Friday, October 18, 2002

Windows isn't good at operating systems

Paul Wolpe wrote in disagreeing with my assertion that Microsoft makes poor operating systems. He argues that NT is actually quite good, and given time, it will be even better. I spoke with Sean Martin at IBM about this (Sean is one of the advanced engineers there and a really smart guy) and he had good things to say about the way Microsoft pumps out code. Given how hard code production is, and how bad most companies are at it, I concur--Microsoft software is actually quite good compared to most other commercial software.

So why they insist on lumbering it with their bad OSes I don't know.

Microsoft is bad at operating systems the same way Apple is bad at hardware. (Note that I write this on my 800 Mhz iBook which I deeply, deeply love. But I would love it more if it had a fast x86 processor.) Just as Apple hindered its wonderful operating system in the 1980s by clinging to proprietary hardware, Microsoft is hindering its wonderful applications now by clinging to proprietary operating systems.

Having an inhouse team of developers, no matter how talented, is just not the best model for producing and maintaining a kernal. Wolpe mentions GNU/Linux in his post, but then dismisses it. Balmer doesn't, he's on the record as saying Open Source software is the #1 threat to Microsoft. And he's right, in terms of performance, scalability, robustness, and cost GNU/Linux beats the pants of anything produced in Redmond.

So why doesn't Microsoft exit the OS business (the way Apple has and simply ship their quite good enterprise applications on Lintel blades? It's because they're addicted to the operating system business, and that will prove their downfall.

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