Storing Up My Disappointment

Opinion: Is the latest Vista delay a repeat of Cairo's disappointment?

Its a sign of competent public relations when a companys actions are covered as news. Its brilliant PR, though, when those stories focus on the topic that a company would rather have covered, instead of paying uncomfortable attention to what a company hopes well ignore. This brings us to the subject of the latest delay in Microsofts shipment of Vista.

It is not news that Vista wont ship to consumers, as a preload on the majority of PCs, until next year. I dont just mean that youve known it for a week; I mean that the history of major software projects makes a delay like this unsurprising.

/zimages/3/28571.gifWhats really behind the Vista delay? Click here to read more.

Moreover, a Vista slip is irrelevant to most of this columns readers. As one eWeek reader caustically commented, in response to our March 6 issue with its anomalous blip of Windows news, "I am wondering how this affects my data center, my applications, my security, scalability, SLAs, and performance requirements. … Let me say just how much I enjoy reading nothing about Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun, Oracle, Apple, EMC, NetApp, F5, Cisco, AppWorx, Symantec, Quest, BMC, CA, and other so-called technology firms."

As I told that reader, we cover those companies, too, but not on weekly quotas. Sometimes I feel as if Im giving too much attention to IBM, sometimes to Sun, sometimes to Apple. Real-world events come in bursts, not streams.

Even so, its common for us to begin a meeting here at eWeek with the question: "How do we keep this from turning into yet another Microsoft story?" The companys breadth of interests and the intensity of its efforts are exceptional (although Google is starting to rival Microsofts pervasiveness).

But even if Windows were the sun, moon and stars of your enterprise computing, the Vista delay would still be 99.9 percent irrelevant. The real story, which Microsoft certainly doesnt want widely told, is that Microsoft has yet to ship Windows NT 5.0: defeatured as Windows 2000, embellished into Windows XP, now to be superseded by Vista (while still not fulfilling NT 5.0s defining promise).

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead more here about the ghosts of Microsofts promises past, including Cairo.

The biggest single advance in Windows NT 5.0 was going to be its object-oriented transformation of storage—a fully documented vision called Cairo. Unlike many innovations, a radically rethought storage model would not be merely a "solution" in search of a problem. I can easily imagine a storage model that combined the querying capabilities of a database, the granular interface privileges of an object-oriented language and the power of associating work items with calendar activities that Microsoft Outlook aspires to provide. This would do more to improve the productivity of real people in real situations than any amount of Aero Glass eye candy.

But Vista, as we enter the second decade since early talk of Cairo in November 1995, still wont offer that.

The window, pardon the expression, is closing on Microsofts chance to determine the date of a Cairo-class storage revolution. Google, Sun or Apple could offer something this transformative as an online service. Id want to see convincing encryption of my data on their storage devices, but Id also be happy to see—hypothetically—the many Web resources that I now save locally being maintained in "my" storage as their most recently available versions.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about Microsofts forthcoming P2P-based storage engine, BitVault.

With proper authorizations, I can readily imagine the ability to log my cellular phone calls to my calendar and to link any documents that I attach to an e-mail with date-stamped entries in my contact-book entry for the message recipient. Thats productivity.

Someday well be able to write that story as news of what is, not commentary on what is not. But well have to send the news to a different address if we want to tell Judy Brown, a founding eWeek Corporate Partner who announced her retirement in March from her position as director of the Academic ADL Co-Lab for the University of Wisconsin System.

Judys involvement in technology is not ending, and we hope to be able to tell her soon that the industry has finally made good on this 10-year-old (and counting) promise.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here for reader response to this article.

Peter Coffee can be reached at

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