Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Myth of a Windows Collapse

I rarely disagree with the brilliant minds at Gartner, but this time they are missing the point. Gartner research analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald argue that Windows is collapsing under it's own weight as it tries to support 20 years of applications. They are making this assumption because many users are opting out of Windows Vista. “Windows is too monolithic,” says Silver.

MacDonald argues that Windows should adopt multiple versions to support the demands of customers and hardware manufacturers. “One size doesn’t fit all,” says MacDonald. He believes that Microsoft should develop different versions of Windows specific to the device and/or the needs of the user. Essentially, he thinks Windows should be more like Linux.

They further argue that Windows is becoming too bloated because Windows Vista has a larger footprint and requires more resources than Windows XP, which requires more than Windows 98 and so on.

But this is nonsense. They are missing the two most important points:

  1. The backwards compatibility of Windows is among it's biggest selling points! Because it can support legacy applications, customers will stay loyal to the Windows operating system. The moment Microsoft decides on a clean break, they risk losing customers.
  2. Bloated operating systems are a boon to OEMs! If your old computer can't support the new operating system then you must upgrade, which makes OEMs happy. As hard drives get larger and processors get faster, larger operating systems are not necessarily a problem. Most consumers adopt new operating systems when they buy a new computer. We cannot ignore the financial significance of the relationship between Microsoft and the various OEMs. If they work together, they both benefit.

This is not to say they are totally wrong. Silver and MacDonald's arguments are valid amongst the technically literate crowd. However, the average computer user doesn't care about any of the technical issues involved. At the end of it all, the most important questions should not be ignored: Is it easy to use? Is it reasonably priced? Is it secure?

As long as Microsoft can keep providing "Yes" answers to those questions, Windows will have a long and fruitful life.

For more details on Gartner's argument:

R-Squared Computing - Business Technology Experts