He's back. Paul "The Desktop Must Die
" Thurrott returns with his next attempt at rationalizing Microsoft destroying Windows, in ...Second Guessing Microsoft’s Surface Strategy ( Thurrott 2013-02-03 )
... which at face value imparts the impression that he is once again suggesting improvements. Indeed, the subtitle actually says: "If only Surface with Windows 8 Pro had launched first...."
, and he writes a few paragraphs using an alternate timeline which he believes would have changed the reception of Surface and Windows 8
itself. Clearly he is coming to terms with the painful fact that he called it all wrong. But there is something he still hasn't wrapped his mind around. He proves this by reverting to form, cheerleading for the death of "Windows" once again ...
Surface with Windows RT represents a future in which the Windows desktop is first deprecated and then removed, where Windows itself settles firmly and solely into the Metro mobile environment. To desktop PC adherents, this is a dystopian future, a hardline approach to ongoing industry trends. But if Microsoft is correct, and I think it is, this is the future. The problem, of course, is that it is the future, not the present. We don’t live in the future.
Surface with Windows RT is indeed a no compromises peek at the future of Windows. It offers a vestigial desktop environment only because it has to, because Microsoft didn’t have time to completely replace every single desktop utility with Metro equivalents, and because Office, today, runs almost solely in the desktop. This very rigid and inflexible system is not ideal for almost any users today because it is basically not Windows, not today. That is, it doesn’t benefit from almost any of the best reasons people choose Windows today.
That will change, assuming Microsoft's vision for the future of Windows pans out and customers accept and embrace Metro.
First we need to completely understand his position, which is easy because he has spoken of it on quite a few occasions. "Windows" must die, Microsoft will replace it with an "ecosystem" of apps written in RT, which are little more than canned webpages. The previous paradigm of the x86 universe had it completely wrong. Private software developers who directly marketed their wares directly to the public without going through Microsoft approval and without giving them a cut were scabs and an abomination. Windows software that accessed the nearly limitless capabilities of the hardware through an infinite selection of authoring tools, programming languages and rich APIs were incorrect and unfair because they bypassed the equalized playing field of a platform limited to web-like HTML+CSS. Paul Thurrott envisions returning to the equivalent of the early days with only BASIC, which was so limited it immediately led to DOS and Windows tools using C and higher level development environments as well as major additions to hardware capabilities with ever-growing CPU features, video modes added to display adapters, an exponentially advancing platform that allows a programmer the ability to create almost anything they could dream of. But they were all wrong. An alternate route should have been taken in 1980, an alternate platform should have been used. Something a little more RISCy like maybe staying on 8080, or 8008 or 4004, or maybe just jumping to Motorola 68xxx or earlier, or any of a number of RISC chips. Oh wait, don't we still have RISC chips these days? Of course we do. ARM has been around forever, so has Alpha and MIPS and SPARC and PPC. And guess what? Microsoft has already been targeting most of them all along, with Windows. So what is it that Paul is really demanding? Why this apparent love for alternate platforms? He sounds like an Apple fanboy in some ways, "hey, x86 sucks, you need Power PC
" ( just replace "Power PC" with any fanboy platform of choice ).
In reality, what he is demanding is that Microsoft do exactly what I first suspected. Convert the vast, wild and untamed x86 universe into Microsoft's private farm for sowing and harvesting at will. That x86 universe is a huge target of opportunity that they simply cannot resist. The Plan? They want to first train these billions of x86 users into accepting Metro
and Windows 8
by forcing it down their throats through the OEM back-channel and via a billion dollar propaganda campaign. Presumably they will flock like mindless zombies into the store demanding even more Metro
and Windows 8
on their cellphones and tablets and maybe TV sets later. Quite the cynical and evil plan in my opinion. This x86 universe is not Microsoft's private pickings, most of these people didn't voluntarily walk in and demand Windows. It is pretty much criminal in the monopolist sense since it would be the equivalent of John Rockefeller getting millions of customers using his oil, gasoline and kerosene for many years and then suddenly switching to natural gas and demanding they buy new cars, furnaces and lights to accommodate it. It's not a perfect analogy for several reasons, most importantly the scale is off, way off. Rockefeller never came close to having billions of victims, he settled for mere millions. Ironically though, his monopoly did
in fact exactly match Microsoft's 90+% monopoly of all available customers. Microsoft is presently several orders of magnitude greater in monopolized victims than Standard Oil or any of the railroad and banking barons of the past. Ironically, the small downward trend of Microsoft's monopoly in recent years is exactly what has them panicked in the first place. They see a few points lost to competitors and immediately make moves to lurch deeper into the monopolist mentality. That lurch leads to this plan to get those billions of x86 Windows users onto the locked-down Metro
reservation where Microsoft is the gatekeeper to everything and takes a Soprano cut on apps whether they write them or not. It really is a pathetic but expected evolution of the iOS universe with iTunes and the Apple store, completely born out of one of the Seven Deadly Sins: jealousy. ( Wikipedia
lists them as Lust Gluttony Greed Sloth Wrath Envy Pride, so Microsoft clearly has several of them covered ).
Consider something else: this notion that "Windows" must and will be replaced by Metro
. "Windows" as it stands is a platform, software written for "Windows" runs on "Windows" ( except in the many cases where Microsoft has deliberately employed planned obsolescence
causing programs not to run without using a different version of Windows ). The replacement that Microsoft and Thurrott and Bott endorse is essentially webpages. This is sadly ironic since the web was scoffed at by Microsoft at first, nearly everyone else got there ahead of them, and they needed to play dirty to catch up. When other attempts at web-style platform-independent canned apps came along ( Java ) they fought it like mad, playing dirty again. All kinds of spin-off platform subsets and frameworks with lock-ins have popped up and even .NET falls into this arena. The question is, why would anyone go along with the late-comer Microsoft, in what they say this time? Especially when we know there are no technological advantages to Metro
and Microsoft-Store lock-in. Quite the opposite. It is a neutered version of the vast array of possibilities available to today's creative programmer. The best you can ever accomplish is a fancy webpage that looks exactly like what would be expected if you handed an elementary school class the assignment to write a homepage for a fictitious coffee company. The entire reason behind this naked power-grab is cynical. The lock-in is all about control, and nothing more. It is about Microsoft becoming the firmware on your computer, standing between you and the hardware, demanding payment at every possible step. A time will come when they will meter the email and all web-access as well as their store. Instead of an ISP, they dream of becoming the CSP, computer service provider. The ultimate toll-booth collector.
The biggest tell in his writings is when Thurrott uses phrases like: "... a hardline approach to ongoing industry trends"
. This pretty much underlines the root cause of Paul Thurrott's, Ed Bott's, and Microsoft's misunderstanding. What we see
is rapid deployment ( and inevitable saturation ) of various small form factors of computer size. Essentially every possible size smaller than the desktop box with its 17" to 24" screen will become available and be sold in short order. What they see
, or actually, what they believe
they see is that the desktop is being replaced
by this trend. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, some will be completely replaced by people that never needed a workstation in the first place. Others will merely supplement their setup with various convenient form factors to match their needs. Still others will avoid portable devices altogether. The trend of small devices will no more replace large devices than cars will replace trucks. Imagine if in the late 1970's when there was an invasion of small death-trap form factor automobiles the car companies were to close down the lines producing sedans, limos, pickups, box trucks, school buses, and tractor trailers, from following an incorrectly perceived trend. What they actually did was scale down to match demand, not shutdown which is exactly what Thurrott thinking leads to. The analogy can be better shaped by imagining that the car companies not only shutdown the previous successful lines and produced only Datsun B210 and Vega sized crapmobiles, but they also modified and marketed them for long haul shipping and school buses. Think square pegs and round holes. We don't throw out all the old tools we have when we get a new set of box-end wrenches or screwdrivers. In the real world we use the right tool for the job. And we keep the old ones too.
Now if Microsoft is fed up with the workstation operating system business, and being completely overwhelmed with Apple-envy decided to narrowly focus on dumb-terminals for MetroTards, well, that would be another thing entirely. But I don't hear this from Microsoft, or their propaganda task force of Thurrott, Bott and numerous MicroZealots. If this is what they decide, they owe it to billions of people to come clean and state it outright, not drop a surprise atomic bomb on the world later. And not do it sneakily by attempting to convert and absorb this wide audience into their Orwellian Animal MetroFarm. This is where the moral, ethical, and legal issues collide. They have a unique monopoly position, and they have great power, but they also have a greater responsibility. They chose to supply the operating system that enables a billion computers to operate. The next step they take must be moral, ethical, and legal. Manipulating and drafting these users into their "ecosystem" for their self-serving purposes is none of those things. This is precisely where the MicroZealots cross the line because they fully believe it is moral, ethical, and legal for Microsoft to do this and more. This is why there is such a great divide and such controversy and argument. On the one hand we are criticizing them for abusing their near complete monopoly, on the other hand the MicroZealots are cheer-leading and demanding even more.What should happen?
In a perfect world Microsoft would have been broken up long ago ( and I was among those that didn't think so ) with the operating system division sent a million miles away from everyone else. They produce something allegedly for the benefit of all developers, not just Microsoft software, so having them under the same roof was asking for trouble. It is kind of like Standard Oil getting in bed with the railroads creating a monopoly that controlled everything. It is probably too late now considering some of the people we have seen pass through the ranks of the operating system division like Sinofsky, so they may be too corrupted anyway. An amicable solution would let them go on pursuing their Metro
Madness and their quest to copy Apple but having them release the x86 Windows source code and all related patents to the public. Not a perfect scenario considering how disorganized GPL can be but better than what we will have if things continue as they are. That would be a hugely beneficial move to the billion plus users out there, and obviously it would be moral, ethical, and legal. However, even though it would clearly neutralize and blunt any accusation of abusing their monopoly, I have little faith that Microsoft is ethical or moral enough to even consider such a step. Then again, if you consider the solutions actually applied in the past to Rockefeller and others there is some possibility of the Feds stepping in and forcing them to do it anyway. As I am fond of saying lately, one can still dream.EDIT:
Edited by CharlotteTheHarlot, 04 February 2013 - 03:02 AM.