- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Last week’s announcement that the consumer version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Vista, its next-generation operating system, won’t ship until sometime early in 2007, drew more than a little speculation about what’s wrong in Redmond, Washington (also known as Microsoft Central) and why.

Media reports - chiefly from New York Times reporters Steve Lohr and John Markoff, but also from Mike Landberg in the San Jose Mercury News and an armload of pro- and anti-Windows bloggers - blame the huge amount of code needed to not only power Windows but make it “backward compatible” with older versions, and the vast bureaucracy that exists in Redmond. (Just how far back this’ll go, I’m not sure: I doubt that Windows XP will work hard to support a Windows 1.0 application from 1986, but I digress.)

I’ll blame something else: democracy, or, to be more precise, Microsoft’s desire to have an operating system that supports zillions of video and/or sound cards, hard drives, printers, knickknacks and gewgaws. By contrast, Apple Computer - today, at least - is rigorous in controlling what the Mac OS will, and won’t, support. Add to Apple’s use of Unix-based operating systems and, presto, you’ve got something rock solid and stable.

Messers Lohr and Markoff quote an October 2005 memo from Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie that reads, in part, “Complexity kills. It sucks the life out of developers, it makes products difficult to plan, build and test, it introduces security challenges and it causes end-user and administrator frustration.”

Perhaps Mr. Ozzie is onto something. And perhaps the “hegemony” exercised by Apple is worthy of emulation.

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