The Unwarranted Hyperbole Surrounding Vista

Seattle Times story “Why Vista might be the last of its kind” reflects a sentiment shared by many regarding the impending loom and doom of Vista. A lot of this foretelling is misdirected and regurgitation of the same old rhetoric that’s being pulled back under the spotlight to create a sense of anxiety: The desktop is dying and online is the wave of the future; Users have been anxious with the wait and anticipation for 5 years; Vista is a failure even before its out the door; It’s the last of its kind.

At the employees only Vista launch party held in the underground garage of building 26 on Redmond campus, Bill Gates (who flew in by helicopter straight from the airport upon returning from Europe) expressed only relief saying something to the effect of “I’m glad it’s out” and went on to talk about the task of security and servicing that lay ahead. Even though the media seldom sees it, internally we are quite self-critical. Time is money and this delay cost Microsoft a lot of money.

But Vista was an ambitious undertaking and the problems encountered are not exclusive to Vista. Engineering undertakings of this magnitude have a certain level of risk attached. Sure, the whole thing left a bitter taste but fear of failure did not stand in way of ambition. The first plane to fly was preceded by countless failed designs and deaths. Many died trying to get to the moon. The Titanic crashed and the Hindenburg burnt. Our ambitions have always exceeded our capabilities and that is what moves us forward.

The remaining arguments are nothing new and most of them hyperbole packaged to be easily digestible by the naive onlooker. Online services may some day replace desktop applications. In theory it’s completely possible because essentially it’s your monitor attached to a computer located in some distant place. But that day is far, far away. An application like Adobe Photoshop or Visual Studio won’t be replaced by an online version anytime soon. In fact the complexity of desktop applications will continue to grow and online services will always lag behind in many areas while excelling in others. The forthcoming model will be toward hybrid online+offline applications–rich desktop applications complemented by thin Internet counterparts that allow for mobility.

No matter the cost of Vista, as Bill Gates put it at the launch party: “it’s a gift that keeps on giving”. The platform enhancements in Vista and other changes under the hood are something that will reveal their worthiness over the upcoming years.

Microsoft’s next operating system is code named Vienna.

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