It’s déjà vu all over again! There’s a
new version of Windows being hyped to the rafters, and Steve
Ballmer has been interviewed on TV telling us that this with help
people live better and vastly more fulfilling existences, as well
as fix the problems in the world economy, and ensure everlasting
peace. OK, so I exaggerate – a little – but you get the
And where did they get the name? I suppose
that dated-related names have become an embarrassing reminder of
the zealous way in which the releases have been squeezed ever
tighter together so that Bill can squeeze your wallet ever tighter
and more frequently. A little semantic analysis reveals the
answer: XP is shorthand for “ex pee”, which as we all know, is
Latin for “taking the piss”.
So the pace at which Microsoft feels
compelled to introduce new versions of windows is picking up, with
Windows 2000 barely installed (in fact, most of the City is still
using NT4 and wondering if they dare install service pack 6 yet)
is regulated by one concern only – maximizing Microsoft’s
meagre profits, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that,
do this is precisely how the publicly traded sector US economy is
designed to operate – indeed, the shareholders in the companies
will gang up and issue “class action” lawsuits against
officers of any company that fails to meet their expectations.
So do we need another version of Windows..?
Well, if the proposition is that Windows 2000 doesn’t quite work
as expected, then I suppose the answer is “yes”. W2K was a bit
of an interim solution to migrate some of the interface and
multimedia features of W98 towards the NT environment, and it was
a limited success; and W2k networking was supposed to be an
improvement over NT4, but I beg to dissent.
The way all previous MS OS’s handled things
like changing users was criminally clunky, so I don’t call
XP’s improved technique a “feature”. The same goes for most
of the improved features like memory management and DLL handling
– they actually boil down to euphemisms for “bug fixes”, and
in one review I read most of these “features” were juxtaposed
with the causes of crashes in previous versions!
XP is unashamedly aiming at the home market
with a collection of multimedia goodies that will connect with
electronic cameras of all sorts, and attempt to square the ever-
widening circle of downloadable music. But of course, the
much-vaunted MS digital rights system has already been hacked and
the results posted in all the usual places. There is also evidence
that MS has clocked the stunning value of the games market, and is
determined to stop Sony and its PlayStation wagon by heading it
off at every conceivable pass.
XP is also ever more “net aware” and has
a built-in product activation policeman that prevents one copy
being loaded on multiple machines – a feature of all previous MS
OSs that ensured ubiquity for the operating system. So even if
Uncle Bill didn’t get $50 for every copy, no one else was going
to get a look in either! But MS apparently now feels that it’s
game over, and that they have us all by the soft dangly parts,
since there is no one else with the opportunity to get a look in.
Which is true in terms of commercial closed-system operating
systems, but not where Unix is concerned.
There’s even an argument to ensure an
evenly competitive battlefield for all software developers that
says all software should be made piracy proof, with some form of
online registration and watch scheme. But if everyone who was once
a casual ”let’s install this and see if it works”
type of user was forced to consider “is this really worth paying
£150 to install..?” then Linux would become even more
interesting. So the long-term viability of that idea is likely to
be an interesting call; if the Linux community can only come up
with an MS Office compatible application suite that really is MS
Office compatible, then the battle can be properly joined.
The price is going up, and it’s not clear
if this is because MS believes that this is its last big chance to
make a killing before the freebie Unix tidal wave finally engulfs
the market. Of course, the view from MS is that this could never
happen, but the benefits of the open standards around TCP/IP all
but wiped out Novell, so don’t count on it. Also worth bearing
in mind is that the new Mac OS is essentially a variant of Free
BSD (Apple being Apple, it couldn’t possibly have just gone with
the flow and adopted a Linux core like the rest of the planet,
This could conceivably be MS Windows’ Last
Stand. Corporate enthusiasm to pay for
- and then have to support – the complexity of the
machinery that runs this behemoth of an OS might just run out.