Will Vista Be the Last Operating System Microsoft Produces?

by James R. Stoup Apr 21, 2006

I don’t think Microsoft will ship another Operating System after Vista launches. I believe that a combination of technical difficulties and changing markets will prevent it from creating a product that is relevant in the market. Consider this, if the latest shipping dates are to be believed, it will have taken Microsoft over six years to get Windows Vista out the door and to its consumers. And based on past events, it is safe to assume that Vista will require at least one service pack before it is truly ready for use. Of course, factoring in the normal Microsoft delays for producing patches, such a comprehensive service pack will probably take another year before it can be released to users. That would mean that it will have taken Microsoft 7+ years to make a usable operating system.

Now consider how long it could take Microsoft to produce Vista’s successor. If the added complexity of this new OS increases the development time by only 25% (not an unreasonable figure) of what it took to make Vista, then it will have been in development for almost 8 years. That means if Vista comes out in 2007, it won’t be replaced until 2015. To put that into perspective, if Apple continues on with its release cycle of OS X (and factoring in increases in development time) they could, counting Leopard, release 4 to 5 new operating systems by the time Microsoft releases one.

But keeping up with Apple won’t be Microsoft’s biggest concern. What will prevent Microsoft from releasing another OS is the changing market. For Vista’s successor to have a hope of selling, the company has to assume that no fundamental shifts in technology will occur for almost a decade! That seems, overly optimistic at best. With Google threatening to release a web-based OS, and Apple potentially using virtualization to run all Windows applications, Microsoft might find that by the time it can cobble something together, it no longer has a market interested in its product.

Microsoft will find itself in this position (or one like it) all too soon, and it has no one but itself to blame. Here are the two biggest factors that are slowly killing Microsoft from within.

Code base
The amount of code that makes up Windows has simply become too large to work with. Now, you can blame this on anything you want (backwards compatibiliy would be high on my list), but ultimately the cause doesn’t matter. What matters is that building new features has become impossible, and debugging this mess has become impossible + 1. This was most clearly witnessed when Bill Gates got up onstage and informed his eager audience that the codebase for Vista had become so large and tangled that they simply had to throw it all away and start over from a point they knew was stable. Guess what? That problem isn’t going to go away by throwing another service pack at it. With each version of Windows released the amount of code grows and the strain gets greater. However, the amount of code isn’t the only problem here. The structure of the OS itself is fundamentally flawed. There are too many antiquated ideas (drive letters, the registry, etc.) and constraining bounds (NTFS) to allow for anymore growth. A drastic rewrite is the only way to solve this problem. The only real question Microsoft needs to ask is how much should we rewrite?

The last few years has seen a flurry of restructuring at Microsoft. Key people have left (most noticably for Google) and even loyal employees who still believe the hype have begun to criticize management and air their grievances on personal blogs. The leadership of Microsoft has failed miserably and Vista is only the beginning in what looks to be an impressive series of embarrassments. It is time for a change. If Microsoft still hopes to be in the OS market a decade from now then those changes can’t come soon enough.


  • Not quite, SterlingNorth. The issue is more complex than that.

    Diminishing returns are setting in on Microsoft Windows, but events are occurring in ways previously unforeseen. The handwriting is on the wall. Window’s doom is certain, but apparently, it is deferred.

    Where James erred was in not recognizing that Microsoft is a marketing company, not a technology company. As long as the suckers are buying the Windows OS, then Microsoft will be issuing new crappy versions of it, full of glitter and hype, but no substance. Microsoft acts as a Confidence Man relying on other people’s ignorance and gullibility.

    The Longhorn OS failed after five years of development and almost six billion dollars spent, so MS pulled a fast one to cover their embarrassment. They took an updated version of Windows NT with all its security flaws—Windows Server 2003—and then hurried up to produce Vista in a year and a half. No wondered that Vista failed; it was still an Alpha version when released. MS needed over three years to revamp Vista into a half way decent OS in Windows Seven.

    But, the Windows operating system is not fixable. It is not a multi-user, multi-tasking operating system designed for the internet; it is a stand alone disk system which has been reworked into fooling you into believing it is. Apple did the same con job with multi-finder in System 5 in 1985.


    James is right in saying that Microsoft Windows is a disaster in the making.  The Windows OS should be abandoned, but there are institutional reasons for why it will not die easily. As long as Windows is on the Internet, billions will be lost each year due to malware. A vulnerability in Windows is automatically an exploit, because it has no internal protection. Windows users have been conned into thinking that their malware woes are a necessary and an unavoidable part of computing. It is not.

    We have no idea when Windows will fail or how hard. As it seems right now, the Chrome OS is the greatest threat to Microsoft Windows, not Mac OSX. But, when this article was written, Google had not even started on the Chrome OS.


    Apple is in the hardware business. It will use Microsoft’s incompetence to sell its hardware, but it is not at war with Microsoft. That is why Chrome is the only OS which stands a chance of replacing Windows.

    Over 60% of the computers in existence are on Windows XP. These computers are, mostly, in Enterprise companies, world wide, doing specialized tasks using old software. The systems work well enough for occasional use, so there is no reason to upgrade the hardware to run Windows Seven. Meanwhile, those computers remain a threat to the internet, because XP is so easily corrupted.

    What the Chrome OS can do is to allow the companies using XP to convert to Google apps. I expect than when Chrome is finally released, this year, someone in the FOSS community will revamp WINE to run on Chrome. This means that the companies who currently use Windows XP can install the Chrome OS and run their old Windows software in WINE. Hence, their workflows will be unhampered.

    How fast this will occur is anyone’s guess.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Mar 08, 2010 Posts: 111
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