Feeds

Windows 95 to Windows 7: How Microsoft lost its vision

Behind the taskbar

High performance access to file storage

Comment Much better than Vista, and the best Windows yet. That seems to be the consensus view on Windows 7, and after two and a half months with the final build, I more or less agree - despite the niggling voice that says behind the new taskbar it is not really so different from Windows Vista.

Nevertheless, Windows 7 on its launch today is a better experience than Windows Vista was when released in early 2007, thanks to a UI polish, faster hardware, better drivers, and new features that users actually enjoy - Taskbar, Libraries, Aero Peek - rather than features that were detrimental to usability and compatibility even if there were good reasons for them. Yes, User Account Control, I'm thinking of you.

It is a good effort from the Windows 7 team, though its task was easier than that facing the Windows Vista crew. Windows 7 is a refinement of Windows Vista, whereas Vista was meant to be revolutionary.

Windows 7

Essentials of the Windows 95 user interface remain in Windows 7

The interesting questions about Windows Vista concern not what was delivered, but what was omitted. I attended Microsoft's 2003 Professional Developers Conference (PDC), where we heard about the now-notorious "three pillars of Longhorn": Avalon, later called Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF); Indigo, later called Windows Communication Foundation; and WinFS, still called WinFS, still not shipped.

WinFS was the relational file system that was itself a delayed variation of the Object File System promised for the Cairo project originally talked about in 1991. Making it work sensibly, though, proved too difficult. With two of three pillars removed, no wonder Windows Vista tottered.

Ah, but surely Avalon was left in? It is true that WPF did ship with Windows Vista, but Avalon as originally conceived did not survive the July 2005 reset, when work on Windows Vista was scrapped and restarted based on the Windows Server 2003 code base. In 2003, Microsoft Group vice president Jim Allchin described Avalon as "the graphics subsystem in Windows Longhorn and a foundation for the Windows Longhorn shell".

That may have been true of the glacial but fascinating technical preview given out at that PDC, but it was not true of what eventually became Vista, carefully analyzed by Richard Grimes and found to include minimal .NET code. There will be a little more .NET in Windows 7, with things like the PowerShell scripting environment, but it remains predominantly native code.

As presented at PDC 2003, Longhorn was visionary. Code access security in .NET was going to solve Windows security problems. XAML hosted in the browser would unite the Internet and the desktop. WinFS was going to liberate data from application silos.

What we got was Windows Vista, and now there's Windows 7. Neither is remotely visionary, even though the latter is a very competent desktop operating system.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: From 3.1 to 95

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.