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The Future of Windows, Vaguely (Premium)

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When I launched the SuperSite for Windows in 1998, I promised to discuss “the future of Windows, today” and to do so in detail. Now, suddenly, that is no longer possible anymore.

Which is strange, because Windows 10 was created and developed in a wonderfully open reaction to the secrecy-plagued release that preceded it. When Terry Myerson took over the Windows team from Steven Sinofsky, his first order of business was to undo all the terribleness that his predecessor enacted. That’s why the Windows Insider program exists: Windows 10, he declared, would not be developed behind closed doors. It would happen transparently and with the participation of the community.

Those lofty goals have fallen by the wayside in the recent years, and not just because Terry was unceremoniously shown the door after controversially fulfilling the Satya Nadella edict that Windows 10 needed to somehow fit into the “cloud first, mobile first … OK, just cloud first” strategy for the broader Microsoft. Today, Windows 10 is updated as if it were a service, but poorly, because it’s not a service. And Terry is gone. So, sadly, is the transparency.

What we’ve seen in recent years is a predictable backslide into silence from the Windows team. Which isn’t a team anymore, but let’s not get bogged down in the details. After making annual pledges to make Windows 10 more exciting by adding largely pointless new features that demoed well at trade shows, and then failing to deliver on those promises, Microsoft has grown largely silent when it comes to Windows 10. Indeed, it is notable, I think, that Joe Belfiore, the focal point of those broken promises and a beloved figure in the Windows community, played no role at all in this month’s Build conference “vision” keynote. Windows was basically nowhere to be seen.

The Insider program, too, suffers from its inability to communicate effectively or at all. The Fast ring is skipping the testing of the next version of Windows 10, version 19H2, and moving forward to the next-next release instead, called 20H1. Why? We weren’t told, and the assumption has to be that Microsoft feels that its most passionate and enthusiastic fans don’t need to know. This is how things happened under Sinofsky, by the way.

And then there was the weirdness of this week’s Computex announcements, in which Microsoft curiously slid vague information about “a modern OS,” no, sorry, “Modern OS,” between concrete announcements about very real Windows PCs and very real IoT developments. This Modern OS is a thing that may or may not be Lite OS, or it may or may not be a future Windows 10 version, there’s no way to know. But parsing the language of the announcement—OK, the manifesto—it reads like the future. Like we’re not talking about Windows 10.

And seriously, Microsoft, what the f#$%. That’s how you start talking about some future system that will either sit alongside Windows 10 as a Chrome OS-type simpler environment or will, in fact, replace Windows 10? Doesn’t this conversation require clarity?

What I find most disturbing about this episode is the predictable and all-too-familiar—and Sinofsky-esque—way in which Microsoft has pulled the iron curtain of silence down in the wake of its vague revelations. When asked if this Modern OS discussion was about Windows 10 or something new, Microsoft simply said it had nothing to announce at this time. Which begs the question: Why was this confusing information put into a formal Microsoft blog post in the first place?

So, here’s where I’m at.

The very fact that Microsoft did not once use the words “Windows” or “Windows 10” to describe this Modern OS is telling. This is about a new thing that is not Windows, a thing that will hopefully not make the mistakes of the Windows RT and S mode past by offering a system that looks and works exactly like Windows but does not run Windows applications.

There’s been a lot of speculation about what, exactly, this Modern OS is. Maybe it’s Lite OS, or Windows Core OS (WCOS), or whatever other nonsense names from which you wish to cherry-pick. But I’ve been told that Microsoft still doesn’t know exactly what it can deliver and when, and that its plans are still in flux. The future, as it turns out, is always in motion. Yoda was right.

And I suspect that its previous defeats—again, Windows RT and S mode—are making Microsoft a bit nervous about getting it right this time. But the delays are not the issue. The silence is the issue.

And really, that is the problem. What Microsoft needs to do is engage the ecosystem—its customers, its partners, its developers—and have an honest and transparent conversation about its vision for this Modern OS. Get feedback from each about what they expect and need. Adjust the plans accordingly. Explain that Modern OS and Windows 10 will coexist for a long time, and that both will be updated together, with each getting the features from the other that make sense. That Windows 10, over time, will become like a workstation OS for those legacy use cases, and that Modern OS is the way forward for the mainstream.

Or whatever. It just needs to communicate.

But with the Windows team split in two and scattered to the winds, with no voice for Windows on Microsoft’s senior leadership team, what we get instead is this backslide into the silence of the dark past. This isn’t healthy, for Microsoft, for Windows, or for those like us who still give a crap about this platform.

Microsoft, you’ve flubbed this one badly. It’s time to come clean.

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Comments (56)

56 responses to “The Future of Windows, Vaguely (Premium)”

  1. wiederman

    Paul, you said it perfectly! +1 to everything you stated.

  2. will

    Microsoft should do what both Google and Apple did years ago and that was release new operating systems, that while limited and basic, have grown over time as people have used them. Like Paul said, run them side by side for the next 7 years as one grows and one starts to wind down.

    The problem is Microsoft does not really have anything they have done this with to model it from. The closest they have right now is the new Edge channels for the new browser, not saying an OS should have nightly builds for everyone.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to will:

      Where's the money?

      Android generates traffic for Google sites and services, so generates ad revenues. AND IT'S ESTABLISHED.

      iOS is part of the package for high-margin iPhones and iPads, and Apple's app store is iOS users' only option. AND IT'S ESTABLISHED.

      How would MSFT make money? The same way Google does from Android? How many OEMs are just dying to adopt a brand new, UNTESTED OS from MSFT rather than sticking with Android? Would any OEMs be willing to pay licensing fees for such a MSFT OS? I figure it's obvious there's zero chance of MSFT trying the Apple approach of making their own-branded hardware again.

      To repeat, how would MSFT make money?

  3. rmlounsbury

    It is clear that Microsoft is building a platform even with a bit of a muddied future for what an modern operating system is in the current landscape. It makes it even more complicated that they lost the mobile war and not only lost it but completely withdrew from it. At the moment I would think any modern operating system would be built around a mobile-centric platform something Microsoft lacks.


    Apple has iOS and it is very clear that this is their OS of the future and this WWDC we will begin to see it meld with macOS. Apple's biggest problem is that they want consumers to see the iPad as the computer of the future when consumers still prefer laptops/desktops to get things done. That and their macOS lineup lacks touch capabilities which makes the iOS bit challenging. Then of course their main target group of developers would never be able to adopt iPad/iOS in its current state.


    Google has the most popular mobile operating system in the world with Android but that seems to be fracturing a bit. Then they have what is probably the most popular platform for schools with ChromeOS that is also gaining traction with consumers. I think Google risks making ChromeOS too kludgy as they continue to bolt on more components of other platforms. Android apps on ChromeOS are still fairly terrible and Linux brings the developer power but the normal consumer is unlikely to us this. ChromeOS isn't even midlife and it's already hit an identity crisis.


    It is an interesting time in the computing/OS space as we are preparing for a major shift towards ARM and even more versatile devices that keep getting weirder as we are seeing from Computex. I think Paul's note about how Lite OS seems to be heading for an iOS style route makes sense. If Microsoft can build something a long the iOS lines but also bring best-in-class enterprise tools to manage and easily maintain such a platform it could be an excellent platform. Of course, the biggest problem Microsoft faces is they want/need to shed the win32 legacy but that has proven with Windows 8 and S Mode that this might be an impossible legacy to shed.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to rmlounsbury:

      [MSFT] lost the mobile war and not only lost it but completely withdrew from it.

      Not quite. MSFT is becoming a major app vendor for iOS and Android. Also necessary to consider the economics of phones. Android is effectively cost-free compared to Windows license kits for PC OEMs, and iOS is in-house for iPhones and iPads. MSFT may have wound up with no prospects for licensing revenue from its own mobile OS, and hardware margins for its own-branded phones would be a helluva lot thinner than software margins, meaning the only reasonably high margin opportunities for MSFT in mobile were apps.

      You overestimate the complexity of using Linux software under Chrome OS. It's been possible for years by switching into developer mode and installing crouton as a chroot environment. It's also been possible just to install a Linux window manager to run ALONG SIDE Chrome OS's window manager and run Linux software that way. The wonders of an X server as the foundation for a GUI OS. What'd be lacking is security. That's the hard part about bringing Linux software to Chrome OS.

      As for shedding the Win32 legacy, what is the basis for Windows's value to most PC users? It's Modern UI Calculator applet? The MSFT Store? Or decades of accumulated Win32 software with millions of PC users still using a handful of what for them are must-have applications which haven't been upgraded in years? Basically, PC users don't use PCs just to run the OS, and there's simply too much Win32 software for MSFT to have any chance of deprecating it. FWIW, the fact that MSFT hasn't come up with a full-featured UWP version of Office speaks for itself, and deafeningly loudly: Win32 will be here for decades to come.

      • rmlounsbury

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        Being a developer of apps for a mobile platform you have no control of versus being a platform owner controlling the platform itself are entirely different things. Maybe Microsoft's decision to exit the mobile platform game was on purpose removing the responsibility to build and maintain the underpinnings of that platform. But we've seen Microsoft run headlong into restrictions that prevent them from being the full-stack provider of services, assistant, etc... Sure Android gives them more flexibility but this Edge on Chrome experiment has proven that if you don't own the platform you will be screwed with and Google has done this multiple times already. So, again, building apps for mobile platforms <> having your own platform.


        I'm not overstating the complexity of Linux on ChromeOS. I'm stating that MOST users will never touch the platform and will simply use ChromeOS and integrated Android underpinnings. I'm also saying is that Google is making ChromeOS heavier and heavier by continuing to add more and more systems into what was a simple, light, and modern OS. ChromeOS that was vs. ChromeOS that is does bring more functionality but at the cost of simplicity.


        Also, I'm not saying Win32 is a problem for Windows 10 or the future of that platform nor will it go away for Win32. But in reference to a next generation modern OS Microsoft cannot bring forward Win32 if they want to shed the legacy of Windows. The fact that Microsoft hasn't been able to figure out an alternate platform to power said "Lite OS" is a death blow to such a platform before it is launched. This isn't about Windows 10 but the future of operating systems for Microsoft if they are to really build a next gen operating system to take the torch from Windows at some point down the road.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to rmlounsbury:

          Being a developer of apps for a mobile platform you have no control of versus being a platform owner controlling the platform itself are entirely different things.

          Granted, but what if money would only be lost trying to own a platform?

          That is, what if MSFT were correct and there was no possibility Windows phones and the MSFT store would ever make a profit? What benefit would MSFT derive from subsidizing the existence of Windows phones?

          I figure the only way MSFT can make money in mobile is by selling apps for iOS and Android, even if MSFT has no control over either of them.

          Re MSFT wanting to shed the legacy of Windows, what if that's precisely what represents the value of using Windows for most PC users? If Modern OS is meant for mobile devices, what OEM would use it rather than Android? Would MSFT make its own phones and tablets (NOT called Surface) using it? If Modern OS is meant for laptops and small PCs, what'd be its benefits vs Chrome OS?

          I figure there's simply too much Win32 software in use for MSFT to have any chance of moving users of that software away from Windows, and most people not tied to Win32 software don't need Windows, and it'd be problematic at best whether Modern OS would provide any advantages over iOS, Android or Chrome OS (or macOS or Linux).

          For MSFT and some of its fans, the sad truth is people buy PCs to run Win32 applications, not to run a MSFT OS. If they don't need/want to run Win32 applications, they don't need to spend more to buy machines with a MSFT OS.

          • rmlounsbury

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            I think we would call that being a loss-leader to keep folks on your platform and enabling something such as commissions on sales through your app store or revenue from your ad platform (which Microsoft still has and just branded with their own namesake). Of course these are Apple & Google's revenue strategies. But not having the platform precludes Microsoft from these sorts of revenues. Of course, as I mentioned in my previous response Microsoft may have already done the calculus on the cost of maintaining such a platform and decided that it wasn't worth it and it would rather just bring it's apps to other platforms and accept the loss of the default.


            Of course, if this is the case then why bother building Lite OS or Modern OS (or whatever Microsoft wants to call it)? I suppose the biggest factor would be keeping Google from eroding their install base in the laptop/desktop space; especially in education.


            But all of that is neither here nor there because it seems your stance is that Microsoft shouldn't bother trying to build a new platform to replace is slowly dying Windows platform. Which renders all of the points I was making moot. My thought process is one where Microsoft is trying to build a new platform that moves them past the restrictions of Windows legacy and the win32 architecture. Build a platform centered around the concept of a lightweight OS that is easily managed, security/privacy focused, and always connected. Which is a platform built on what is clearly going to be am ARM based world. Which makes me think, maybe the problem that Microsoft and Lite OS is trying to solve is the slow death of Intel and removing those shackles. Maybe as I noted in my original comment; Microsoft doesn't entirely know what is they want Lite OS to be other than they need a plan B to their plan A that is Windows.


            Though, I would say the benefit to Lite OS vs. ChromeOS have already been covered by Paul. Microsoft is selling users/consumers that they are the privacy centric platform and aren't digging through your data to sell you stuff (of course one could argue this is part of the value of Google digging through your data and percolating up data tidbits). Also, for enterprises already entrenched in Active Directory and Microsoft technologies to have a lite weight and easy to manage platform that is more secure than Windows 10 that can replace Windows 10. Which makes even more sense because then Microsoft can sell virtualized application services to bridge the gap between Windows 10 and Lite OS in the enterprise. At the end of the day Microsoft wants you on subscription based Microsoft services and software. No better way to sell that than a "modern OS" built around those services.

            • hrlngrv

              In reply to rmlounsbury:

              I figure that Windows phone hardware was losing so much money that adding in all the MSFT Store and phone-related ad revenues still produced an overall money-loser. Loss leaders only work when there's an overall profit to be made. I really do believe there was no profit for MSFT to make from its own-branded phones. MSFT isn't a company which tolerates money losers unless they have lots of market share and developer interest (like Xbox, decidedly NOT like Windows phones).

              As for Modern OS, if MSFT really makes it and distributes it, I figure it'd be a sign MSFT believes the era of local disconnected computing is coming to an end, and it'd be MSFT's take on a combined thin client, lite consumer, maybe even possible return to mobile OS.

              To be clear, I don't believe Windows is dying. It's just retreating to work and gaming predominantly. It's no longer the general computing platform of choice, but it remains the best platform for doing certain things. OTOH, I don't believe there's anything for MSFT 'that moves them past the restrictions of Windows legacy and the win32 architecture'. Win32 is where the value is for users, so where the value is for using a MSFT OS. Implicit in that is that MSFT will never again control computing like they did with Win32 between 1995 and this decade.

              Re privacy, while there's no way around using Chrome as the browser on a Chromebook, there's no requirement to use Google services. Maybe Chrome goes through Outlook.com or other non-gmail e-mail, but I doubt it. Maybe Chrome goes through files stored on OneDrive or DropBox, but I doubt it. Maybe Chrome phones home the contents of my Chromebook's ~/Downloads folder, but I doubt it.

  4. cyloncat

    I would say that it's less a problem of transparency, and more of a problem of trust. Do you trust Microsoft to do the right thing? Why, or why not? I can well understand not wanting to talk too much about things that are not yet finished, and not yet fully committed. I think there are real blocks in terms of necessary feedback getting to the right people in Microsoft. The Insider program has been a failure in terms of catching release-delaying defects, even though they've been reported through the feedback hub. The Insider program also has failed to reach critical segments of the Windows community, specifically those people who are heads-down on their (mission-critical) jobs and who need to be able to rely in Windows but who at the same time don't care about the latest and greatest. And I say that as a Windows Insider from the beginning of the program. On the other hand, the Insiders program is better for Microsoft than not having the Insiders program; it is "necessary but not sufficient."


    In specific terms of 19H2, Paul, the evidence is right there in front of your face and mine. The Insider program is testing 20H1. The next version of Windows 10 will be 20H1. There is no 19H2.

  5. pdhemsley

    Perhaps they're just working this stuff out.

  6. hrlngrv

    If MSFT makes and sells a new OS, call it Modern OS, which won't run Win32 software, would its user base be appreciably larger than the combined user bases of Chrome OS and Linux? That is, why would people want to use Modern OS? If it were very similar to Chrome OS, what would be its advantages over Chrome OS? That it came from MSFT rather than Google?

    Chrome OS is gaining the ability to run Linux and Android software. Would Modern OS have the ability to run presumably packaged Win32 desktop software?

    Personally, I'd prefer something like DOSBox, but for Win32 software. Call it WinBox (if there are no trademark issues). Make it free for Modern OS and something reasonable (US$25 or less) for other OSes (macOS, Linux, Chrome OS). Let it be a quasi-VM, but with an anything goes virtual environment.

    Tangent: I figure one reason MSFT may have difficulty communicating with users and fans is that actual details may prove that Google figured out the necessary design for an easily upgradable lite OS a decade before MSFT did. Specifically, that the easiest way to update a lite OS is in fact to use lots of smallish disk partitions with one just for the bootloader which has a configuration file which points to the current kernel and core OS partitions. Also to keep user files on another, separate partition, ideally encrypted by default, but unaffected by changes in sysem files.

    IOW, MSFT may have to admit, if only tacitly, that all the trash talk it's spewed about Chrome OS over the years was pure, unadulterated BS, and that MSFT is going to copy Google's approach. I figure that'd stick in MSFT's collective craw. The alternative theory would be that like a high school student trying to doctor a downloaded term paper to hide plagiarism, MSFT hasn't figured out everything it needs to do to disguise that Modern OS would, er, borrow liberally from Chrome OS's design.

    • rmlounsbury

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      I think the biggest problem facing Microsoft and their Modern OS idea is what you mention in that it could very well end up a Microsoft spin on ChromeOS. I think Paul has made a good point that there could very well be a market for Modern OS as a ChromeOS like environment without Google just like Edge is an alternative to Chrome sans-Google.


      My guess on the Win32 bit is that Modern OS would not run those apps natively. Rather, if you want to run legacy apps on Modern OS you have the option of using Microsoft's virtualized desktop service for legacy apps. It's a more enterprise focused option though. Or, perhaps, Microsoft could offer a sandboxed virtualized Windows environment for Win32. Without it they have an OS with no apps and we've already been there wind Windows 8, Windows S Mode, and Windows Phone.

    • sydbarrett74

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      Agreed about the trash talk. I think Nadella only did that to hold the hounds at bay until his people had something equivalent to offer. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, trash talk is almost always a close second.

  7. GT Tecolotecreek

    They are going to oem OSX from Apple and call it WinJave ;-)

  8. christian.hvid

    While I agree that Microsoft's way of communicating here is disastrous, I'm not sure you should read too much into the random capitalization of the word "modern". The article says "a modern OS" ten times and "a Modern OS" one time, and that last one may very well be a typo. In which case this may not be a veiled product announcement at all, but just a nebulous vision statement about operating systems in general.


    That said, I wonder why Microsoft would even bother developing a new operating system. Windows is just about the only OS on the planet that is still generating a direct revenue stream, but it's highly unlikely that Microsoft will be able to charge anything at all for an OS not named Windows. A new light-weight OS would therefore make sense only if it was designed from the ground up to serve as an endpoint for Office 365, Dynamics and other enterprise cloud services. A consumer-oriented "modern" OS would certainly be a waste of money.


    Incidentally, Nick Parker's blog post ends with a discussion about the Intelligent Edge, as Microsoft is fond of calling its cloud endpoints. Maybe this is the equation Microsoft is trying to solve: how do we transform the PC from a more or less autonomous multi-purpose device into a secure and highly effective endpoint for the cloud? Will Windows 10 be up to the task, or do we need something entirely new, something...modern?

  9. IanYates82

    One issue for them, to be charitable, is that they'll engage with their fnas and get told UWP all the way! Then they'll hit the real world and realise they just need to copy chrome book and they'll have a better reach, and an enterprise would pick them only if it can run this one particular app, etc


    The new Azure desktop stuff seems like it could dovetail well, but they need to license it for on-prem hosting too. The more bridges between past and future the better. We're moving to Azure AD at work and it's now simple, compared to what it was a couple of years ago. More of that baby step approach please

  10. darkgrayknight

    What if ... they are thinking of a hypervisor OS that runs apps for any current OS and runs on any hardware platform. So Android, WPF, .NET, Win32, etc. apps running on the same hardware (PC, tablet, phone, HoloLens, IoT, etc.). The lack of communication would be due to not having a fully capable version of that going and the need for some serious ramp up with hardware vendors (and the surface team).

  11. tfgadmin

    Better wait for Dave Cutler to retire before killing the Windows brand. :)

  12. UK User

    I would have thought that this scenario with Windows, that has been with us since Nadella took charge at Microsoft, will not alter whilst he is still in charge. Getting rid of Myerson was the writing on the wall, so for now we had better get used to all this vagueness about Windows. Wall Street seem happy about it all.

  13. BlackForestHam

    You can’t clearly communicate an idea that itself is unclear and without cohesion!

  14. sydbarrett74

    With more and more OS-agnostic Progressive Web Apps (PWA's) rolling out, will the home user actually care about the OS? As time marches on, Windows will become an enterprise-only OS for those legacy Win32 line-of-business apps.

  15. Jhambi

    Surface Andromeda OS = Modern OS = Core OS = Lite OS ?


    That name doesn't matter. What matters is phone dialer.exe


    Phone dialer lives!




  16. Eric Dunbar

    It is the Android and Windows PRESS that thrive on insider builds and so called transparency.


    Developing in public largely reinforces the status quo because it's dangerous to take risks in public.


    If the beta is having trouble implementing a great idea you can bet that the very fan press that complains that it's losing access to the process will be all over the reports of failure.


    Ultimately it's the fan press that is the enemy of developing in public.


    Look at Apple. It created the iPhone from scratch. It had no public beta. No end user input. It blindsided the market with something completely unique and something that both met a need and create a multibillion dollar industry OVERNIGHT.


    Had Apple had a public beta you would've seen the ideas that they so successfully merged into the iPhone watered down until the iPhone was just yet another pretty feature phone.


    First, the beta testers would've wanted a physical keyboard. Then they would've wanted pop up menus with lots of options. Then they would've wanted a hardware button to dial and to hangup. Maybe add a back button or a menu button. And, the press would've reported every developmental misstep.


    Basically they would've wanted everything and the behaviors that they ALREADY KNEW from feature phones, BlackBerry and desktop computers.


    That's the weakness of getting beta feedback. You're showing people incomplete software and asking them to think outside the box. That's really hard.


    And, of course, in the case of something as revolutionary as the iPhone, competitors like Google and Microsoft would've been hard at work copying everything at the same time as Apple was doing its development.


    Instead, Apple managed to so blindside the market that Google had to go back to the drawing board to copy the iPhone (and come to market with a dramatically inferior product a year later) and it took Microsoft three years before they came out with their own multitouch enabled operating system (that was too late and too little).


    Windows is suffering from design by public committee. Android stuffers from that (I'm using the Android Q beta and can see the developers lurching from incomplete implementation to incomplete implementation because design by committee isn't leading to good gestural navigation).


    Yes, Microsoft has very very very very slowly fixed or at least mitigated the worst irritants of Windows 10: terrible Edge browser; updates that brought Windows to its knees at least once a month AT THE WRONG TIME... Though, of late I've been hit a few times at the most inopportune times); and the horrible attempt to force Cortana onto users who absolutely did not want a smart assistant to replace their beloved Windows key search (yes, that was perhaps my biggest HATRED of an otherwise quite good operating system).


    This has been due to feedback.


    Otherwise I've been underwhelmed by what Microsoft has accomplished with its public beta. So much of what's been changed has been about pushing Microsoft's own software at all costs.


    Advertising in the OS. Data collection that cannot be disabled with an extraordinarily opaque privacy policy (trying to read it results in me going in circles and coming out none the wiser). People. Timeline. OneDrive integration that cannot be turned off or replaced by Google Drive or Dropbox. Skype that cannot be uninstalled or even turned off even though I'll never use Skype again (who still uses Skype).


    That's about it for what Microsoft has accomplished with its public beta program. Almost all pure and unadulterated garbage (Timeline? Really?).


    Had they not had to defend the failed Edge in public during the development process or deal with the stupidity of Windows S and its intention to force users to use the inferior Edge with its default and unchangeable Bing search engine they may have been able to pivot much earlier and get away from the mess they made with Edge.


    Working in the dark with a good plan is likely better than working publicly AND HAVING TO MITIGATE THE RISK OF BAD PUBLICITY because of "work in progress" issues avoids the bad press that the fan press would heap on Microsoft to garner advertising eyeballs.

  17. Chris_Kez

    Paul, I really hope you and MJ will ask Chris Capossela this December on Windows Weekly about this specific decision to insert a vague blurb about a modern OS into a series of PC announcements. And then ask him more generally about the continual challenges Microsoft has around communications.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      What responses could Capossela give other than I screwed up, I have colleagues who screwed up, or we have a corporate culture of serial screw-ups in communications? IOW, if there were a chance he could fix that, why hasn't he already? If he can't fix that, why embarrass him with such questions?

  18. AnOldAmigaUser

    I wonder if the issue is that they just cannot decide how they are going to pitch this to the Enterprise. Modern/UWP apps are not especially useful in an enterprise, for many reasons. If it does not support real Windows applications well, what is the compelling feature for the enterprise?

    If this is yet another Microsoft consumer pitch, what are the chances it will succeed?

  19. red.radar

    Glad it wasn’t just me wondering what this Means... the problem with Microsoft not communicating clearly is they don’t control the conversation.


    It it will either end up being hated, unfairly / demonized or expectations will be so high from excitement that they will be unable to deliver.

  20. djross95

    This is just sad, and Paul summarized the state of affairs perfectly. This is NOT how to communicate and develop a new OS, and I have zero confidence that MS can pull it off and offer a credible competitor to Chrome OS. Windows 10, while still highly functional, is a jumbled mess of inconsistent design. They could do worse than make a concerted effort to fix THAT, instead of chasing the next feature unicorn that no one cares about.

  21. Tomasz Sowinski

    > Joe Belfiore, [...] a beloved figure in the Windows community,


    Snark level over 9000. Keep up the good work, Paul :)

  22. siv

    Could this be Microsoft Linux with a Windows like UI?

  23. Pierre Masse

    I don't think letting insiders have a word on this Light OS development would be a good idea. Those enthusiasts will ruin the very concepts of simplicity and lightness of the future OS, and do what we are now witnessing with Chrome OS with that Crostini and Campfire nonsense (thank god they are now withdrawing) that put the whole idea of a Chromebook at risk. It's hard enough to make Android (or eventually win32) apps working on those things in a light virtualized box without having to reach new levels of complexity just for the sake of it.


    But they are certainly communicating very poorly and way too soon the Modern OS stuff. I believe that the guy who wrote that post will be shifted to another job at Microsoft, or at least will be given some good advices.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Pierre Masse:

      Better to make Chrome OS the best option for thin clients, then expand on what rollApp provides. FWIW, Chrome OS has had a Citrix client for the better part of a decade, and it works fine.

      The question I'd ask is do we need another OS to run software locally without network connections?

  24. brduffy

    Meh, its okay to tease something you're not really ready to talk about yet. The problem will be when they get close to actually releasing something, then all the problems and concerns in this article will make sense if they actually come true.

  25. jwpear

    Could it be that Microsoft doesn't have a clear vision or plan in mind and they didn't want to throw some conceptual garbage out there for all to see? And perhaps the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, so you have the Modern OS hints at Computex?


    FWIW, I do think they should start clean with a new OS that is much like Chrome OS conceptually. It should not have Windows in the name at all.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to jwpear:

      From a user's perspective, what value would there be to a new MSFT OS which can't run existing Win32 software? If all a user wanted were a browser and web apps, what advantages would Modern OS have over Chrome OS?

      The only distinctive value I can see would be if Modern OS were the best way to tie mobile or lightweight laptops to Azure.

  26. Rob_Wade

    But what if they actually ARE communicating? It seems VERY clear to me that, Xbox nonsense aside, Nadella and Co. seem to have made it clear they really only care about the enterprise, NOT the rest of us. We Insiders are the willing testbed they are happy to use since, obviously, most enterprise customers can't afford the BE the testbed. So, what if Microsoft actually is having pretty engaged conversations with their biggest enterprise customers. They're transparent with THEM, but see no need to be transparent to US.


    I was VERY happy with WP7, WP8 and Windows 8. Incredibly so. I still don't get why so many people didn't like it. In fact, I look down my nose at those people. But now I'm stuck with this horrible frankenstein's monster of Windows 10 that seems to be crawling backward to become more like Windows 7 because those fan are just....well, I'll remain polite. The bottom line, it seems, is that Microsoft has decided to largely thumb its nose at consumers over the enterprise. I'll really be surprised if the enterprise customers feel as out of the loop as we do.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      I'm not a big fan of any post-7 Windows version, but I do like our Windows phones. Unfortunately, between a a lack of support by third-parties and a lack of support from Microsoft, it's getting harder and harder to accomplish anything using them.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      As long as the rest of us keep on buying PCs with Windows preinstalled, why should MSFT give a rat's ass about us? If PC users are as reliable as Apple's iSheep, why not take them for granted?

      If you want to get MSFT's attention, buy a Mac or a PC with no OS preinstalled.

      Re Windows Phone/Mobile, if people had already spent considerable on apps or content for iPhones or Android phones, then not surprising there'd be some resistance to switching to Windows phones. For those coming from feature phones back in 2011-3, there'd be a few advantages to picking phones similar to what family and friends were using, e.g., iMessage. There's also the awkward possibility that their failure was purely due to aesthetics, in which case you may need to confront the possibility your taste is considerably different than most people's.

      Re Windows on PCs, again it may be mostly aethetics, in which case it'd seem pretty certain that your tastes and preferences are way outside the mainstream. Sucks being in some minorities.

      • skane2600

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        iOS and Android were already well-established so the success of a Windows Phone was a long shot from the start. Most people have never seen a Windows Phone so they could hardly evaluate it against their tastes and preferences relative to Android phones or iPhones.


        People making the transition from feature phones in 2011-13 were more likely to buy an Android phone than an iPhone so while iMessage could be a factor, it isn't likely that it played a key role in the weak reception of the Windows phone.

        • rmlounsbury

          In reply to skane2600:

          Microsoft was years too late to the mobile OS game which is why Windows Phone failed in the market. Apple and Android had a multiple year head start and where already pretty well entrenched by the time Microsoft took a crack at modernizing Windows Mobile.


          To make things worse the first iteration of Windows Phone was a stop-gap and anyone that bought first gen Windows Phone devices could never upgrade the future versions since they moved from Windows Mobile code base to the modern Windows one-core code base.

          • skane2600

            In reply to rmlounsbury:

            I agree with most of what you said, but I think the first iteration was a stop-gap only in the sense that Microsoft abandoned it. The "One Windows" follow-on version wasn't, IMO, significantly better. It was if MS wanted the bragging rights of saying that they used the same core code base in multiple platforms. Given that having a shared low-level codebase didn't actually result in a WORE platform made the accomplishment more academic than useful.

      • Eric Dunbar

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        "There's also the awkward possibility that their failure was purely due to aesthetics, in which case you may need to confront the possibility your taste is considerably different than most people's."


        Disclosure: I've never used a Windows Phone for more than a few minutes.


        I think it was timing that killed Microsoft's mobile platform.


        Apple released the iPhone in mid 2007. In retrospect i feel quite comfortable saying it was even more revolutionary then then the Mac was in 1984 (since technically Apple had already released the Lisa in 1983 :).


        There simply wasn't anything like the iPhone in 2007.


        It took Google a full year to copy the multitouch nature of the iPhone before it was able to get Android out the door.


        Microsoft took three years to get its own multitouch operating system out the door.


        Apple's three year lead and Google's two year lead were enough to relegate Microsoft to third place.


        There simply wasn't the developer ecosystem to support such a niche product in the face of Apple's Juggernaut and Google's cheap phones.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to OntarioPundit:

          There are only a few possible reasons Windows phones failed.

          • Windows Phone 7 was too late to the market. Either users got used to iOS or Android, or amassed too much apps or content which couldn't easily transfer to Windows Phone, or MSFT did too little to make Windows Phone known to the phone buying public.
          • MSFT's app store for phones was too sparse, in which case MSFT made a fatal blunder trying to charge as much as Apple could command.
          • Carriers and electronics stores didn't aggressively sell Windows phones, BUT WHY SHOULD THEY HAVE TRIED TO DO SO? This was a popular excuse 7-8 years ago, but no one could explain why retailers would be eager to do so.
          • Something else, which would include aesthetics.


          Also necessary to mention that Windows Phone 7 wasn't full-featured, and Windows Phone 7 handsets weren't upgradable to Windows Phone 8. Gotta suspect that many who bought WP7 handsets came to believe they'd been played for suckers.

          Re 1984 and Macs, they might have been more revolutionary had Xerox not been selling document processing workstations with GUIs for a few years by that point. Plus there were a few graphical Unix workstations by then. In contrast, iPhones in 2007 were a much more radical departure from Blackberries and Palm handsets.

          Getting back to phones, iOS was Apple-only, which is how Apple does things. Android was for any handset maker who wanted to use it, very much like Windows for PCs. However, Google didn't charge phone hardware makers for Android, so had eliminated MSFT's preferred way of making money before MSFT had something worthwhile to sell. MSFT would have preferred the huge margins of software licensing, had to buy Nokia but then fail to be able to come close to Apple-like hardware + proprietary OS margins, and was stuck with Android handset maker margins while also incurring the expense of developing a phone OS. Let's just say MSFT misjudged its own revenue prospects in smartphones.

          As for developers, Windows 8.x then Windows 10 and UWP were MSFT's attempts to interest PC software developers in making phone apps and enticing iOS and Android app developers to consider expanding into PC apps. Sadly for MSFT, app developers were more clear sighted about the lack of opportunity.

  27. skane2600

    Modern OS. Lite OS. Windows Core OS.


    If Microsoft really had a clear idea of what they were going to do, they'd be consistently talking about only one new OS. Mobile was the only real option they had to extend significantly beyond the desktop and they failed to gain any traction there. Chromebooks' weak market share suggests that there really isn't a strong demand for a so-called modern, lite or core operating system. For the most part people with simple needs are well served by smartphones and to a lessor extent tablets and those with more demanding needs use Windows, MacOS, or Linux.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to skane2600:

      There could be a market for lite OS laptops, but there'd need to be more possibilities for them.

      Consider a Chrome OS alternative which comes bundled with something like Citrix Receiver. Consider MSFT providing a subscription service like rollApp. With a network connection, the ability to run desktop Windows software via remote virtualization. Not ideal for those with spotty or expensive internet connections, but maybe OK for many. Charge more to be able to install other software on MSFT's remote servers.

      • skane2600

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I think that would be a bit complicated for the average user and a bit counter-intuitive. They might very well wonder why they need a subscription to run programs when they never had to before. Besides if they are running Win32 programs remotely where does the simplicity come in? All of these schemes seem to me to try to solve a non-existent problem.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to skane2600:

          Have you used Citrix Receiver? It's like Windows 3.x's Program Manager, showing icons for available programs inside a window with damn near nothing else. Double-click on an icon, and it launches, appearing like a locally running application.

          I have this where I work, and no one there has any problem using it (while the network is up and running). It really isn't difficult.

          As for subscriptions, welcome to Office 365, and what do you believe Microsoft 365 would be? The future may not be like the past.

          Running MSFT-provided remote software means MSFT maintains it. Being able to run one's own Win32 software remotely would be an additional option, but one for which users would be responsible for maintenance. However, it one were running XYZ DeLuxe which hasn't been updated since 2006, not much maintenance required.

          From a user perspective, this isn't currently a problem. However, from MSFT's perspective of wanting to grow subscription services revenues, can you see some appeal?

          • skane2600

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            I have used Citrix. Of course you don't need a special "lite" version of Windows to use it. While in a corporate environment with an IT staff setting up permissions, etc. isn't handled by the user, that wouldn't be the case for a consumer or small business. As far as the UI is concerned, I'm not sure why you think clicking an icon in a Ctrix Window is simpler than clicking an icon in regular Windows.


            There's a big difference between a subscription to run a specific application and a subscription to enable minimal functionality.


            Obviously MS would love to grow subscription revenues, but their customers, not so much.

            • hrlngrv

              In reply to skane2600:

              I can't think of a need for Modern OS from either a user's or MSFT's perspective unless it's MSFT's thin client OS.

              I can't figure out any user who'd be dying to use a MSFT OS which couldn't run Win32 software. I can't see why anyone who'd want to run Win32 software locally/disconnectedly would want to use Modern OS with a Win32 container/VM/whatever rather than just using Windows. And I can't see MSFT being able to establish a successor to Win32 which could ever come close to serving all the uses Win32, macOS and Linux cover. IOW, I can't see Modern OS being a viable desktop computing OS unless today's Linux+Chrome OS user share would be viable for MSFT.

              As for a Chrome OS competitor, unless it's a MSFT variation on Chromium OS, I figure it's unlikely to be as robust as Chrome OS until it's been around for a few years. Even then, what benefits would it provide over Chrome OS?

              Finally, I can't see OEMs wanting to pay MSFT to license Modern OS, and I can't see MSFT making its own-branded Modern OS devices. IOW, I can't see how MSFT would make money from Modern OS which it couldn't make from Windows. That is, unless Modern OS were the key to a subscription-based future, meaning the only way to get more value out of it than out of Chrome OS would require access to something online valuable enough for many millions of users to be willing to pay.

  28. justme

    I dont know. The cynical side of me will tell you this is a failure from the off until proven otherwise. This may be the age of the New Microsoft, but that doesnt mean that they have changed - just that they are different. I see this as something that will either not be adopted widely because Microsoft will simply not communicate properly about what it is or they are trying to do, OR something that will be an abject failure because expectations will stratospheric and Microsoft will under deliver.

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