Is Microsoft getting ready to kill Windows?

July 30, 2008 12:27 PM EDT
No, I'm not talking about killing Vista. Microsoft is already burying that living dead operating system as fast it can. I'm talking about killing Windows itself. That's the conclusion I've drawn from David Worthington's story about Microsoft's plans for Midori, a next generation operating system.

According to Worthington, who managed to get his hands on Microsoft's internal documents, "Midori is an offshoot of Microsoft Research's Singularity [a limited open-source] operating system, the tools and libraries of which are completely managed code. Midori is designed to run directly on native hardware (x86, x64 and ARM), be hosted on the Windows Hyper-V hypervisor, or even be hosted by a Windows process."

Microsoft's objective for Midori, writes Worthington, is no less than replacing Windows. "Microsoft is carefully mapping out migration strategies to move customers from Windows to Midori, its planned legacy-free operating environment, virtualization, and a composite application model that permits applications to be hosted by both OSes, are key to the strategy."

It's about time!

Windows, for all its popularity, has been outdated trash almost since its beginnings. Its chief twin problems, from where I sit, have always been that it's a single user operating system in a multi-user networked world and its programming model that can't tell the difference between data and code. Put them together and you get such useful, but totally insecure, program interfaces as DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange), OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) and ActiveX.

The result is an operating system where it's easy to exchange date between programs like Excel and Word, and just as easy to infect systems with malware via Internet Explorer. Windows was insecure from day one and nothing, Nothing, will ever change that. Its insecurity is built in. Is it any wonder that 16,000 Web sites a day are being compromised to bring malware to Windows systems? With Windows as the most popular desktop operating system, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Midori, on the other hand, is being "from the ground up to be connected." That's key. If they do that, then they might have something worth using.

"Microsoft [also] intends for Midori to be componentized from the beginning to achieve performance and security benefits." That's also good news. I have to say that I like the sound of Midori.

The sooner Microsoft kills off Windows and moves to Midori the better as far as I'm concerned. There's only one thing they need to do to make it perfect. Singularity is already sort of open source, how about making Midori really open source?

Now, Microsoft will never go with the GPL. That just isn't going to happen. But why couldn't Microsoft use a version of the Mozilla license or Sun's variant on it, the CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License)? That way, Microsoft still gets to call the shots, but they also get the potential advantage of open-source developer support.

Yes, it would be a radical change. Yes, I know some people, like blogger and former Microsoftie Robert Scoble,dismiss the idea of Windows being replaced out of hand. But, doesn't Microsoft need a revolution?

Vista's going no-where. Linux and Mac are both gaining on the desktop. And, Windows 7 may yet turn out to be just Vista SP2, since I note that now the plan is for Windows 7 to remain a 32-bit operating system. If I were in charge of Microsoft, I wouldn't be thrilled with any of this.

Unfortunately, Ballmer is at Microsoft's controls. Ugh.

I doubt that he has the vision to see that Microsoft needs to reinvent itself for the 21st century. Still, just the fact that Eric Rudder, senior vice president for technical strategy at Microsoft, is in charge of Midori gives me some hope that something may come of it. Come to think of it, there was a time when Rudder was considered as someone who might take Microsoft's helm. Now if Ballmer were to be fired and Rudder took charge... hmmm...