As those who follow this blog will attest, I've made no bones about my dissatisfaction with Microsoft's enterprise desktop strategy. The bloated heap of incompatibilities known as Windows Vista has forever soured me on the company's post-XP direction, and no amount of UI smoke and mirrors will make me warm up to its imminent successor, Windows 7. As far as I'm concerned, the position of desktop standard bearer -- once claimed almost exclusively by Windows XP -- remains vacant.
Part of the problem is the company's refusal to address the legacy compatibility issue. Industry pundits and enterprise customers alike have been clamoring for a long-term alternative to the ever-expanding collection of patches, shims, and compatibility band-aids that make up the current Windows runtime. But instead of the clean break that so many wanted, Microsoft is sticking us with yet another round of duct tape and twine in the form of Windows 7.
[ See how Windows 7 beta performs in InfoWorld's benchmark tests. ]
It didn't have to be this way. Thanks to some prudent acquisitions -- including Softricity and Kidaro -- Microsoft now has the technology pieces in place to create a viable compatibility layer that would allow legacy applications to run unmodified on an otherwise legacy-intolerant, managed-code-only OS platform.
But instead of weaving these bits into the Windows core, where they could benefit all users, the company is withholding the productized versions -- Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) and Microsoft Application Virtualization (APP-V) -- and reserving them as carrots to entice enterprises to sign up for its Software Assurance licensing program (as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, or MDOP).
When Microsoft first acquired Softricity, I had high hopes that the company would soon kick the legacy habit. However, after two years, the product formerly known as Softgrid remains a bit of a bastard child, caught in a state of perpetual limbo between the Windows desktop, server, and applications groups.