Ten: The Best of the Rest
When we asked Redmond readers, contributors and staffers for suggestions
on products Microsoft should develop—the topic of our October "Ten"
print column—we got far more than 10 quality responses. Here, then, is the
best of the rest, categorized into serious and not-so-serious suggestions, along
with a "You Be the Judge" category for those that oh-so-cleverly straddle
The current crop of corporate user interfaces are flat, dull and unproductive.
They're all about folders and file cabinets and storage containers and not only
do they bore the living daylights out of me, they require extensive training
that ends up giving little or no additional benefit to a company other than
ensuring that the user has the ability to "work a computer." I want
to see user interfaces that take a cue from massively distributed role-playing
games. A user devises a character based on certain introductory parameters then
earns the ability to wander throughout a virtual corporation or university,
partaking of resources based on capabilities demonstrated by the user. The user
interface becomes a viewport into this virtual world through which the user's
character can be seen interacting with other users and with elements within
the virtual company. IT staff would spend their time constructing new elements
in the world, expanding its capabilities, and providing very real benefits to
the participants. Learning how the computer system works essentially becomes
synonymous with learning how to function most productively within the organization,
which is a big win all the way round. Besides, this new paradigm would give
"drag and drop" a whole different meaning.
This next one can be done by Microsoft or VMware. Now that virtual server technology
has progressed to the point where a virtual machine is nearly as fast as a standard
machine, and powerful hardware has become a complete commodity, it's time to
start rethinking the way we package applications.
Every application vendor has at least one "reference system," a server
running the application in an environment that has been tweaked and modified
until the app runs flawlessly. The problems arise when the application gets
installed on different hardware with a different mix of applications running
at the same time. What software vendors should start doing is packaging their
reference systems within a virtual machine. They can sell the entire virtual
machine file as a unit because it will run just fine on any host system from
the same vendor. (Build one reference system in VMWare and one in Microsoft
Virtual Server.) The application installation routine, then, becomes a simple
change to a few items in the guest operating system (name, IP address, etc.)
and voila, instant deployment. The virtual machine host takes care of monitoring
and backups and other dull chores. The vendor's support staff only needs to
understand their absolutely pristine reference system, which dramatically reduces
— Bill Boswell, Redmond contributing editor
Develop a truly functional procedure control language that can perform most
functions without the need for writing Visual Basic. Something on the functional
level of the minicomputer systems like the IBM OS400 OCL or the DEC VMS DCL
— Douglas Bracken
Windows without IE—so I don't have all the vulnerabilities.
— Doug Barney, Redmond editor in chief
I want Microsoft to allow me to easily transfer the OS and configurations from
old PCs or servers to new ones. For example, I would like to transfer XP from
an old computer to a new one, without purchasing the OS anew. Is that too much
— Louis Marchione
Put out IE 7. I want tabs and a popup blocker built into the browser. There
hasn't been a new version of IE in forever. Just because IE was declared the
winner in the first "browser war" doesn't mean Microsoft can sit on
its throne and let other browsers outpace it.
A REAL application testing application, especially including Web apps. Not
"stress testing," but actual functional testing. Recording of macros
or scripts and then replaying them, giving the ability to regression test an
application after a bug fix or enhancement, etc. nUnit helps on the back-end
code, but we need an Application Test. I know this is supposed to be coming,
but not until the next, next version of Visual Studio. So we're looking at 2007
As a wish list, how about working with SQL standards and improving them? The
current SQL ANSI standards have been around since the '70s(?). One minor change
would make developers/database admins and users lives so much easier: Make the
UPDATE and INSERT statements follow the same format! It could work in either
direction, but the one that works closest to todays standards would be to modify
the INSERT format to something more similar to UPDATE. Such a simple little
thing, but it could reduce a LOT of code!
— David Walker
How about an installation program that eliminates much unnecesary clicking
of Install, Next, Next, Next, OK, Next, OK, etc. All it would take is one button
labeled: Defaults OK—just install the thing!
— Steve G.
Default encrypted e-mail. To facilitate the use of encrypted email there should
be some changes made to Outlook and PKI components. PKI should publish the public
key of a user at a default Web site (i.e., pubkey.company.com/
Outlook receives an encrypted email from a user (firstname.lastname@example.org) for which
it does not have the corresponding public key, it should automatically go to
the Web site and download it and decrypt the message.
Also PIE 6.0 (Pocket Internet Explorer). I'm tired of going to a Web site using
my Pocket PC only to have it kick back that it won't work with my version of
IE and that I should upgrade to IE 6.0.
On the Physical gadget side, how about a Bluetooth Heads-up Display (HUD).
The little monitors that cover one eye yet give you a virtual monitor of 50"+
for example). This plus a PPC, some kind of virtual mouse and keyboard, and
you have the perfect portable/wearable computer.
— Wesley Bielinski
You don't want to know how many businesses are using Microsoft Access for business
critical applications. Strengthen this tool to protect against data corruption
or inform people of the risks.
Rewrite "perfmon" (the bottleneck analysis program) so that it is
incredibly user friendly. We want those extremely busy enterprise executives
(both IT and CXOs) to be able to easily see exactly what is causing the bottleneck.
Tie this to an ROI that shows what changing certain hardware can do.
— Anne Stanton
I'd like Microsoft to build a home PC architecture that makes sense:
- Home server.
- Thin clients around the house.
- Gigabit backbone, so speed is not a factor.
- Make it such that you don't have to maintain all the stuff on all the kids'
machines. I should be able to install one version on the server, have simultaneous
and multi-user access, and have central stores so backup and protection is
Sound like a corporate net for the home? You betcha.
— Danny Briere
I'd like to see an instant messaging client that actually talked to all the
other major players (Yahoo, AOL) using open standards.
— Mike Gunderloy, Redmond contributing editor
Change Management for Windows: Logs configuration changes made to a server,
along with who made them, into a log file and/or database.
A Dual-Tuner Windows XP Media Center Edition: Plug in two sources and record
two programs at once.
— Don Jones, Redmond contributing editor
Domain Reorganizer 1.0: This product would be a free add-on for any company
that owned any W2k (or above) licences. This program would help rename domains
(in one easy step, as opposed to 100 pages), spin domains off current trees
and generally allow you to reorganize your domain structure in any way you want.
How about "Windows Sommelier," a.k.a: "Wine Server?"
— Steve Marty
Microsoft ESP interface: Compute at the speed of thought.
Microsoft Unix: Everyone else has a flavor.
Microsoft Windshield Wiper: Wipes away the road salt and junk from the Internet
from your computer.
— Richard Stoddart
Neural Web browser: This intelligent Web browser would essentially program
itself to browse the Web EXACTLY the way you want to, looking for things you
want to look for in the order in which you want to look for them. Two nodes
coming from a port in the back of the computer connect to your temples. Brainwaves
are translated into commands that drive your intelligent Web browser. After
a few uses, you don't even need to connect the brainwave gathering nodes, because
the browser has picked up the way you like to surf the Web, and does it for
The Billionizer: Microsoft Excel-based template that takes any business plan,
and reconfigures it to guarantee any potential business venture will change
the face of industry, change the world and turn its developer into a billionaire.
— Lafe Low, Redmond executive editor, Reviews
Windows Gel Tabs: Specialized headache relief for the help desk staff. (Microsoft
should throw in a case with every enterprise server OS it sells.)
Looking Windows, Eye Drops: Lubricant for those eyes that stare at the screen
for hours on end.
— Roshan Mahtani, MCSE
Microsoft Bug Spray: You'd use it once a month, say, on the first Tuesday,
and your computer would run smooth.
— Chris Neidle
How about an X10 software interface from Outlook or Exchange so you could schedule
environmental events on your Outlook calendar? This would be great to control
AC and lighting in the office, or just queue up the coffee pot in the conference
room 15 minutes before the next meeting—or could be tied in to another product
Microsoft Home Server How about SBS Lite for the home (max of 10 users, maybe),
with the above-mentioned X10 and Media Center integration. If Bobby has the
media room scheduled so his buddies can come over to watch "Terminator
7," the Media Center is already warmed up, lighting set, the movie is downloaded
and queued up and is ready for Bobby to hit Play. This way little Susie and
her friends don't show up to watch "Princess Diaries 3" (unless Susie
didn't check the calendar!). There are probably some interesting DRM things
you could do here as well.
Home Server could be limited to Server, Exchange, ISA and maybe a version of
WSS for home use. Maybe a limited TS service as well. This could be bundled
up with hardware much the same way that Media Center is only available from
a hardware vendor.
You could get a family domain name and everyone can get their own e-mail address,
securely delivered over a broadband connection, through ISA Lite into Exchange
Lite (which has e-mail and calendaring, but no public folders or intrasite routing
abilities). And then of course comes the whole line of Microsoft Home appliances—the refrigerator that notifies the grocery Web service what is running low
or gone and needs to be ordered—then schedules the delivery based on your
calendar free/busy info. And don't forget the Starbucks/Microsoft co-branded
coffee pot for that conference room mentioned above, which could also reorder
it's own bean refills from Starbuck's Web site.
— Doug Pardue
Serious? Not-So-Serious? You Be the Judge
It seems to me that Pocket PC devices are becoming so powerful that I foresee
the possibility of having a phone running Pocket PC, with a docking station—not
a sync cradle, but a full port replicator. You simply plug your monitor, keyboard,
mouse, USB and Ethernet straight into your phone, bringing to an end the era
of the desktop PC, and perhaps quickening the fall of the laptop as well. It
would probably wipe out half of the remaining IT support industry as well. Scary,
— Joe Haas
I would like to see Microsoft develop a desktop to sit on top of Linux. As
far as desktops go Microsoft is the best! I would even pay up to $150 for it!
But if targeted in the $40 to $60 range, KDE and GNOME could go away. Who knows
what could happen? Imagine the security and stability. And Microsoft could still
license the Office suite! It would be good for everyone.
— Dennis Weaver, Linux administrator and MCSE
Things Microsoft should make:
- MS Linux (Minux?)
- A toaster with Bluetooth.
- A WiFi coffee pot.
- An MS robot like Aibo or better yet Qurio—priced at under $500.
- A decent car navigation system based on MapPoint.
- A robot lawnmower that works.
Things Microsoft should change:
- IMAP support in Outlook that works!
- The ability to "hide" any of the Outlook services—i.e.,
disable e-mail or the crummy notes feature so that they don't show up in the
interface but so that I can still use everything else.
- Windows servers with truly modular services so that the OS could be easily
stripped down to the bare minimum required for a specific implementation.
- Provide a definitive tweaking utility (such as Tweak Manager but on steroids).
- Get that mess of management utilities sensibly organized.
- Stop screwing around with the Windows UI! Or at least allow us to go "retro."
- Start being accurate and honest about what is in any given patch or update.
- Stop tying services into the OS that don't need to be—for example, IE
- Make it so that if I don't want an update—for example, Outlook Express
which I uninstalled—stop offering me updates! I don't want to see them.
- Rewrite IE.
— Mark Gibbs
Microsoft should come up with a Microsoft Automobile: A vehicle with all the
technology that Microsoft can provide. It will be great for marketing. They
can include things like MapPoint for navigation, Media Player and X-Box for
entertainment and even the entire Office Suite with voice recognition built
in so people can drive and work at the same time. Of course, it needs to be
able to parallel park itself like the Toyota Prius in Japan. I understand that
there are already production vehicles out there running Windows CE, but Microsoft
should take it a step further.
— Kevin Ng, MCSE
Universal Device Driver: This is one driver that would be loaded onto any computer
sold anywhere on any platform that would connect any application to any printer,
connect any computer to any peripheral, and work seamlessly and flawlessly every
single time with no fuss and no incompatibility.
— Lafe Low, Redmond Executive Editor, Reviews