Can Microsoft Change Its DNA?
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Microsoft is in a throw-it-off-the-train state of mind these days in regard to its Windows operating system features. It's announced that Longhorn will ship by 2006 -- but without its much-ballyhooed WinFS subsystem.
Instead of bundling WinFS, the file and search sub system with SQL Server layered on top, when Windows ships, the company will instead release a beta version when Windows comes out.
Count me among the hordes of analysts and industry observers who don't expect this to be the last feature that doesn't make the 2006 Windows deadline. The company has to face some realities about what it can get in the market, and how the Windows platform must change to do it.
And that's not all that bad, depending on your perspective. With its latest roadmap, at least the PC industry knows when it can expect to ship the next version of Windows. Longhorn's delay while WinFS was part of the development plans was holding up other server systems as well.
But given market and regulatory realities facing the world's largest software company, Windows could be a lot leaner when it hits shelves. Indeed, Microsoft's business model -- breaking out core products rather than wrapping everything into one platform -- could be radically changed by 2006. So could the company's crazy quilt of code bases -- for its client and server sides of the house have to be aligned in order for it to roll any new innovation into the marketplace. And that means simplifying Windows in the process.
My $.02 is that Web services tools that are part of the .NET framework, such as Visual Studio .NET or ASP.NET will be delayed further in the wake of the WinFS news. After all, we're now six months out from Microsoft's announcement that it would delay the releases of VisualStudio .NET until 2005. Same for SQL Server. But that's assuming feedback from the beta of Visual Studio, which is now underway, is what the company expects.
The industry is already expecting more delays anyway, because of some of the difficulties it has run into with developing Web services applications thus far. Microsoft wants to make gains in the enterprise. So many applications in those enterprises still run on older platforms, or were written in the older Windows DNA environment. They have to be supported while Microsoft tries to continue building customers a bridge to its .NET framework for Web services.
Speaking of which, the .NET framework is expected to be embedded in the next version of Windows. But will it be version 2.0? Only the beta will tell. But I bet that will be delayed too.
And that's not to mention what could come out on the other side of the Atlantic. Microsoft is appealing the European Commission's order that it remove Media Player from versions of Windows sold in Europe and faces a hearing on the matter on Sept. 29th.
The judge could issue a ruling from the bench, or take it under advisement. Either way, the company will be closer to knowing whether it will have to strip Media Player from Windows as well.
So, instead of suggesting that Microsoft is in a throw-it-off-the-train mode, you could say the company is being forced to change its own organizational and developmental DNA in order to adapt to a tougher environment.
There's one more reason why I don't think we've seen the last of Microsoft tools and products that could not make it into the next version of Windows. It's the age-old question of whether the sheer size of Microsoft is impeding its ability to innovate without, well, delay.