I’m often critical of Microsoft on this blog but I do also acknowledge things I like, so hopefully I’m always relatively fair. I’ve noticed that news coming out of Redmond these days seems to be pretty evenly spread between good an bad, and thought I’d pull out the things that had most resonance with me personally:
Good News: Vista release dates
Now, this comes with a caveat that it’s mostly good news for Microsoft themselves (I’m fairly ambivalent and will probably wait until sometime in 2007 to upgrade), since delivering this sucker has been a rather slippery fish. But finally, dates were ‘leaked’ - and I think this was not so much a leak as a ‘letting out the back door intentionally’ since the potential for positive PR cannot have been lost on their roving bands of marketing men - and we can expect Vista to be RTM’ed before the end of the month, supposedly ready for shipping in December. However, if the VS 2005 release is anything to go by, we won’t actually see it outside MSDN until Q1 2007. Still, good news nonetheless if they can really draw a line under this one at last.
Bad News: VS 2005 will have ‘compatibility issues’ with Vista
They’re being pretty vague about this one, but it appears there’s been something of a ‘falling between two stools’ problem over at MS development, and whilst VS 2005 SP1 (still unreleased) will run on Vista, there may be some, ahem, ‘issues’. I can imagine the scene in the employee cafe:> Bob: So Tom, great to hear Vista’s finally heading out the door. So you fixed those little VS 2005 problems we talked about then?
Tom: Er - I thought you guys were fixing that…
Given that a flashy interface alone doesn’t sell an OS for me (if it did, I would have bought a Mac already, obviously), the chance that my main development tool may have unspecified ‘issues’ gives me even more reason to wait a while after Vista is out before taking the plunge.
Good News: MS opens more specs free of patent dangers
In a move that’s increasingly in vogue for major multinationals, MS has added more things to its list of ‘we won’t sue you for patent infringement if you use them, honest’ technologies, or more accurately the Microsoft Open Specification Promise. This week it was the Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) Image Format Specification, a key virtualisation technology for Vista. The list is still pretty small though and if you’re cynical you’ll note that all of the items on it are very self-serving - MS couldn’t really operate the services in question without them being adopted openly. In fact, in most cases you could say they shouldn’t have been patented in the first place. But, we should be happy that the OSP exists and is due to be expanded steadily if you believe the current rhetoric.
Bad News: MS blows even more cash on R&D
This is bad news in terms of MS’s stock price, since they were already being grilled over the huge estimated R&D spending they’d previously announced, and now they’ve stated it will be even higher than that, at $6.2bn for next year. The big question for investors is, where is all that money going, and what are we seeing for it? MS is still completely propped up by their staple Windows / Office brands and despite massive investment in other areas such as online services, are still very much a minority player, getting roundly spanked by the likes of Google on a daily basis. How much of the R&D that went into Vista was completely wasted, what with all those features getting canned? If I was a MS stock holder, I’d be rather concerned that MS doesn’t really know how to spend effectively - after all, if you’re as rich as they are, do they really know the value of money any more?