July 28, 2003

Long way to Longhorn

You might need to clutch on to your Windows XP for a little bit longer. Bill Gates says in this little interview that the next version of Windows, Longhorn, is going to be a huge leap away from the Windows that we’ve known for the last eight years.

“It should drive a whole range of upgrades, but that could be sort of delayed,” Gates said. Because of differences with the previous versions of Windows, it could be a year or two after its release before computer users really pick up Longhorn, he said.

Asked if Microsoft would consider dropping some of the innovations it has planned so the product can come out sooner, Gates said no.

That means it’ll probably be 2005 before we see a final release of Longhorn on the shelves. Now, consider that people were supposed to move en masse to Windows XP as soon at it was released, but really ended up waiting a year or two. Then figure that MS is expecting people to put off the Longhorn upgrade for a couple of years, so the real wait will probably be even longer. Do a little math, and it’s looking like we won’t see mass adoption of Longhorn until 2008 or 2009. Get used to Windows XP. It’s going to be a long ride.

Of course, Red Hat 18 should be out by then, and who knows what they’ll have come up with since then. Look at the amount of progress in Linux desktops over the last five years. Now double that, or triple it, and you’ve got Linux in 2008. Stagnation in the Windows market might end up hurting MS as Linux keeps moving forward. We already know we’ll be stuck with IE6 for six more years. If another grassroot browser upgrade campaign does take off, Mozilla might have a chance to become more dominant as people stop making sites that work in only IE. Given enough time, and movement forwards in CSS2 and CSS3, people might actually start making sites that don’t work so well in IE. It’s already possible to do that now. Most advanced sites have to be dumbed down a little bit so IE doesn’t trip over them. A few years ago we were doing the same thing for Netscape 4. We finally gave up on that. In the same way that Netscape lost their lead by taking a few years off to rebuild the browser, Microsoft could be hurt by doing the same thing. And then by the time Longhorn does come out, with whatever kind of advanced browsing capabilities it’s supposed to have, it just might need to play a little game of catch-up in the web market.

Unless, of course, one of the “scary” things about Longhorn is that it tries to take web browsing in some new direction that will make Mozilla obsolete. But I can’t see that happening, or at least I can’t see it catching on with enough people to make it stick.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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