Products We Wish Microsoft Would Deliver

From executive-distracting ROI calculators to a naked Windows, here's our dream to-do list for Microsoft's developers. (Be sure to post yours at the end of this article!)

10. The Microsoft Credit Card
Low, low interest rates help you stomach high, high software prices. Redmond Rewards program lets you earn points toward professional services for help with things like—oh, I don't know—patching? (Kudos for this idea to Wesley Bielinski, a network administrator in Evanston, Ill.)

9. Manager Minder
Colorful graphs and complex charts with adjustable vectors, deltas and ROI calculators keep business executives busy for hours—so IT staff can get real work done. Optional Meeting Avoidance Module populates Outlook calendars with talk of data purges, server reboots, IDS tuning and more—convincing evidence that you are far too busy to attend most any meeting. (Props to Alex Ayotte, a system analyst in Tallahassee, Fla.)

8. George Jetson Voice Recognition System
I suppose we could explore some business uses for this, but let's be honest: What we really want is a machine that hears "Steak, medium rare" and bolts for the kitchen to womp up some dinner—without expounding on what a "crazy day" it had.

7. Word for Dummies
Redmond Editor in Chief Doug Barney longs for the days of word processing programs like Xywrite that, even with their funky keystroke combos, were somehow simple to use. Word, on the other hand, has a mind of its own, constantly changing formatting and fonts on unsuspecting editors who are just trying to get some work done. Make it stop!

6. Better Backup
Redmond Contributing Editor Bill Boswell envisions data mirroring and enterprise-wide data management with speedy, object-based archiving that addresses full-scale as well as file-sized recoveries. Robert Oswalt, an admin at a church in Fort Worth, Texas, wants a simple way to back up his server to a DLT drive. I just want to back up My Documents without having to think about it every … single … day.

5. Integrated Anti-Everything
Whaddyagot—viruses? We kill that. Spam? No problem. Adware, malware, spyware, post-nasal drip? Yep, yep, yep. We'll kill it all, dead, dead, dead. It'll all be integrated with Windows and it'll just work, from the get-go, I swear. You won't even notice it.

4. Outlook for Idiots
Ever send an e-mail pointing to insightful ponderings in an attached document—only to forget to attach the document? I've done it 642 times as of noon today. Wouldn't it be nice if Outlook scanned outgoing messages for a predefined keyword—something crazy like "attach"—and slapped you upside the head when the word cropped up in a message with no attachment? Yes, it would.

3. Windows Naked
It's time for Windows to strip down to its skivvies. Roger Clifford, a network admin in Alaska, says Microsoft could create an OS "that boots in 10 seconds and never slows down or freezes" if not for "useless features that slow down the OS, crash the machine and create unnecessary security holes." Contributing Writer and Network Manager Laura E. Hunter (see p. 43) wants a server OS stripped of its GUI, browser and "all the other pretty things" that belong only on clients. Redmond Executive Editor of Reviews Lafe Low says you should be able to start with the basics and build by adding modules "that all work and integrate seamlessly, with zero hassles."

2. "Something, anything, for which I am not a beta tester."
So sayeth Christopher Bell, of Manchester, U.K. After a less-than-pleasant experience with XP SP2, Chris wants Microsoft to develop its own internal testing system covering alpha, beta, gamma, pre-release, release—the gamut—so he doesn't have to. Who said the Brits have no sense of humor?

1. The Bill Gates Reimbursement Machine
Here's how it would work:

  • Enter all time spent on Windows updates, patches, new ways of doing things that are different but not necessarily better and clearly nothing you need.
  • Enter value of your time per hour.
  • Machine calculates value of time wasted.
  • Bill Gates issues you a check and mails it with an apology.

    More Information

    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 line.


    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 support costs.
    — 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 languages.
    — 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 to ask?
    — 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 at least.

    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/
    username). When Outlook receives an encrypted email from a user ([email protected]) 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"+ (see www.microoptical.net 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 easy.

    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.
    —Jeremy Moskowitz


    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 you.

    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 idea …

    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, huh?
    — 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:

    1. MS Linux (Minux?)
    2. A toaster with Bluetooth.
    3. A WiFi coffee pot.
    4. An MS robot like Aibo or better yet Qurio—priced at under $500.
    5. A decent car navigation system based on MapPoint.
    6. A robot lawnmower that works.

    Things Microsoft should change:

    1. IMAP support in Outlook that works!
    2. 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.
    3. Windows servers with truly modular services so that the OS could be easily stripped down to the bare minimum required for a specific implementation.
    4. Provide a definitive tweaking utility (such as Tweak Manager but on steroids).
    5. Get that mess of management utilities sensibly organized.
    6. Stop screwing around with the Windows UI! Or at least allow us to go "retro."
    7. Start being accurate and honest about what is in any given patch or update.
    8. Stop tying services into the OS that don't need to be—for example, IE or WMP.
    9. 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.
    10. 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

About the Author

Paul Desmond, the founding editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, is president of the IT publishing firm PDEdit in Southborough, Mass. Reach him at [email protected].


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