are already doing wtihin Microsoft and could be released as great “ad ons” which someday might get folded into the OS proper.

Anyway, if it takes 3 years for the next version of Windows, so be it. But here’s hoping that innovation will win out and someone will fgure out how to get it to the marketplace sooner than later.