Version Glut Blurs Vistas Outlines

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2006-03-06 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Microsoft's lack of faith in a need for hardware upgrades may fuel disinterest in Vista.

Traditionally, a major new mass-market operating system release sends a "refresh" command to the hardware base as well. Users have accepted the costs of more memory, more processor speed and more graphical horsepower as enablers of new capability and convenience—but Microsoft seems uncharacteristically hesitant about the ability of Windows Vista to trigger the next such cycle.

For example, as announced last week, the company plans to offer versions that lack the distinctive new user interface and collaboration capabilities that are key components of the promised new user experience. Microsoft thereby sends a signal that its not confident of its continuing ability to offer user experience innovations that propel substantial hardware upgrades.

Click here to read eWEEK Labs review of the latest Vista build.
If developers pick up the vibe that Vista wont be a compelling upgrade for current users of Windows XP, or even Windows 2000, theyll be slow to write and release new applications that exploit new platform features. If the volume software marketplace ceases to have a single, well-defined core, developers may start to hedge their bets by learning and using platform-neutral application frameworks; they may concentrate on adding value by other means, such as the development of rich Web content, rather than putting their time into mastery of Vistas undeniably impressive thick-client improvements.

The technology stock thats now on everyones radar, Google, dominates by putting massive back-end power behind an almost ascetic UI, fundamentally transforming users manner of using their PCs without a major upgrade of either operating system or hardware. Thats never happened before, and Microsoft has to be praying that its not the new norm.

But Microsoft weakens its own message if it allows, let alone promotes, confusion about what makes Vista fundamentally better—and why its worth the hardware required to make full use of that capability.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at

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Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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