Saturday, April 12, 2008

Is Windows really collapsing?

Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Is Windows collapsing? Well, of course it is, and always has been! Duh! So why is this suddenly such great news? I never cease to be amazed at how many people seem to think that Microsoft, its products, and its business are static and unchanging. The simple truth about Microsoft is, will be, and always has been: constant change. That is what Microsoft is all about, but so many people refuse to accept or believe it. Or maybe the problem is that it galls Microsoft's critics that Microsoft, The Great Copier, is in a constant and ceaseless state of change. Microsoft is constantly refactoring and repackaging and repurposing its products, but somehow that "elephant standing in the middle of the room" evades so many people.

Fine, a couple of analysts choose to put their own spin on how Microsoft and Windows may evolve in the years to come. That is their right, a path they have chosen to make money for themselves, but to somehow paint all of Microsoft as stuck in the mud and "collapsing" was going a bit to far. I do not blame those analysts per se, but I did not read any rebuttal by them of the gross "reinterpretation" of their presentation that was done by so many in the media.

Is Microsoft really collapsing under the weight of Windows? Hardly.

As Larry Dignan, Editor in Chief of ZDNet, puts it on his blog:

How fast will Windows collapse under its weight? It'll take longer than folks think.

And I would suggest that by then, Microsoft (and hardware) will have evolved far beyond the current state of affairs.

Now if all that the Gartner folks meant to say was that any Windows upgrade typically requires an upgrade of memory and compute power, why didn't they simply say that?! Maybe the problem is that so many people have been making do with old hardware for so long that they somehow forgot that new software might need improved hardware. Duh!

As far as virtualization and running more than one operating system on a single end-user PC, I would be skeptical, not that advanced users and professionals might not want to do so and be fully capable of doing so, but that it is a recipe for disaster for large-scale organizations with thousands of PCs and users to support. Sure, individuals or select groups can in fact use it effectively, but expecting average users to be multi-lingual and constantly bouncing around between operating systems is a bit of a stretch. That said, Gartner is free to promote their own proposals for how computing could evolve, but the Gartners of the world have traditionally delivered their best value to their customers when they stick to hard-core research and comparisons and guide people through the minefields of competitive technology rather than try to play product designers on their own.

I'll give the Gartner guys a semi-free pass on their presentation, but the media and the blogosphere get a distinctive black eye for how they mishandled this story. It was not one of their prouder moments. OTOH, it may in fact be that they were quite proud of the cheap and sleazy way they spun it out of control... what fun!... almost like they were spinmeisters for a presidential campaign and could get away with twisting even the simplest words any way that they wanted! Sigh.

OTOH, I actually was surprised that a number of blogs did feel the need to leap to Microsoft's defense, for example, Dave Methvin in "Windows Is Collapsing!" does write:

But "collapsing" is harsh, Gartner-analyst-dudes, and most likely way off base. This is one of those presentations where you hope that the news reports have it wrong, just to spare Gartner the embarrassment of looking so lame. I'll just touch on a few of the strange take-aways from reports on this session.

And he concludes by saying:

I'm willing to bet that there will still be plenty of uncollapsed Windows in companies a decade from now.

Still, I do have to ding him for failing to resist going for a cheap shot when being a tad more professional in headline design is called for.

OTOH, I almost went for that same headline myself. Anything to get a few more clicks in this blog-eat-blog world.

-- Jack Krupansky


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