Microsoft’s Lurch Down the Windows 7 Rabbit Hole

| Analysis

As Apple customers, we are in awe of Apple's migration from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X. While the technical details remain for true OS geeks, we know that Apple used vision, focus, technology and determination to make the urgent, much needed change to UNIX. Belatedly, Microsoft, in fact, is trying to do a similar thing right now with Windows 7 and "XP Mode," but in a much more haphazard fashion.

Recently, Microsoft announced a new feature of Windows 7 that had remained a secret, namely, "Windows XP Mode". Think of it as a virtual machine built into Windows 7 that can run Windows XP, all its apps and display them on the Windows 7 desktop.

Sounds just like what Apple did, right? Maybe not.

While Apple was making its own transition, it was leveraging from a new set of modern frameworks and Cocoa to provide a forward migration path. For awhile, it looked like Apple developers could coast with Carbon -- until Apple finally slammed the door shut by announcing that Carbon wouldn't be migrated to 64-bits. There was outrage, but the handwriting was on the wall. Apple, slowly but firmly, migrated its developers away from the Mac OS 9 APIs. Of course, the imperative was higher because the Mac OS 9 APIs weren't reentrant. Never mind that. Apple forced the issue to a new set of APIs, not just a new OS.

Microsoft, however has had its share of panic induced moments and has simply put a band-aid on the situation. Desperate to get customers, unmoved by Vista, to upgrade to Windows 7, Microsoft is simply making a marketing concession.


First, as Randall Kennedy at Infoworld describes it, Microsoft had a better solution, namely, using its own App-V technology that it acquired from Softricity. That would have enabled Microsoft to avoid virtualization and the corresponding security issues of Windows XP running inside Windows 7. (Just as Classic was an absolute security nightmare in Mac OS X because it allowed the user unrestricted access to the file system.)

App-V, as Mr. Kennedy describes is, would have solved Microsoft's technical problem of allowing creaky Win-32 apps to run in Windows 7 with security and performance. However, the Vista fiasco defocused Microsoft from the task at hand.

Microsoft's desperation was born of a different imperative than Apple's. So MS let work on App-V in Windows 7 slide and worked instead on selling the idea of Windows 7 -- which is fundamentally Vista under the hood -- and put a band-aid on things by offering Windows XP Mode.

Worse, during Microsoft's panic time over Vista, competitors bought up Softricity's competitors and produced, for example, ThinApp (VMware) and XenApp (Citrix), giving them a technical leg up on Microsoft and possibly throwing IT departments in a quandary.

The Road to Perdition

Not only will Windows XP in Windows 7 present performance and security issues, it won't provide much incentive for the myriad of Windows developers to build apps for the new architecture of Vista, um, Windows 7. And so, for the foreseeable future, customers will be using Windows 7 but running Windows XP apps. We know how that goes -- resistance to change is high. How successful Microsoft will be at forcing a migration of nearly 100 percent of its developers over to Windows 7 native apps in the future, in a similar fashion to Apple, is anyone's guess. I am not optimistic.

So when you read about Windows 7 "XP Mode," don't take that to mean Microsoft has fired up the courage to make the Big Change that Apple did with Classic in Mac OS X. Instead, the endeavor is just a temporary concession to Microsoft's market realities.

Mr. Kennedy concluded: "It's another 'good enough' solution from a company that stopped shooting for technical excellence long ago."



It’s the same old Microsoft affliction.  They are so wedded to their OS (near) monopoly and are so scared of losing it that in maintaining legacy compatibility they have sacrificed technical excellence in the new OS.  In the end, when those legacy apps become irretrievably obsolete, MS will be saddled with an OS that is a victim of compromise.  Bloated, multipatched and buggy.

Great tech companies let go of obsolete technologies and manage to win their customers over and over again by offering them the best execution of the latest technologies.

Floriaan Ganzevoort

Don’t forget that Mac OSX users were most likely more open to change, due to the fact that a large part of them switched from windows in the first place.


Like; since when was MS ever as an operating system company shooting for (as Mr. Kennedy quotes) “... for technical excellence.”? Remember QDOS = “QUICK AND DIRTY” OPERATING SYSTEM. SUccessful - yes - excellence - NO; and all developments since have built on this basic building block. Perhaps they should develop of culture for “technical excellence” on the OS department before its too late.


“until Apple finally slammed the door shut by announcing that Cocoa wouldn’t be migrated to 64-bits.”

Er, you mean Carbon…..

John Martellaro

Oops.  Fixed.
- JM


The Microsoft Development Process

Right said Fred
Both of us together
One each end and steady as we go

Tried to shift it
Couldn’t even lift it
We was getting nowhere
And so
Had a cup of tea and

Right said Fred
Give a shout to Charlie
Up comes Charlie from the floor below

After straining
Heaving and complaining
We was getting nowhere
And so
Had a cup of tea and

Charlie had a think and he thought we ought
To take off all the handles
And the things wot held the candles
But it did no good
Well I never thought it would

Right said Fred
Have to take the feet off
To get them feet off wouldn’t take a mo

Took its feet off
Even took the seat off
Should have got us somewhere but no!
So Fred said let’s have another cup of tea
And we said

Right said Fred
Have to take the door off
Need more space to shift the so-and-so

Had bad twinges
Taking off the hinges
And it got us nowhere
And so
Had a cup of tea and

Right said Fred
Have to take the wall down
That there wall is gonna have to go

Took the wall down
Even with it all down
We was getting nowhere
And so
Had a cup of tea and

Charlie had a think and he said look Fred
I’ve got a sort of feeling
If we remove the ceiling
With a rope or two
We could drop the blighter through

Right said Fred
Climbing up a ladder
With his crowbar gave a mighty blow

Was he in trouble
Half a ton of rubble
Landed on the top of his dome!
So Charlie and me had another cup of tea
And then we
Went home


Damn I’m going to have the tune of that fantastic reply in my head all day now.


Don’t get me wrong on this. I gladly admit that I’ve been sipping the Apple-flavored Kool-Aid since my first 512e, probably before many of this spring’s college grads were born. I’m a self-professed 53-year-old fanboy.

But what good does it do merely to put MS down? “Lurch.” “Desperation.” “Panic.” C’mon. That’s not news. It’s just variations on a theme of “nyah nyah nyah.” Do we really need to fire missiles from Cupertino toward Seattle? What’s the point?

I’m having too much fun with my MacBook Pro, my iMac, and even my iPod Shuffle to waste time smirking at the other stuff out there.


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