Users dont buy operating systems for operating systems sake; they buy them for the applications that run on them.
Given that truism, its not too early to wonder about the whereabouts of Microsoft Windows Vista-optimized apps.
Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., will have showcase applications ready in time for the Vista launch, which is still set for January of 2007, company officials said.
But given recent lawsuits and public disagreements with the likes of Symantec and Adobe Systems—two of Microsofts biggest ISV partners—which vendors are likely to be leading the Vista charge?
A whole new crop of application developers could emerge as the first wave of Vista supporters, said Vic Gundotra, general manager of developer platform and evangelism for Microsoft.
In August 1995, when Microsoft launched Windows 95, ISVs were jostling to be the first to take advantage of new Windows features, such as Plug and Play support, a richer graphics palette and OLE, said Gundotra.
"In some ways, with Vista, well see the same dynamic, with companies like SAP and traditional line-of-business folks who will show how, with Vista, they can radically improve the user interface," Gundotra said.
However, with Vista, there also will be a "new class of ISV," he said, including companies such as Mercedes-AMG and The New York Times. "Back in 1995, we wouldnt have even called them ISVs," he said.
For customers like these, "their primary touch point is the Internet," Gundotra said. And they are building Web sites running on Vista and using the associated WinFX development technologies to demonstrate the improvements in security, Web support and underlying communications technologies that Vista will bring, he said.
WinFX, Microsofts new Windows programming model that will be introduced with Vista, includes the technologies of greatest potential interest to software developers.
These are Windows Presentation Foundation, or "Avalon," the presentation subsystem; Windows Communication Foundation, or "Indigo," the underlying Web services and communications technologies; Windows Workflow Foundation, or "WinOE," the built-in collaboration and workflow technologies; and InfoCard, Microsofts client-side digital-identity technology.
Microsoft launched last week a new See Vista marketing Web site that shows off nearly 20 prototype applications developed by customers and partners.
Among the highlighted applications are a virtual sports-car test-drive site created by Mercedes-AMG, a rare-books reader developed by the British Library, a health-monitoring application created by Allscripts Healthcare Solutions and a CRM (customer relationship management) application developed by Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.
Microsoft also holds up the recently launched reader application it co-developed with The New York Times as another showcase Vista application.
The PC-based Times Reader makes use of Windows Presentation Foundation technologies, including built-in display technologies that Microsoft formerly was developing under the ePeriodicals code name.
"The real reason to do a Vista application would be to exploit something like the .Net Framework, and specifically, the Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation or Windows Workflow Foundation and the new search tools to ensure that your data can be indexed," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, in Kirkland, Wash.
"But the problem becomes that these features are not widely enough available—despite being promised for some level of support on XP SP2 [Windows XP Service Pack 2] to warrant the effort, yet [as an ISV] you dont want to create yet another version of your application."
Microsoft is planning more outreach to current and potential software developers at the Tech-Ed conference in Boston the week of June 11, as well as at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston July 11-13, Gundotra said.
At the Vista Partner Day at the latter conference, Microsoft officials will detail for ISVs, hardware partners and solution providers some of the companys plans for taking Vista to market.
Microsoft also recently launched a new DevReadiness Web site, aimed at ISVs.
The site includes technical information to help software developers build applications that "light up on Vista," as well as information on how to obtain Vista certification for current and new applications.
And Microsoft has begun offering to hardware and software partners a Windows Vista 101 class to further educate them on Vista features upon which they are encouraged to build.
A new breed of ISVs are jumping to Vista first:
* 90 Degree Software
* Allscripts Healthcare Solutions
* British Library
* Dassault Systemes
* Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group
* Knowledge Computing
* The New York Times
* The North Face
* Right Hemisphere
* The Scripps Research Institute
* Skelta Software