Why Longhorn matters

Miguel de Icaza posts a fantastic summary on why Longhorn is a massive threat to Linux (and, incidentally, to Apple as well). It’s well worth reading in its entirity, but the part that stands out most to me is this:

What makes Longhorn dangerous for the viability of Linux on the desktop is that the combination of Microsoft deployment power, XAML, Avalon and .NET is killer. It is what Java wanted to do with the Web, but with the channel to deploy it and the lessons learned from Java mistakes.

And that, of course, is why Microsoft could afford to do its deal with Sun. The only question is whether Sun has learned from its own mistakes with Java – and whether there’s enough time left to make a difference.

  • Whatever

    Nah, the threat is always the number of features and apps Windows has. I patiently wait for the numberous softwares such as Nimda, SoBig, etc. to be ported and yet apparently open source programmers don’t think they are important. Ditto for feature implementations such as BSoD and RPC/DCOM.

  • MonkeyT

    The real danger of Longhorn is that the shadow cast a threat is always more fearsome than the threat itself: Until it’s an actual working product, anyone who supports it can claim it ‘does’ anything and everything that it will need to in the long run. The vision is wonderful, the product is far far away. But the sales pitch is what Linux/Apple are competing against right now. How do you compete against a wish list? Bet money that the actual finished product won’t do everything they’re claiming it will.

  • asdfsadf

    Longhorn is just vapourware of the malodorous kind.

  • Dave Dombrowski

    Dittos. Let’s see… a product that won’t be released for (yet) another 2 years… almost no PCs out there today can comfortably use it… oh yeah, and the features they are promising are being cut back… and somehow this is meant to impact the desktop TODAY?

    ROFLMAO.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    As Miguel says, in the past people have been guilty of sleeping at the wheel when it comes to assessing the threat of future Microsoft products – and especially in the Linux and Mac communities, which often have a kind of arrogance about what MS is capable of doing.

    If it’s going to take Microsoft two years to build the kind of features that Longhorn is promising, how long is it going to take Apple – which has revenues smaller than MS”s research budget – to do better? How long will it take Linux developers to build something that is functionally similar?

    The point is that if you’re smart, you start work on matching and beating Longhorn’s features NOW. You don’t lie around laughing about it, assuming it’s far off in the distance.

    When I worked at Apple in 1990, there were people around who sneered at the idea that Microsoft could EVER match System 7. that kind of attitude is one of the reasons why it’s MS, and not Apple, that dominates the industry.

  • http://www.enknowsys.com Kent Myhre

    Totally disagree with Ian Betteridge.

    First of all, M$ has already announced cutbacks on features for the 06/07 rollout of Longhorn. Apple has about 5 Billion in the bank and is debt free. And I know for a fact that they are putting a ton of $ into R&D per OSX. Also upcoming heavy marketing campaign for the OS.

    By the time that Longhorn rolls out it will have been rolled over by whatever cat is in place. Current version number is 10.3. 10.5 will be the version number in 2006. And I am willing to bet that Longhorn won’t see the light of day before 2007.

    And the arrogance factor is no longer there at pre-1998 levels….Steve has total license on arrogance. He threw out all of the other ‘arrogants’ when he took over. Jobs has learned his ‘lessons’ well.

  • What’s the Frequency Kenneth?

    > As Miguel says, in the past people have been guilty of sleeping at the wheel when it comes to assessing the threat of future Microsoft products – and especially in the Linux and Mac communities, which often have a kind of arrogance about what MS is capable of doing.

    This was true with, and only with, Windows NT 4, as I see it. Until NT 4, Windows didn’t have anything meaningful that MacOS lacked (such as a useable interface on a “real” kernel.)

    > If it’s going to take Microsoft two years to build the kind of features that Longhorn is promising, how long is it going to take Apple – which has revenues smaller than MS”s research budget – to do better? How long will it take Linux developers to build something that is functionally similar?

    Apple routinely does more with less. They’ll continue to. It baffles me how M$ manages to consistently do such a cruddy job.

    > When I worked at Apple in 1990, there were people around who sneered at the idea that Microsoft could EVER match System 7. that kind of attitude is one of the reasons why it’s MS, and not Apple, that dominates the industry.

    No, MS dominates the industry because they started by making a cheap OS for a cheap box, and marketed a cheap “me too” product. Since most people are basically cheap, they bought it. Only after the drove up their market share to the point of complete domination did they turn the screws on the world. Ironically, it was about that time when their OS actually started being useable (NT 4.)

  • Windows4Ever

    Wake up. Longhorn is way past due. MS is playing catchup. I never thought I would give up Windows but I just did… No more viruses. I couldn’t wait till 2006 + countless viri in between.

  • Greebs

    My weiner gets hard when I think about Longhorn. Wow. That clock looks sweet.

  • Tom Barta

    Since “.net” is not cross-platform, I think it will never be deployed on the web. Think about it: you’re a bank. You want to put out a web site that is inaccessible to many of your customers (and probably has zero security because it is from Microsoft). Not if you want to stay in business, you don’t.

  • http://macartisan.typepad.com Will Parker

    Ian: I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with every point you made in your ‘asleep at the wheel’ comment.

    > As Miguel says, in the past people have been guilty of

    > sleeping at the wheel when it comes to assessing the

    > threat of future Microsoft products – and especially in

    > the Linux and Mac communities, which often have a

    > kind of arrogance about what MS is capable of doing.

    Having watched the Linux community off and on ever since some mainstream publication declared the rise of ‘desktop Linux’, I have to say that there are two kinds of arrogance – clueless and clueful.

    As John Gruber recently pointed out, many leaders in the Linux community haven’t a clue about the importance of user interface and user experience design. Until this unfortunate blind spot is addressed across the entire Linux community, Linux will be doomed to obscurity in all but the server and embedded software markets.

    On the other hand, that’s the very strength that scares hell out of Microsoft. (Believe me – I’m a former MS employee.) Every Microsoft group that deals with servers and server-like products, every group that focuses on computing infrastructure, sees itself as locked in a death struggle with Linux.

    In contrast, Apple is already far ahead of Microsoft in the area of usability and moving fast along that axis. Apple’s very existence is based on the ability to make products that ‘fit to the hand’ and just plain WORK. It is winning over every software market it chooses to enter — witness the iLife apps and their Pro counterparts — based largely on their usability and fitness to the tasks at hand. Furthermore, Apple is showing a renewed interest in *dominating* the high end in limited, high-visibility markets.

    Finally, Apple — rather than attempting to compete against the strengths of Linux — is smoothly embracing *and co-opting* the Linux revolution, doing the work that the Linux community appears unwilling and/or unable to do, making the rock-solid Linux infrastructure truly usable.

    It’s quite plain (IMO) that Apple has no intention of ignoring Longhorn. On the other hand, they have no intention of ignoring the tasty eggs in Microsoft’s nest, either.

    > If it’s going to take Microsoft two years to build the kind

    > of features that Longhorn is promising, how long is it going

    > to take Apple – which has revenues smaller than MS”s research

    > budget – to do better? How long will it take Linux developers

    > to build something that is functionally similar?

    This particular clump of rhetoric sounds frightenly similar to that we heard coming out of IBM prior to 1980. The fact of the matter is that Microsoft has adopted the glacier business model – huge, slow and unstoppable. As Steve Jobs once said,

    “You can’t just ask customers what they want and

    then try to give that to them. By the time you get

    it built, they’ll want something new.”

    Microsoft ALWAYS asks what their customers want, and ALWAYS tries to give it to them (if there’s profit in it). Unfortunately, their real customers aren’t individuals, but corporations and monetary flows. (When Bill Gates plays dress-up as Neo, his ‘Matrix-vision’ view of the world is composed of streams of little green monetary symbols.) This is Microsoft’s stumbling block when it comes to innovation — it only cares about truly useful software if it gives the company a competitive and a financial edge.

    Witness the demise of the Microsoft “Neptune” project, which would have made Windows truly as good as Mac OS X, instead of ‘good enough’. While usability studies showed that individuals LOVED the innovation in Neptune, the project was killed because it didn’t meet the needs of Microsoft’s *corporate customers*.

    The Macintosh and Linux communities, on the other hand, create that which is first, cool and useful, and second, profitable.

    Which is better? Which is faster? More importantly, will the Longhorn team labor for years to deliver what you and I want, or what the Fortune 500 wants? I’m betting the latter.

    > The point is that if you’re smart, you start work on

    > matching and beating Longhorn’s features NOW.

    > You don’t lie around laughing about it, assuming it’s

    > far off in the distance.

    This depends entirely on whether you feel Longhorn’s feature set is WORTH matching and beating. Why chase Microsoft’s dreams when you have your own? If you think your innovations can make you money in a world where Microsoft exists, why do the knife dance with Microsoft?

    > When I worked at Apple in 1990, there were people

    > around who sneered at the idea that Microsoft could

    > EVER match System 7. that kind of attitude is one of the

    > reasons why it’s MS, and not Apple, that dominates

    > the industry.

    Sorry – the major reason that Microsoft dominates the industry is that IBM’s corporate lawyers were quite incompentent from at least 1975 through 1985.

    Microsoft did indeed match the System 1.0 – in 1989; System 7 – in 1995 (or 1998, depending on who you ask). It’s quite clear they will match Mac OS X Panther sometime around mid-2007.

    Of course, Longhorn systems will be less expensive than Macs when they ship, but that’s going to be of very small concern for someone who purchased the same capabilities two years earlier. You get what you pay for.

  • Zato

    MS has already stated recently that Longhorn is an interim OS, to be followed by “THE” OS, the one they really want for the next 10 or 20 years. I’m guessing that internally, MS has decided to go with some form of Unix. This is why Longhorn has been scaled back.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Sorry Zato, but that’s complete false. First of all, I can find no reference at all to Longhorn being an interim release. It isn’t. There were rumours that there would be an interim release of an updated version of XP before Longhorn – but that’s completely different.

    Secondly the idea that MS has decided to go with any kind of Unix is pure fantasy.

    Third – and this is something I’m going to come back – Longhorn hasn’t been scaled back significantly. The main source for this was a Businessweek story, which appeared to claim that WinFS had been dropped. Cue complete denials from everyone working on WinFS. What has changed is that WinFS will first only work on local drives, and not work with network volumes – however, this was actually announced way back at PDC, and wasn’t something that was uncovered by Businessweek.

  • Melangell

    Thank you, Will Parker, for your response to Ian. It was much nicer than mine would have been as I would have used the word, “pinhead” rather liberally.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Serious Melangell, I’d be interested to hear your opinion. Minus personal insults, of course. I’ll be writing something in reply to Will’s (very good) comments tomorrow, but meanwhile, here’s two things for you to consider.

    First of all, why chase Microsoft’s dreams? This harks back to the original posting that Miguel was replying to: Bob Cringely’s piece on allowing Microsoft to define the directions of the industry. I really recommend you – and everyone else coming here – read’s Miguel’s piece (linked to above), because he puts it all far better than I do. What Microsoft is doing with Longhorn is simply creating cool tools for developers. That’s a dream that Apple, just as much, needs to chase.

    Secondly, Will’s getting on dangerous ground pointing at Neptune: you show me a Neptune, I’ll raise a Copland :) No company in the world of software hasn’t done exactly the same thing at least once along the line.

    OK, I said a couple, but here’s a third thing to consider: Remember the title of Andy Grove’s book – “Only the Paranoid survive”. Apples NEEDS to be paranoid about Longhorn, whether its a real threat or not. Just as Microsoft exists in a constant state of paranoia about potential threats, so should Apple.

  • http://www.apple.com/powermac Renè

    If they’re able to accomplish this, than so be it… but Apple will counter with something else before long. We’ve all seen how MS got their asses handed to them when OS X was debuted. Competition is a very good thing. Can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in the near future. Now all I need to do is stockpile on some popcorn. :-)

    May the Apple protect you, always… :D

  • Pete

    “If it’s going to take Microsoft two years to build the kind of features that Longhorn is promising, how long is it going to take Apple – which has revenues smaller than MS”s research budget – to do better? How long will it take Linux developers to build something that is functionally similar?”

    Given Apple’s ability to produce a solid operating system on a shoestring, and Microsoft’s ability to produce one full of holes on an unlimited budget, I feel quite confident that Apple will exceed whatever Longhorn can dredge up … Everyone knows that Longhorn has only been delayed so much because Microsoft has to reverse engineer the best parts of Panther.

  • http://cheerleader.yoz.com/ Yoz

    Sigh… I’m so glad to see that, dispite the influx of newcomers to the Mac platform, the old-fashioned just-plain-barking zealotry is still alive.

    “Given Apple’s ability to produce a solid operating system on a shoestring, and Microsoft’s ability to produce one full of holes on an unlimited budget”

    … is a perfect quote for displaying the kind of cognitive dissonance at work here, because from where I’m standing Apple has poured loads of money into an OS that’s only stable because it’s not one of their own.

    Similarly:

    “Microsoft did indeed match the System 1.0 – in 1989; System 7 – in 1995 (or 1998, depending on who you ask).”

    Yeah, and Apple finally matched NT 3.5 when it released OS X, the first Mac OS with decent memory protection and preemptive multitasking which didn’t fall over clutching its sides in pain every five minutes.

    I don’t understand why Mac fandom still has to be so fingers-in-ears and “MICROSOFT SUXXORS!” given that Apple’s output is now good enough to stand up for itself. OS X is more than a decent operating system – it’s very very good. (Ditto iPod and all the rest of the current hardware) Unfortunately, most of the Mac zealots haven’t used Windows since 3.1 and don’t realise that XP is *also* pretty good. (Not as nice as OS X, I’ll grant you, but it’s fast, it works and it doesn’t crash.)

    It’s also worth bearing in mind that Miguel de Icaza started Mono because he realised two things:

    1: .NET is becoming pretty popular in many areas of development, especially many areas that VB and Java are ensconced, and it’s substantially easier to reproduce than the entire Win32 platform

    2: Regardless of what you may think of Microsoft (and I realise this is going to be a tough concept for some of you here), .NET is actually quite a decent design.

    The man knows his OSes (he runs the GNOME project and also ran Ximian, one of the companies that’s done most to get Linux accepted on corporate desktops) and he knows what’s important. For god’s sake, this is MICROSOFT we’re talking about here! This is the company with 95% of the world’s desktops! Sure, they often get stuff wrong, but they get far more *very* right, which is why they’ve been on top longer than any other company in the business. To pretend that their plans don’t matter is to paint a huge bullseye on your chest.

  • http://www.longhornblogs.com/akinney/archive/2004/04/28/3259.aspx Adam Kinney on Longhorn
  • Dave Dombrowski

    Yoz, I agree with your comment completely. Tom Barta, your comments are FUD. THink about it Tom… ASP.NET runs on the bank’s server. Not the client. It spits out quite nice compliant HTML. Yet this website is somehow “inaccessable”? Not nearly.

    That said, I’ll stand my my earlier comments – which were ALL directed at the subject of this post: Longhorn. Not .NET and not MS. Longhorn. More specifically “Why Longhorn Matters”. It _will_ matter…. someday. Maybe 2006. More likely 2007. In the enterprise most like 2008 or beyond. Remember, they gotta replace those machines they are using today before realizing the benefits of Longhorn.

    Oh yeah, that’s right. There’s been yet another release of Office. I see alot of enterprises just jumping to upgrade, with all the compelling reasons to spend a few hundred on licensing to… ??? This same EXACT thing will happen with Longhorn. It has many compelling things – for the developer. But for the enterprise user? Try convincing your planners to spend a couple of THOUSAND for that PC upgrade – it’ll take YEARS before “Longhorn Matters”.

  • rete

    Its all very well saying that Longhorn doesn’t matter but to at least 90% of desktop users Linux doesn’t matter. Linux is just not easy enough for an idiot to use and until it fixes this the idiots will use microsoft – licensing fees or not.

  • Nikolai Dunkel

    One thing, before I begin: one of the main reasons mac has always run so stable is because it only runs on computers that are made by the same company! If MS would only ship Windows on Windows-PCs, on which it could completely predict any hardware configuration, it would have been stable for ages!

    MS did used to be a lobbying load of idiots, but the fact is they have by far more money than any other OS-maker, and so they can simply buy up every genius that comes their way! Since with time they now have many able people working for them, they have begun to get things right:

    They now have a stable NT kernel, and, since they have so much power, they have managed to push it onto a HUGE userbase!!!

    They now plan to do the same thing with WinFX, Avalon and Indigo…which should make it 100% equal (if different) to OSX! They will again install this on a HUGE userbase, and so the world will be a better place!

    Now I am a mac lover, but, more than that, I am a computer lover. So the question is: If another company brings out a product that supports more products, PLUS has all the benefits of a macOS, what is the point of sticking with mac for nostalgic reasons if they have been overtaken? In the end it makes no difference who makes it, as long as it has everything, and works! Sure…its a shame it had to end this way, but MacOSX has such a big handicap of being soooo far behind in marketshare, that, in the end, it makes absolutely NO difference how ingenious their next OS is, most people wont even notice!

  • http://www.zooibaai.nl Rob

    I don’t think Windows will ever catch up what OSX is building at the moment. And I’m even a Windows user! MacOS is just better, face it. I’m thinking about switching, unless Longhorn will be the best one ever seen.