Windows Is Already Dead, It Just Doesn’t Know It Yet

Microsoft has released their competitor to the Chromebook in the guise of a $999 laptop running a pared-down, crippled version of Windows, with the option to pay a premium to enable normal functionality. Some partners have released more cost effective variations (sans the fabric keyboard).

Only it’s too late. Windows is already dead, lurching forward in a zombie state. It is a reminder of what once was, rolling from the inertia that launched it decades ago.

Let me back up for a second.

I’m typing this into a WordPress textarea on a Windows 10 box. My daughter’s PC runs Windows 10. My sons’ PC runs Windows 10. The other computer runs OSX 10.12. My laptop runs Ubuntu 17.04. My smartphone runs Android 7.1.2. Another runs iOS 10.3. My wife’s smartphone runs Android. Samsung, Huawei, Apple, HTC, home built, Dell…a lot of companies are represented. I develop in Visual Studio 2017, but also Android Studio and xcode and IntelliJ and gcc and clang and the Intel compiler, among others. I’ve built systems on SQL Server, pgsql, mysql, and others. I’ve hosted on Apache, IIS, and nginx. I used to live on .NET, and continue to keep on eye on the viability of the .NET Core initiative.

We’re all over the place as a family. I don’t wave flags or declare affiliations. I don’t clutch onto something worried that some hard won skills will become obsolete (woe but for my wonderful COM skills). Cases and situations merit different choices.

Adapt. Darwin. I Ching. Whatever man, we gotta roll with it.

Mega corporations with tens of thousands of very smart employees are shifting the world, and we evolve and leverage their work to propel ourselves and the people we work with and for ahead. Or we swim against the current.

When a possible shift comes along we pause to evaluate and consider the impact, determining if it should change our focus and the application of our limited time. Is it the time to consider Metro (rebranded “Windows apps”) apps?

Analyses and situations vary, but from an initial investigation this represents no new life for Windows. No renewed purpose for the Windows Store. It is unlikely to have an impact on the market, beyond some purchased, highly publicized wins. The same sort of vague puffery that we saw with the disastrous failure of the Windows Phone is being used to prop up the future potential of this entrant (“Microsoft is so big and has so much cash it’s a sure thing” we heard again and again).

Only Office isn’t the beachhead it once was anymore, and is another legacy hangover1. The Windows Store is an embarrassment. Neither is a deeply compelling justification.

The Windows management foundation is a hindrance, not an empowerment. Most IT orgs are grossly out of their competency with the current stack of Windows tech, countless firms still desperately clutching onto Windows 7. The various expansions added over the years, from management automation interfaces to scripting objects to a mountain of DCOM and COM objects, have left it in a dangerous place where the base surface area for attack is simply enormous, and the only way most firms will get a handle — preventing the growing instances of ransomware attacks — is to implode their whole system and start anew on a simple foundation.

I like Windows. I like a lot of the moves Microsoft is making recently. But Windows Phone is dead (as it has been for years), and Windows is just another option, with this having every hint of being another failed attempt at throwing goodwill and money towards a fading market.

The glory days of Windows — those days when Microsoft dictated the direction of technology — are long gone. Many millions of PCs will continue to run Windows, but as a platform it has marginal relevance.

-post note-

I write low-effort, lazy contemplation pieces like this occasionally, and they seldom earn me fans or new readers: Some people get offended because they disagree (or become defensive which is unfortunately all too common in this industry), or cheer it on because they already agree: Responses bias towards “that is the most obvious thing in the world…did you write this five years ago?”, or “this is delusional! Have you seen Microsoft’s share prices lately, and I know an accountant that uses Quickbooks on Windows XP so this can’t be true”.

It’s just a thought piece from my current perspective, and a career where the industry went from Microsoft being the behemoth that set the tone and direction of the industry, to a company that is now following the IBM arc, cashing in while they can in areas that they entrenched in a decade+ ago and trying desperately to get traction in whatever competitors are succeeding in.

There are huge numbers of Windows devices out there. It clearly is alive. But it has become essentially a replaceable commodity, and holds extraordinarily little influence.

1 – Not just due to alternative office suites, both web and native, but instead that automation is impacting everything, including the utility of Office. Many of the tasks once put together in Office, and calculations/scenarios done in Excel, managed over countless person hours, have been either eliminated or vastly reduced. In the financial markets tasks that once had legions of employees spinning Excel spreadsheets and sending off carefully created Word docs have been turned into simple web apps and scheduled tasks. The number of jobs that rely on or even leverage Office has collapsed.