Microsoft Vista, RIP

I’ve managed to take a look at the release candidate version of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. There’s no “killer” feature of it that mandates you upgrade–it’s just full of nice little things that show attention to detail.

It runs just as fast as Jaguar or Panther did on my three year old Powerbook. In fact, some things are faster. (Some are slower, but not terribly.)

No performance penalty, and a lot of nice little touches–and not much money to upgrade. Sounds like a winner to me. (Though I have no idea how to use the new version of Interface Builder… I may stick to xcode 2.4 for a while…)

Contrast that with Vista, which, eight months into its lifespan has seen endless complaints, offers a few eye candy features, but, overall sucks the life out of your computer and offers few if any productivity benefits. Many people are switching back to XP. I own three Vista licenses, and I only use one. (The second is on a VM on a Linux box. I have yet to use the VM.) The first is a VM on my desktop Mac, and I use it side by side.

At work though, my VM is XP. I can’t imagine going through the work day needing to do the kinds of things I have to do in Windows on Vista and not want to kill people.

Still, none of this would necessarily undermine Vista as inevitable, if unloved. Some compare it to Windows ME. I think ME wasn’t so much ignore because it didn’t do anything but because XP was only a year away. Now we know better than to expect Windows 7 anytime before 2011.

Anyway, that’s not what I think will ultimately cause the whole house of monopolistic cards to fold. The reverse engineering of MAPI is. Check out OpenMAPI. Assuming they really have done a clean-room reverse engineer of MAPI, and every e-mail client will later be able to come out with Exchange support (which MS could only kill in a future release… good luck with that) and Linux based servers could drop in as replacements, I think you will see a bigger movement towards Linux and opensource software in places where IT managers have to justify budgets.

(It’s free!)

If OpenOffice can come out with an integrated, free MAPI supporting e-mail client that runs on all platforms OpenOffice does, I think you can essentially call that the second trumpet sounding in the end of days of MS. (The first being the Vista itself.)

There is nothing I use in Word 2007 that wasn’t in Word 97. In fact, Word 97 is less annoying. I could say that about all the Office apps, except possible Outlook. XP is better than Vista. See a trend?

It’s not that Microsoft is incapable of producing a good product, or that opensource’s shit–or Apple’s for that matter–doesn’t stink. It’s that they choose to operate in a certain way. That model is finally on the verge of breaking down.

Now we’ll see if Linux can really get itself on the desktop, and Mac can get itself into the workplace. If so, I think it’s fair to say we could see real OS competition for the first time in 20 years.

I’m not going to over-venerate that period. It sucked when you had an Atari, your friend had an Amiga, and your dad used an IBM at work, and then you used an Apple at school. It was almost a miracle if you could even get them to read each other’s floppies.

But that’s not the case now. Not just because of the web, or because of Java, but because of open standards, almost every operating system reads and writes the same kinds of files and so on. So, it won’t be the 80s all over again. In fact, the first system to stop using those standards will probably cease to exist. In a nutshell, that is what is endangering Microsoft’s monopoly. They always do a pay-through-the-nose-copy-of-something-someone-else-did, which was one thing when it wasn’t lamer or late. Now, with things like wma after mp3 or c# after java, or the zune after the iPod, they just are behind.

As far as I know the only thing Microsoft actually genuinely created without either buying an outside team, copying another idea, or licensing it is BASIC and Flight Simulator.