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Old 03-07-2008, 03:40 PM   #1
LXer
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LXer: Approaching the Singularity at Microsoft


Published at LXer:

And you thought all Microsoft ever did was roll out endless iterations of Windows and Office in between buying some competitors and threatening to sue the rest -- but there's something going on up in Redmond, Wash., that looks like genuine innovation. Yep, Microsoft has been working on a new operating system -- one they say is unencumbered by four decades of computing history -- called Singularity. They've been hacking away at the thing since 2003, but this week saw the first public release of the code. I can barely understand what they're talking about, but it looks as if installing the thing gives you a very Unix-like command line.

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Old 03-07-2008, 04:56 PM   #2
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I read through the article, the license, and the various linked articles. There are a lot of thoughts expressed all of that documentation. The thought that I would like to comment on is whether Singularity will be a replacement for Windows.

Over the last three years I have posted the occasional comment that Windows needed a complete rewrite. Microsoft has deliberately chosen time and again to use a non-modular design for Windows. They consistently chose to bundle their software so that it was intertwined to where a competitor could not insert their own modules in among the Windows modules. When a company like Stacker, Netscape, or McAfee managed to create a plug-in or add on to Windows then Microsoft would create their own bundled version of the product which drove the competing product out of the market. One of the results of all of this bundling is that by the time Windows reached the XP version Windows had become unmaintainable and could not be developed further. The history and result of the Vista development effort strongly reinforces the idea that Windows is now at a developmental dead end and needs a complete rewrite in order to survive.

The various articles in the Singularity announcement emphasize that Singularity is not a replacement for Windows even after Singularity develops into a mature operating system. The effort to convert applications from Windows to Singularity is so costly that nobody will want to convert. I agree with that. To a lesser extent the same argument holds true for converting from Windows to Linux, BSD, Apple, Solaris, or an IBM mainframe.

The competition between a moribund Windows and the other, viable operating systems will take place with new users and new applications. Somebody setting up a new application will use the best hardware and software available. That choice will never be Windows. A good example of this phenomena is in cluster computing. Almost all new clusters in the last few years have been Linux. Linux has blown away the previous cluster king, UNIX, and Windows is so crappy that it has never had a chance to even compete for the business. This inability to compete will continue into the future and Windows will become a relic like COBOL.

In order to compete for new business Microsoft needs a new operating system. Assuming that Microsoft manages to keep Bill Gates out of the design process Singularity could potentially be that product. So what Microsoft needs to do when they have to bid on an application where Windows is completely non-competitive, such as cluster computing, carrier grade computing, or embedded devices, is to propose Singularity. Microsoft needs to write an operating system from the ground up, possibly Singularity, to compete for all of the future business where proposing Windows will simply be a laughing stock.

-----------------------
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Old 03-07-2008, 05:19 PM   #3
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Quoting from the article:

Quote:

The whole point here is that Windows, based on the MS-DOS of the '80s and a whole bunch of earlier Windows releases after that, and even all the Unix derivatives (including Linux and the BSDs), which go back to the Multics days of the '60s, have at their core a whole lot of ideas that might not be the best for today and tomorrow's hardware and the uses we make of it.
That is a pretty lame excuse for Windows' failure. All of the other operating systems were designed to be modular. They also went through occasional partial rewrites as additions to the original design created messiness. Possible the best known rewrite is OS X which was a complete replacement of OS 9. Another example of a long lived operating system is one of IBMs' mainframe operating system which has been maintained and gone through partial rewrites since 1965. By focusing on modular design and the occasional partial rewrite other operating systems have remained viable for decades. Windows, by focusing on bundling and being subjected to Bill Gates' egomania, has been driven into the ground.

-------------------
Steve Stites

Last edited by jailbait; 03-07-2008 at 05:20 PM.
 
Old 03-08-2008, 06:27 AM   #4
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I think your right, the existing Windows development model has run out of steam, and the failure Vista to deliver anything new besides DRM in every nook and cranny of the OS is proof. This leaves MS is a tight spot however. To do a complete OS re-write, like Apple did with OSX, they have to convince the user base that it is OK to throw every current app they are running over the side. Backward compatibility will be a killer for a re-write. Apple has successfully done this a couple of times, but the user base is very different than the Windows user base and I'm not sure that a complete break with the past won't doom Windows as an OS.

What will be interesting is to see what MS does with Windows 7. The increasingly loud trumpeting about Windows 7 from the MS marketing department suggests that at least they know Vista is a failure in the making. However, if Windows 7 turns out to be similar to Vista in architecture, all they will be doing is putting a bigger engine in the Yugo and that won't work for anybody.
 
Old 03-08-2008, 12:18 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hangdog42 View Post

Backward compatibility will be a killer for a re-write.

What will be interesting is to see what MS does with Windows 7. The increasingly loud trumpeting about Windows 7 from the MS marketing department suggests that at least they know Vista is a failure in the making. However, if Windows 7 turns out to be similar to Vista in architecture, all they will be doing is putting a bigger engine in the Yugo and that won't work for anybody.
I think that Microsoft needs to sell two competing operating systems. They need to continue to sell Vista and/or XP to their existing customers who are unwilling to convert to another operating system. Microsoft also needs to sell a brand new, modern operating system to compete for new applications where the customer has no existing applications to worry about.

As existing applications die or a trickle of Windows customers convert to better operating systems Windows' installed base will wither. The new operating system would compete with the other modern operating systems for new business and win some of the competitions. The new operating system's installation base would increase over the years.

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Old 03-09-2008, 07:26 AM   #6
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Yeah, something along those lines might work, and is essentially what Apple is currently doing with OSX. They've got both Intel and PPC versions to keep the older hardware around, and I suspect that in the not too distant future, the PPC branch will come to an end. Of course this does expose MS to a huge risk, namely that if the new OS requires a complete change of software and tools, customers are going to look around and see what else is out there. This has definitely happend with Vista because of the hardware requirements, unfortunately the answer frequently appears to be sticking with XP.
 
Old 03-09-2008, 07:42 AM   #7
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This could simply be vaperware. Remember the new filesystem promised for Longhorn? They promised it with the release of Cairo at a time when they had some viable competition. Companies waited for Win95 instead of going with something else. It was an empty promise but it worked to keep the current customers and shoot down the competition as they were just starting up.
The purpose was to by Microsoft time to develop windows 95 before being overtaken by someone else.
 
Old 03-09-2008, 04:53 PM   #8
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I'm 100% sure that Windows 7 is more of the same kind of distraction as the filesystem for Longhorn. At least someone in Redmond realizes that Vista doesn't really do anything that XP can't, so they need to sing and dance and hope that their customer base doesn't notice those nice Linux and OSX boxes out there.....

And MS does have a real problem here. One of the things I've noticed over the last year is more of my customers reacting with interest when they find out that I'm running Linux as my desktop OS. I don't see many people ready to jump yet, but a number of them realize that when XP runs out of gas, Vista may not be the way to go.
 
  


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