Enterprise Will Take Its Longhorn Medicine

Opinion: Short on features, Longhorn could use a spoonful of sugar to sweeten the sale.

Enterprise customers may go to 64-bit computing and Longhorn not so much for what they are as for what they arent. Count on it (because Microsoft is): Longhorn and 64-bit will sell because they arent Windows XP and 32-bit. They will sell not because they are loved or because they get people genuinely excited, but because they promise a measure of pain relief.

In a previous column, I discounted the importance of 64-bit computing to the typical information worker. I endorsed the 64-bit server for those needing it. But I wanted to expand on those comments and discuss the case in favor of enterprise 64-bit computing. And this is based on what 64-bit and Longhorn can fix.

Maybe Microsoft needs an ad campaign, "Dont buy Longhorn because you like it, buy Longhorn because its good for you." Or perhaps a nostalgic campaign that likens Longhorn to cod liver oil, insect repellent and nasty-tasting cough syrup. Thats it: Longhorn—100 percent DEET for your data center!

Features that IT departments like, including improvements in security, deployment and management, are what will sell Longhorn.

Users will get new 64-bit computers, a new operating system and improved desktop searches, and can still run the Microsoft Office theyd probably be running anyway. Their productivity wont change, but the IT department will arrange the deal so the customer either breaks even or saves some money.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here of David Courseys commentary on his lack of enthusiasm for Longhorn.

I guess Microsoft and the hardware companies are happy to have sales, regardless of what motivation drives them. Customers will measure their happiness in the number of problems solved and the cost of solving them.

So, what does Microsoft have to do to make 64-bit and Longhorn the enterprise standard? Just fix the problems well enough that the investment makes sense. Save customers enough in security and management expense and the upgrade becomes a no-brainer. Not exactly, but a spreadsheet can easily generate enough justification.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts anticipated showings at WinHEC.

That is, if Microsoft hits its marks. For many enterprise customers, SP2 created as many problems as it solved and created as much expense as it saved—maybe more. They will want to see Longhorn deliver before they invest. The worst thing Microsoft could do with Longhorn would be to release a version that generates the same FUD level that SP2 created.

It is, perhaps, to Microsofts credit that it is putting as many user features into Longhorn as it seems to be doing. Theres not much apparent today (wait until next year, Im told, to see Longhorn all decked out) and what exists today looks shockingly like a Macintosh. I guess even Microsoft realized that it couldnt sell a new OS that was merely a bunch of fixes, though perhaps if it had wed have those fixes by now.

That would have avoided, perhaps, the need for SP2 and would have sped the day when XP would be gone entirely. The Longhorn delays have been hugely expensive for Microsoft in additional costs and lost revenue. Theyve also hurt the entire industry, which needs the revenue hit the new OS would provide.

The biggest feature of Longhorn is pain relief for IT staff. If you took the various "fixes" out of the Longhorn and tried to sell it solely on new users and developer features, Microsoft would have to deliver much more than its shown so far. The Longhorn I am seeing here at WinHEC wouldnt make the sale.

Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers.

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