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Feeding the Tall Poppy

Feeding the Tall Poppy

I came. I saw. I didn’t Vista

I feel sorry for Microsoft.

I realize this is probably the first time that sentence has ever appeared in print, aside from marketing glossies that touted "far superior" competing products from companies no longer in existence. But Microsoft has had a tough time over the past few months, and they're being picked on from all quarters.

Many people have quibbled about Vista lacking available drivers for video, audio and other non-essential devices. These petty grievances did gather more attention when it was revealed complainants included Microsoft executives having trouble working with Vista. Their e-mail complaints are up to a year old but only came to light recently - after the rest of us bought new laptops with Vista compulsorily loaded.

Following closely on that news, results emerged showing XP performed faster than Vista in a number of tests. That should be expected as Vista is only a year old and yet to reach its full potential. Given Vista also takes more space and more system resources, perhaps the computer adage that's been with us for 50 years - "faster, cheaper, smaller" - has finally reversed, and we can now expect to see computers and programs that are increasingly "slower, expensive, bigger". I, for one, am not opposed to the latter change - those little Windows Mobile PDAs, with tiny fonts and itty-bitty keyboards, have become a challenge for my fat fingers and ageing eyes.

Perhaps the problem is Vista's name. A vista is an expansive horizon that extends a long way into the distance. Apparently so, too, does its code development cycle.

Being a new and improved operating system, applications need to be modified or rewritten to take advantage of the rich functionality features included in Vista (in other words, to work). As we've seen every time a new OS is released, there's fallout among smaller, more specialized software companies. Having survived for years making minor patches when absolutely needed, they can't afford to invest in a full rewrite and often have lost the programmers who know the code. This merely opens up a space for larger, better resourced software vendors to fill. Like Microsoft. (I heard of an expensive stock market trading program whose creators are opting not to support Vista, but that shouldn't be a major problem. Staff who previously spent half their work week checking their portfolio, and all the former IT people who resigned to become day traders, have recently gone back to working full-time for some reason.)

New Kid on the Block

However Vista is no longer the topic de jour, except to those still struggling to get it working at home or in their business. Windows Server 2008 is the new kid on the block, so fresh off the production line that it's not yet complete, and everybody loves it. All the vendors have pledged support for it, including those still not quite supporting Vista. Server 2008 will contain a Hypervisor, imaginatively called Hyper-V, though the correct emphasis should probably be on the first syllable. It's not actually available until the third quarter this year, so until then it's really a Vapourvisor.

Server 2008's emphasis on virtualization is a firm commitment from Microsoft to seek its rightful number one position in one of the few areas of the IT market it doesn't currently dominate. It's gone for blanket coverage. Softgrid allows application virtualization, Hyper-V provides server virtualization, Virtual PC does desktop virtualization and Terminal Services is used for presentation virtualization. I only need to figure out how to virtualize users and my work will be complete.

With all these virtual layers operating simultaneously, there's the minor issue of management. If I'm not careful how I manage my emerging virtual technology stack, my virtual technology could completely stack. To assist me, Microsoft has decided to buy desktop virtualization management developer Kidaro, whose technology will be incorporated into the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance. While that promises to be good, not having bought Kidaro yet and not having integrated their management code means the new version of DOPSA should become available just after I've worked out how to solve the problem myself.

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