Microsoft, backward compatibility and virtualization

Although I’m a huge believer in all things VMware, I’m also a fan of Microsoft and that company’s products. As I watch what Microsoft is doing, I can’t help but feel frustrated for them sometimes. I believe that the company is moving much too slowly in a number of key areas – especially virtualization and mobility. Sure, Microsoft has seriously beefed up their cloud offerings with their Office 365 initiatives, among others, but this addresses only the back of the house. Windows Phone 7 has gotten both good and bad buzz and, to be fair, the jury is still out on whether or not Microsoft can execute in a way that ensures long-term success. Apple and Google have serious leads in the mobility space.

However, my main focus here is on Windows 8. Few details are known about Windows 8, but I’d love to see Microsoft make a bold statement with the release of Windows 8 and make use of their expertise in virtualization to make it happen:

  • Pull an Apple and eschew backward compatibility in the core of Windows 8. Get rid of the junk that has built up over the years and take the leap. Provide an XP Mode-like virtual environment for backward compatibility purposes, but make Windows 8 the release that breaks away from the pack.
  • Use the same technique to protect the computing environment. Encompass Internet Explorer in its own virtual workspace to prevent it from being able to harm the system. Too much happens to Windows machine due to “drive bys” in Internet Explorer. I know that some of this is already happening, but make it SOP.
  • Hardware-wise, run the gamut from tablets to high end. A virtualization layer can allow Windows 8 to run on, well, anything. Wasn’t that the original purpose of the Hardware Abstraction Layer way back in NT when the platform supported Intel, PowerPC and Alpha processors? Use Windows Phone 7 where it makes sense, too. Doing this might require Microsoft to decouple the interface a bit from the OS in order to be able to best meet the needs of each form factor.

Personally, I’d love to see a Windows 8 that’s fully dependent on virtualization technologies to meet backward compatibility goals so that the core operating system can continue to evolve without limit.

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