Line of business software

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On Windows weekly you lamented that Apple was forward thinking by just making changes and leaving the past behind. You compared this to Microsoft as being behind the times by not being able to do this. Remember that Microsoft’s largest customers are bushiness. Many of these have critical line of business software that would be very costly to replace. Do you think that a company that still have OS370 software written in COBOL would be willing to throw it out just because a vendor says that it is old fashion. This is what Apple would tell a company to do.

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26 responses to “Line of business software”

  1. Avatar

    Paul Thurrott

    Yep. Microsoft should have done more of that. They have singled-handedly let the industry live in the past by not obsoleting support for ancient technology, and have harmed Windows materially in the process.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      The alternative is that if MSFT had tried to obsolete various APIs or other components, a great many ISVs may have gone out of their way to provide alternatives to ever-changing Windows for enterprises to use via Intranets or remote VMs. If all an employee needed to do his/her job were a current browser, a great many enterprises could get by/do rather well giving their employees only Chromebooks or Chromeboxes.

      Think of it another way, other than MS Office and retraining costs, the only thing keeping many enterprises giving Windows PCs to their employees is 20-year-old VB line-of-business software.

      If there were SEPARATE workplace and leisure versions of Windows, MSFT could do whatever it believed was in its own best interests with the leisure version, but they'd have to give their enterprise customers what those enterprise customers demand. With only one version of Windows for all workplace and leisure users, MSFT still has to give their enterprise customers what those enterprise customers demand, and leisure users just have to live with that.

      Simply put, it's MSFT's choice that Windows is what it is. If MSFT wants the revenues it gets from its enterprise customers, don't expect any major changes in windows during your expected future working life.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      The problem is, businesses have a hard bargaining position. Especially if Microsoft's widget (Windows) is a $100 part of a $1,000,000,000 system. You aren't going to write off a billion dollar production system 15 years early, just because Microsoft decides Windows needs to drop some legacy cruft.

      I'd love Windows to move forward, but with multiple production lines stuck on old software that already has problems running on LTS Windows 10 and won't run on the current builds, I also want them not to break things.

      • Avatar

        christian.hvid

        In reply to wright_is:

        Another aspect is that a lot of specialized and bespoke software is frozen in time - either the vendor has gone out of business, or the software was written by an ex-employee or consultant who has long since left for greener pastures without leaving documentation or even source code behind. The only thing that keeps the software running is the fact that Windows tends to backwards compatible. Saying that Microsoft should toughen up and just force businesses to rewrite their legacy stuff isn't realistic. Also, harming Windows is not nearly as bad as harming relations with entire industries.

        • Avatar

          hrlngrv

          In reply to christian.hvid:

          Putting things harshly, by the early 1990s MSFT wanted to displace IBM as enterprises' primary software vendor. MSFT succeeded. However, that was a Devil's bargain: MSFT has to keep giving enterprises what enterprises want or enterprises will make someone else the next IBM. MSFT and its shareholders ARE NOT willing to accept that. So Windows will continue to support 20+ year old 32-bit software. Rejoice that it was able to dump 16-bit support before 3 decades had passed.

          All the MSFT fans here need to accept that they've embraced the IBM 2.0 tarbaby.

  2. Avatar

    longhorn

    Google and the Web would already have won if it wasn't for mobile. 86 % of mobile Web traffic comes from apps, not browsers. So the reason we don't use Web apps is basically mobile and to a lesser extent lack of performance, but that can be solved if it runs locally.


    I think Web tech will eventually win in Enterprise/Business too, because it's platform independent. You can already do gaming, office and photo editing work with Web tech. Why not business software too if it runs locally?


    However, it's important for Microsoft to support "legacy", since probably 80 % of Windows revenue comes from Enterprise/Business.


    • Avatar

      darkgrayknight

      In reply to longhorn:

      Web has been in Enterprise/Business for a while, in fact it is also running into the same issues since many web applications were written to utilize Internet Explorer and ActiveX controls. So there are still legacy issues and slow moving projects to upgrade these to more modern browsers.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to longhorn:

      I have a browser open all day on my desktop at work, for monitoring tech news.

      I actually "use" it for about 5% of my work, the rest is local applications and remote desktops onto servers.

      The same for our users, they use our Windows based ERP software, Outlook, our CTI solution and a small bit of Word and Excel.

      Many still use Internet Explorer, when they have to use the Internet at all and when a site doesn't work any more, they call and when we suggest using Firefox or Chrome, they generally need an explanation of what those are... There are a few who say, "oh, yes, I use Chrome/Firefox at home," but that is a small minority.

  3. Avatar

    jfgordon

    I think nobody asks to leave technology behind, but to bring user interface forward. When UWP was introduced, and for some reason regedit.exe or msconfig.exe or whatever was not updated to the new platform, that should have been a showstopper. If they don't update their own software, why should their customers!? I do not think that macOS's System Preferences was written with Carbon 5+ years after Cocoa was introduced. When Aqua was introduced, all was Aqua, even the Terminal. And of course the iWork suite was certainly not developed with a different technology than the OS itself. And so forth.

  4. Avatar

    wright_is

    Exactly. Apple has never really courted corporate customers. They are used in the "coloured pencil" departments of big corporations, but a majority of usage is LoB software on Windows.

    We are currently running a COBOL based ERP solution, that went from UNIX to Windows using POSIX and is finally being re-written to use SQL Server and Windows technologies and some Java. The Windows POSIX software is literally the UNIX software with as few modifications as possible to get it running on Windows. It does run on Server 2008R2, but it feels very old.

    Likewise, our CTI software only works with Windows and Outlook 32-bit.

    Operations software and production line monitoring and control (PLC management software) only runs on Windows and requires Internet Explorer with ActiveX controls (and that is the most modern version, some of the older production lines and lab hardware are stuck with Windows XP or, if we are lucky, Windows 7.

    • Avatar

      olditpro2000

      In reply to wright_is:


      How do these vendors intend for these products to continue to get security updates? Are you on your own to pay for ESUs? What about when ESUs are no longer available? Are you expected to isolate these systems with firewalls and VLANs or air-gap them?

      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to OldITPro2000:

        ESU? Updates? Nope. The stuff is abandonware. If you want a patch or to run it on a current Windows system, you need a hardware upgrade - which generally starts at high five figures and goes upwards, quickly to 7 or more.

        The XP stuff we have is either air-gapped or on a separate network with no internet access or access to the normal back office network.

        • Avatar

          olditpro2000

          In reply to wright_is:


          I have little familiarity with PLC software and industrial production lines in general, but I know in the automotive world there has been movement over the past few years to Android (for things like diagnostic scan tools) and Linux (for things like wheel alignment racks).


          Is there a reason these vendors don't go with something other than Windows? I'm assuming they would if they could, but it may cost them to much to port their software.

  5. Avatar

    rob_segal

    A business that is running really old applications like that can be accommodated by a special version of Windows that just receives security updates. Other versions can include updates that removes old technology consumers and modern-day applications require. Windows can't be everything to everyone while covering the timespan of decades-worth of technology. Start taking some of that out. Everything can't be supported forever.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to rob_segal:

      Except, in business, you have assets being written down over 25 years, which are being controlled by Windows software. That software might have been state of the art when the hardware was bought, but 25 years later, it still has to run, because it is controlling the production of millions of Euros worth of product every day.

      You can't afford to replace a multi-million Euro production facility every couple of years, just because the OS the controlling software runs on drops support for the technologies the controlling software runs on. There are good reasons that industrial PCs still come with muliple serial ports and raw I/O connectors.

      And business makes up a majority of Windows usage today.

      Microsoft can't afford to just dump their biggest customers. If Microsoft "abandons" you million or billion dollar production facility, are you going to keep using their OS, server software or cloud infrastructure? If you are looking at a billion dollar hit on plant 15 years early, you aren't going to look at the supplier that "left you in the lurch" very favourably.

    • Avatar

      phil_adcock

      In reply to rob_segal:

      I feel like this is what Windows 10X is being built for. 10X flashy for consumers and doesn't require the 25+ years of outdated software.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to rob_segal:

      Everything can't be supported forever.

      Look at Linux. For that matter, look at DOSBox.

      Consider workplace usage. Someone whose job predominantly involves database queries and statistical analysis using stats software and Excel. Pretty much all database and stats software in widespread use come in Windows, macOS and Linux flavors if not also non-Linux mainframe versions. In that mix, only Excel has limited availability (Windows and macOS). What could be removed from Windows 10 as it currently exists which would improve such workplace computer usage?

      One Windows supposed to work the same in workplaces and homes may not be able to be everything, but as long as MSFT's enterprise customers provide most of MSFT's revenues, those enterprise customers' preferences will continue to matter one hellava lot more to MSFT than leisure users' preferences.

      Face it: as MSFT wants it, Windows is a workplace OS which has lots of extra features for gamers. And as long as MSFT makes One Windows, that's what Windows will remain.

      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        And those users running Excel queries off the back of databases are also the miniroty of users in business. The vast majority use bespoke LoB software that often can't be modernized or is prohibitively expensive to modernize.

        Replacing something like an EPR system for a medium sized business (<500 employees) can mean well into 6 figures for the base software and licenses, then another 6 figures for customization, then another 5 figures for training, testing, parallel running etc.

        I've worked for companies providing IT solutions and I've worked for companies that use such solutions. Office, Exchange and SQL Server are the least of their worries and, probably, the smallest part of their investment and maintenance costs.

        • Avatar

          olditpro2000

          In reply to wright_is:


          Don't forget the 6 figures for the consultants to tell management what new ERP software to use.

        • Avatar

          hrlngrv

          In reply to wright_is:

          And those users running Excel queries off the back of databases are also the miniroty of users in business.

          Understood. FWLIW, where I work, there are still some VB (possibly VB6) programs still in use for printing labels and some others for working with some ancient hardware peripherals.

          More common in-house software is browser-based for the most part. Aside from Word templates and Excel models in day to day use, 90% of the people on my floor could use Chrome OS machines, and the remaining 10% Windows XP VMs to run the ancient VB stuff.

          It may be different in other companies, but I work in a field offices, and field offices don't use ERP directly, mostly CRM and financial models. That CRM is Salesforce, and it's browser-based.

  6. Avatar

    longhorn

    Microsoft can do both. It's a big company. Microsoft can support business/enterprise and LOB with the LTSC version. Then Microsoft can slowly move the regular version of Windows forward. This means touching the core of Windows and Win32. Microsoft needs Win32, because many of their most modern applications rely on it, Chredge for example, but Win32 also needs to move forward. UWP is pretty much a dead end, since not even Microsoft use it for its most popular applications.


    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to longhorn:

      Except, people want consistency. They want to use the same OS at home and work, they don't want to have to re-learn everything at home.

      An enthusiast might. And I'd love Windows to move forward, but it would be too disruptive to leave Windows for Business stationary and move home forwards. For which platform do you develop? I use a lot of the same software at home as I do at work, it works exactly the same way. If Microsoft's home OS diverges from what I use at work, why would I stay with Microsoft?

      It is a fine line they have to tread. Windows 10 X sounds like the best way forward, and is what I have been advocating for at least a decade. Encapsulate the legacy cruft in virtual machines, or, today, containers, and move forward with a slimmed down, secure modern core operating system. But that is a hard act to get right.

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