You are an idiot if…

…you believe Microsoft is actually going to have a completely rewritten Operating System before Bill Gates dies (which might be 20 to 40 more years).

Unfortunately journalists, like this one in Software Development Times, love to make it seem that Microsoft is working hard on a new, completely rewritten, operating system that will solve all the world’s problems.

Let me assure you they are not. At least not one that’ll be productized before my 10-month-old son sees his 10th birthday.

So, what is the Midori team doing?

Well, THAT is an interesting question that I’d love to ask Eric Rudder.

Here’s my theory: it’s a forcing function on the .NET team.

See, Bill Gates wants to make it possible to use a LOT more .NET in operating systems. That’s really what went wrong with Longhorn, er, Vista. Gates tried to make too much of the operating system dependent on .NET and .NET just wasn’t ready for an operating-system-level deployment/use case yet.

It was like trying to build a 100-story building, getting to level 50, and noticing that the thing is starting to lean. They had to tear it all the way down, put a new foundation in, and rebuild. That’s what happened to the Longhorn team. The fact that Vista got done at all is a pretty amazing engineering feat that software engineering schools should be studying for years.

Anyway, how would it be a forcing function? Well, by building an OS completely in .NET they can discover where .NET is deficient. They can use it to bug the .NET team to improve that system until they get it good enough to use it underneath a new operating system.

Let’s say it takes them 10 years to iterate through all the things that .NET needs to do to become a real operating-system-level platform/language. Imagine then that Microsoft could roll that stuff into a version of Windows. Wow, wouldn’t that be useful to have rafts of the OS all built on .NET and hosting a new kind of .NET app?

Imagine writing drivers in .NET code. Or networking infrastructure. Or other things deep down inside the OS.

Now we’re getting someplace.

One other reason a total rewrite wouldn’t be done? Bill Gates believes strongly that you shouldn’t break old apps. Lotus 123 still runs on Vista. As long as Bill is around they won’t break those old apps. A total rewrite would break all sorts of apps.

Anyway, what do you think Microsoft is up to?


The power of a good demo

People have been talking about Microsoft’s “Mojave Experiment” all day. What did they do? They demoed a “future operating system” to end users, got their feedback, usually positive, and then told them it was actually Windows Vista.

This is the first marketing in some time that made me think Microsoft’s marketing department had a clue about how to deal with its perception problem. Amazing to me that it took so long.

But when I see other Microsoft advertising, why isn’t it aspirational? Why doesn’t it just SHOW something cool you can do with Vista? Or with any of its other products?

Oh, by the way, I’m using Windows Vista to type this to you. My wife and I have been having this argument about Windows. I’ve been having her use a Lenovo X300 laptop that’s really sexy. But she keeps asking for her Mac back. Why? She says it feels better and is nicer to use (when we left Podtech she had to return her Mac). My son isn’t helping, either. He makes fun of us for using non-Mac machines. He even was arguing with HP’s head of marketing last week about how much better Apple’s machines are.

What I’d love to see is a head-to-head competition. Take both home for a week. Which one do you return?

Anyway, all this reminds me of is the power of a good demo. Actually, this is what I have loved about Apple’s stores whenever I go in: they are usually demoing what their machines can do. Walk in and they show you how to do all sorts of stuff from podcasting to digital photography. At the San Francisco store you can sit there and take tons of classes for free and they are usually pretty good and aimed at non-passionate users who are trying to do something specific with their machines.

Question: have you seen a Microsoft advertisment lately where Microsoft talks about what their machines can do? Have you seen an advertisment that shows you their WorldWide Telescope, for instance (that is still my favorite demo of 2008)? Or Microsoft’s Deep Zoom? Or Microsoft’s Surface? Or Microsoft Photosynth (my favorite demo of 2006)?

These are all wonderful technologies that demo very well, but if Microsoft is able to find so many people who’ve just heard that Vista is crappy, but who haven’t actually seen it for themselves (that’s what the Mojave Project was really all about), imagine how many people who think that Microsoft isn’t an innovative company who haven’t seen any of Microsoft’s very real innovations?

Personally, whoever buys and makes Microsoft’s advertising should be, well, let’s just say “Starbucked” since they laid off about 900 people today. It’s amazingly bad and it doesn’t have to be.

Hopefully that’s what they are really learning by doing these little “gotcha” experiments.

Getting things done over at FastCompanyTV

If you haven’t checked into FastCompanyTV lately, we’ve been posting up a storm of innovative people.

David Allen, best-selling author of Getting Things Done, tells us how to get more done.
Buzz Bruggeman, CEO of ActiveWords, shows me how to use Mind Mapping software and tons of other tools to become more productive.
Philip J. Kuekes, computer architect on the quantum science research team at HP Labs shows me how they are finding new ways to make processors and memory a lot smaller and power efficient. Does he make you feel like you are a few brain cells down on him? I always get inspired and wish I studied more math and science in school when I meet guys like Philip.
Senator Tom Coburn tells me why he likes bloggers, among other things. This was part of our whirl-wind tour of Washington DC.
Microsoft Senior Vice President, Chris Capossela, tells me how they are going to keep all office workers from going to Zoho or Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Seriously, he laid out what Microsoft Office team is trying to do to bring collaborative features into the most-used of Office suites.
FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein talks to me about a variety of issues, including child protection, which is what he’s most passionate about.
Congressman Tim Ryan talks to me about Twittering from the House of Representatives. Among other things. Heck, did you catch that a Democrat is now proposing that we build nuclear power plants and get people to buy electronic cars? We wouldn’t have had THAT conversation a decade ago.

Whew, and there’s more smart people to listen to over on FastCompanyTV too.