by Rob Enderle www.enderlegroup.com
At PDC (Microsoft’s Professional Developer’s Conference) this week Microsoft effectively went to war with Apple, and declared war on every cloud platform provider led by Google. The primary weapons are Windows 7 and Windows Azure. Azure representing the slowly decomposing bodies of the competitors they intend to eliminate with prejudice. Backing this play for the corporate market is their Geneva Federated Identity efforts and on the desktop it is their Live and interoperability initiatives both focused solidly on the weaknesses of the companies they are targeting.
This is war, and for once Microsoft is not just throwing money at the battle, they are rolling up their sleeves, analyzing where these competitors are exposed, and focusing their resources on those exposures to create offerings that should be vastly more popular than prior efforts.
The technology market was largely founded around the mainframe. This technology was reliable, scalable, very secure, and the costs, through leasing, were almost like a subscription. It was also incredibly closed; inflexible, technologically limited and low moving, and once the leasing programs were collapsed, incredibly expensive. The needs didn’t go away but the product took a hard right turn away from the market and almost became obsolete. Strangely enough IBM made some significant changes to the platform and while it is no longer dominant it remains one of the most profitable offerings IBM has even today.
Windows Azure is effectively a mainframe in the cloud designed to operate off of a flexible subscription model with regard to resources so you only pay for what you need, it is wrapped by Geneva one of the most comprehensive federated security models ever to exist, and it is near infinitely scalable reflecting on what has been learned with regard to Cloud based services over the last 5 years.
It is interesting, I think, that Microsoft has used a color to describe this offering given that Big Blue had originally defined this space and, if they are successful, this would be Microsoft’s Big Azure. This platform will mature over the next few years and Google, rather than IBM, is likely the target but the weapon has an IBM feel to it and that reflects the weakness that Google and not IBM have in security, reputation, and reliability.
As impressive as Azure is, Windows 7, is even more so. This is because Azure, for most of us will be something, if it works right, we’ll never see. It will lie behind the things we do on the web and through our companies, we’ll touch Windows 7 and this product has the feel of a rebirth, a rebirth of Windows.
There is nothing like a negative campaign targeting you, your company, your friends, and in some cases even your family to get the juices flowing, or in the case of Microsoft, get them to stop fighting over internal turf and buckle down to get the work done.
Windows 7 is what is resulting from the constant negative attack from the Mac vs. Windows advertising campaign that Apple has been effectively driving and it showcases a level of quality, even in this early stage, that we haven’t seen from Microsoft in some time on the desktop.
From the UI to how well this product interoperates with other devices in the home this is the product that many of us thing Windows Vista could have been if it hadn’t been for internal conflicts, distractions, and a lack of focus on, or in some situations, even the identification of, critical product fundamentals.
When you see the interface it takes the task bar and turns it into something that makes launching and accessing open applications easier while Vista just made it different. When it comes to media you can move it around the house much like you do the desktop by dragging and dropping it on connected UP&P devices including Play Station 3 and Sonos products. This is Apple’s core weakness and part of what feels like a big raspberry focused at Steve Jobs. You see Apple products only interoperate with other Apple products well exploiting that weakness, if only for ironic reasons, just seems way too attractive an opportunity to miss.
On interoperability, one of the things that truly jumps out at you with this release is how well it interoperates with a lot of stuff. From printers and cameras, to a variety of third party MP3 players and it actually interoperates better with iTunes than any other third party product I’ve yet tested. This last is limited only by Apple’s unwillingness to license iTunes. You can almost imagine the two players in the Mac vs. PC ads slowly changing places with the PC once again taking the center state and the Mac drifting back into its restrictive all Apple niche.
But much like Windows 95 was Microsoft’s first step onto the web with their first integrated browser, Windows 7 is Microsoft first major step into the cloud and this platform is architected to largely live off on-line applications both inside and outside companies shifting between secure corporate links and unsecure consumer oriented web links on the fly.
This is also a transitional product for hardware and it was designed anticipating solid state drives and 2, 4, and 4 core processors and 64 bit platforms. This product will be best on products that will launch around when it does and should not work well on anything made before 2008. In fact, my personal advice will likely be that anyone with a PC that was shipped before September or 2008 should stay with Vista SP2 or XP and wait on Windows 7 until they can justify new hardware.
This speaks to the performance advantage in the product. During boot, rather than loading things linearly, Windows 7 loads in parallel and, particularly on an SD drive and multi-core system, this will reduce cold boot times massively. Windows don’t use resources which means they not only load faster from traditional hard drives they will load near instantly from SD drives and you can open as many windows as you want. Where this shines is in the integration of search. For instance when you look for documents it will aggregate all of them regardless of whether they are in your documents folder or someplace else on your PC or a connected device or a web or network resource.
Finally, this is the first major effort to tie tightly together the various Windows platforms including Windows Mobile 7, Windows Server 7, Windows Azure, and Windows Embedded. This has Mobile Mesh and the broad variety of Windows Live services behind it to drive toward the goal of a truly having the stuff you want with you regardless of the device you are currently using.
Windows 7 is the kind of product that often can only result from an organization of Microsoft’s complexity if they are focused by an external threat great enough to get them over the typical internal turf wars that every complex company is plagued with. I don’t think Windows 7 would have resulted without the Mac vs. Windows campaign and the one word that seems to resonate to me when I viewed the product is a yell coming from Redmond to Apple’s Palo Alto campus and that word is “enough”.