Barney's Rubble

Owning Up to Vista

More than a year after its release, users still haven't warmed to the new OS.

I've been quiet about Windows Vista, but now -- about a year and a half later -- it's time to cut loose. I usually have my own opinions about things like music, politics and cars. But when it comes to technology, nearly all are formed by the feelings of you, the Redmond reader. If you love something, I swoon. You have an enemy? Lock and load. With that philosophy in mind, this entire column is entirely based on your views of Vista.

Shortly after its launch, I was shocked at how much end users disliked Vista. An operating system is supposed to help run applications and offer a few extra services. Instead, Vista stood in the way of efficient and comfortable computing.

But these were ordinary end users, not smart enough to handle a real computer. So I let it go.

Then we did a Redmond reader survey. The majority of you were far from fond. I let this go, too.

Then you all e-mailed me about your personal experiences with Vista. CIOs, IT managers and admins described how they couldn't get Vista to work right. Folks charged with keeping thousands of machines up and running couldn't straighten out their own workstations.

I couldn't let this go. Microsoft, we have a problem.

Not all stories are nightmares. I've heard from plenty of happy Vista customers. But just think about how few Ford Pintos blew up, Jack in the Box burgers had E. coli, or Tylenol capsules were poisoned. If a significant minority suffers, that's a major disaster.

There is no Band-Aid, quick fix or soothing salve. This is a fundamental computer science issue. The answer has to cut to the core, to the kernel.

Apple faced the same issue. It had an ultra-stable, full-featured OS in the '80s. But the OS was single-tasking. So Apple, with Steve Jobs in command, brought in the Mach kernel from Carnegie-Mellon University, the one he knew and loved from the NeXT Computer.

Microsoft needs an all-new kernel, and to build the features and UI on top. Redmond threw out Vista source code once -- and it should do it again.

Pundits are gaga over Web and cloud computing, yet they write their misdirected missives on what? Old-fashioned fat clients. Full-featured laptops and desktops will live for years, so it makes sense for Microsoft to do Windows right.

In fact, Microsoft Research already built a brand-new OS called Singularity with security and stability as a top concern. Maybe this could be the new Windows kernel.

In the meantime, Microsoft should -- and I guess it grudgingly will -- extend the life of Windows XP for as long as it takes to get Vista right!

Am I too rough on Vista, or treating it with kid gloves? Let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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