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Virtualization May Help With Windows Bloat

The Microsoft Windows operating system has become unwieldy and is choking on the amount of code that needs to be maintained.

The Microsoft Windows operating system has become unwieldy and is choking on the amount of code that needs to be maintained. Moreover, its days are numbered unless the OS becomes more modular. Those are some of the conclusions of a widely reported talk by Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald at this week's Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Las Vegas,

The title of their talk was clear enough: "Windows Is Collapsing: How What Comes Next Will Improve."

What comes next after Windows Vista is code-named "Windows 7," an OS currently under development. Windows 7 was rumored -- by Microsoft's Chairman Bill Gates himself -- to appear as early as next year. However, Gates may have meant an initial test version of Windows 7, rather than the release-to-manufacturing version.

One of Microsoft's problems with Windows in general, according to Silver and MacDonald, is that Redmond has to maintain backward compatibility with applications over a 20-years period. The analysts suggested a way out for Microsoft. Use virtualization via compatibility modules to ensure backward compatibility, rather than continuing to integrate code into newer and newer versions of Windows.

Another problem for Microsoft is that Windows licensing is too complex. It isn't keeping up with the times. Having the licensing tied to one computer doesn't reflect user mobility. The work space of the future will embrace multiple devices, rather than just one PC, the analysts said.

Bloat is a particular concern for Microsoft's current flagship Windows Vista OS, which has had lackluster adoption thus far. Vista can't run on some of the smaller and lower cost PCs that are starting to appear on the market. Microsoft addressed this issue recently by extending the life of its older, but still popular, Windows XP.

Veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley wasn't impressed by the Gartner analysts' claims, calling it "not news that Windows is huge and unwieldy." Foley said in her All About Microsoft blog that all signs point to Windows 7 being "a minor upgrade to Vista." It won't be a "slimmed-down" OS, she added.

One bright spot that seems to meet the criteria of the Gartner analysts is that Windows 7 will have a modularized component system that will help manage the size of the OS, Foley explained. She added that it will have a virtualization layer of some sort to help with backward compatibility, which is what the Gartner analysts had proposed.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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