Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

[PROGRAMMING] The Immobile Monolith

Hmm. I get back from Worldcon, and the first news in my email is Microsoft Watch, talking about the way that Longhorn is getting scaled back. It appears that the next version of Windows, due in 2006, is losing one of its key features (WinFS) and one of the others (Avalon) is in some danger.

There's an architecture lesson in this, on the dangers of interdependencies. I mean, look at this: an operating system that has already been in the works for years, and isn't slated to be released for another two years yet, and they're still having to drop features that until recently they were trumpeting as the main point of that release. And there are tons of knock-on effects: other projects such as ObjectSpaces, which were supposed to be big deals themselves, are getting pushed even further back because they were dependent on WinFS.

This isn't a problem of Microsoft's evil business practices -- it's simply a consequence of intentionally building a monolithic environment, where everything depends deeply on everything else. It's a consequence of APIs that are driven by proprietary processes, all woven into a web of such complexity that the spider itself is having trouble navigating it. Frankly, more than anything, it's a consequence of viewing the whole system in the gestalt too much. Trying to make everything seamless means that you can't change anything without resewing the whole garment.

There's a real opportunity here, and it'll be interesting to see if anyone jumps into the breach. Firefox has finally lapped IE technologically, and is quickly building up an impressive lead -- it's not just better than IE, it's a lot better, and improving rapidly. I suspect that, with the serious advancements in Windows now pushed out until 2008 or 2009, Linux has the best opportunity it's likely to get to similarly lap Windows and get out ahead. I'll be very curious to see if it manages to take good advantage of that opportunity...

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