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Windows for Warfare – more info on Win2k's Navy carrier gig

Win2k to launch missiles, planes, monitor systems

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More details have emerged of the Win2k-running US Navy aircraft carrier we reported as being planned back in July. According to Government Computer News the CVN 77 will commence construction in February next year, and will be commissioned, running 'Son of Windows,' in 2008.

Roll that seven year period back instead of forward, and it'd be reasonable for you to wonder how on earth the Navy knows what it's buying into. Microsoft has produced three major OS revs since then, and in 1993 hadn't even started imagining Windows 2000. Rationally, the decision must have been based on faith that Microsoft will be able to deliver a robust, standardised operating system that can be used for CVN 77's IT infrastructure, and that the Navy will therefore be able to benefit from the cost-savings in training, procurement and maintenance associated with commodity operating systems.

In Microsoft's defence we should point out that this is they way these contracts generally go - large supplier (e.g. IBM) promises it'll work several years down the line, but for most of that period it's expensive slideware. Then when it ships, late, it probably doesn't work anyway.

Microsoft is working as a subcontractor with Lockheed Martin to develop the carrier's integrated warfare systems, and 'Windows for Warfare' will run a variety of systems, including communications, aircraft and weapons launchers, and ship's electronics.

The difference, according to GCN. is that one OS can be used to run many operations, whereas the existing situation is that you've got different software running different systems. Lockheed Martin says Microsoft was chosen for the gig because it had "a lot of insight that could help Lockheed Martin stay current with commercial technology." Ominously, a Microsoft Government (an ominous thought in itself) spokesman says: "This is a new area for us."

More interestingly, retired admiral Willie Williamson, who is now business strategy executive director for Microsoft Government, says "Microsoft software could let the ship’s crew know when there’s a pending failure in a ship’s engineering system, for example." Which makes it clear Microsoft will have to put a lot of development effort into real time monitoring and control systems. Which might be Win2k, Jim, but not as we know it. It becomes even more clearly an act of faith if you ask yourself how many vehicle manufacturers currently use a Microsoft OS to control their systems, rather than just to run non mission critical entertainment and navigation plug-ins. None, did we hear? But we're sure the Navy knows best. ®

* Attention. Before mailing us all the gags that could be associated with the above story, consider the possibility that we already know most of them. Maybe we thought the story was such a sitter it would be cheap to put them in, OK?

Related items:
US Navy carrier to adopt Win2k infrastructure
Gates buys stake in aircraft carrier builder
Government Computer News story

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