Is time for Microsoft to stop being IBM PC compatible?

thumb_white.gifThere was a time that the only way to sell a PC was to have the label ‘IBM PC compatible‘ on the box (Vista ready was not even a twinkle in Bill’s eye). 

Apple with its East German approach to the control of Hardware, Software and Channel was relegated to a niche player along with mutterings of what have ‘might of been’. 
Compatibility (to the best of my memory) mostly meant running DOS, 1-2-3 and MS Flight Simulator and over the years evolved to Wintel compatibility of various sorts.
In the meantime Apple ploughed its pseudo-Stalinist furrow and in recent years the control freakery has paid dividends. The Apple user experience in all forms – shops, hardware design, application design and OS has combined into a compelling package. Apple (as befits their strict approach) has been ruthless in dumping legacy hardware technology (without dumping users) and old operating systems when they have seen fit allowing them to respond to emerging technology trends coming from all directions.
Steve Ballmer’s recent communication with his internal audience indicates that Microsoft has learnt from Apple success and understands that a more reliable end to end experience has to be a key aspiration and delivery. The days of anyone creating a hardware or software component for Windows that brings down the entire system could be numbered.
In view of the above, recent  discussions centred around Midori (a potential new MS OS) which could depart completely from the current Windows heritage (UI, api, etc) with maybe only virtualization to enable access to legacy software, makes interesting reading.
It would be a bold move from Microsoft but sometimes you have to cut down the big trees in order to let new growth flourish – it would be seismic but maybe that it was our industry needs right now – a semi-forced renewal?

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I don't know anything about Midori, but I would have to hazard a guess that this is going to be an incredibly hard move to make. The only really big advantage Microsoft has now is the entrenched Windows software, and anything that weakens such a hold would be terribly risky, especially in the face of Linux advances. In addition, the move today is towards open source and open standards, and a new proprietary OS is likely to go over like a month old potato salad. Even the Mac has moved to a UNIX underpinning, right? (My understanding was that OS X was based on UNIX) If Midori is based on either open standards or open source, where does the Microsoft virtual monopoly go? In short, this sounds like a direction everybody would like to move, and nobody can afford to move, all at the same time.
"The only really big advantage Microsoft has now is the entrenched Windows software, and anything that weakens such a hold would be terribly risky" Ben is right: Windows ONLY advantage is inertia (and a paid cadre of IT toadies that love ANYTHING MSFT). To change, they need MINIMALLY to go UNIX like everybody else. This would address the Windows performance, reliability, and security issues. But it would also, most likely, make obsolete the legacy business apps that enable the IT guys to keep Macs out of Enterprise. In short, they are screwed.
Ben, the current version of the Mac OS is not "based on" UNIX, it is certified as UNIX. There are many versions of UNIX including Free BSD. Apple's version of UNIX is based on Free BSD, but it is absolutely recognized as UNIX. That is one of the reasons that many developers are moving to support the Mac OS--UNIX is a known and safe quantity.
I agree that it would be rather difficult for Microsoft to implement a strategy like Apple's. But, MS must do something; Vista is an expensive joke. System 7 just adds more punch lines. MS must retrench. Vista is not a modern operating system like Mac OSX. It is Windows Server 2003, an updated version of Windows NT, with a GUI bolted on top. It is not yet completely modular. Vista's predecessor, Longhorn, an integrated OS, failed after five years of effort. Vista was a stopgap. Midori may be an attempt to construct a modular, modern OS. That means that Microsoft must go through the same five years of development hell that was necessary to bring Mac OSX up to speed. Midori, like NeXTStep did, would consequentially break many of MS's legacy applications and hardware. The main advantage of a modern OS is the flexibility and power it gives you. Mac OSX grew from NeXTStep, a Unix based Operating system, using the best thinking of the late '90's. Apple intends to update its OS every 12 to 18 months. Apple can do this because of the maturity of it's API's; it needn't constantly reinvent the wheel. Any flaws in its API's get corrected in its bug fixes. Mac OSX keeps getting better and faster. Now, Apple is planning to issue Snow Leopard in about six months. Snow Leopard 10.6 will be vastly streamlined. It is planned to cut out the bloat; its file size should be half or less of Leopard 10.5. It should run correspondingly faster on the same machine. How can Microsoft Vista or XP compete with that? Midori may be the only path that MS has to hang onto its market share.
Two intersting points, however I beg to differ regarding: "The only really big advantage Microsoft has now is the entrenched Windows software, and anything that weakens such a hold would be terribly risky" My feeling is that the MS advantage is familiarity from the dumbest end user to the most highly paid CEO, Apple changed both its hardware platform and OS platform without alienating those who were familiar with that. We as technologists want the most elegant, secure and robust environment we can get our hands on, Users want an environment that does not get in the way of there daily tasks. The most popular car in the world is not the fastest, most powerful, safest or cheapest (Toyotal Corolla) - its not the best - if that could ever be measured. I thinks the indications that the market is ready for change and if MS can lead it (they have before) and lead it in the right direction we should be applauding them not carping. BTW Mac OS/X is not open and neither is Unix (as recent court cases will testify). We need standards that are clear, adoptable and flexible and meet the needs of business not just IS departments, ISVs and SIs.
Dear Ben. We are from eastern Germany (formerly DDR) and we really don't understand what you mean by Apple being East German! By all means; if you call Apple "East German", than surely you would call Microsoft"Noth Korean", no? Furthermore, here in Germany most people think Apple is thriving because of the quality of their products, whereas Microsoft doesn't have a clue what their products will look like 2 years from now. Lasly; like the fall of the "deutsche demokratische republik" we wellcome the fall of Microsoft...
Heidies, it is I 'Ian' that made the post not Ben - but you missed the point a bit: It is the DDR like control that is know paying dividends for Apple and it is the mixed semi-democratic / anarchic world of MS that is now stopping them moving forward. You are however right about the importance of quality products. BTW I think they do know what they will be doing two years from now :-)
IBM PC Compatible? That became meaningless back in 1994 when the only PC to run IBM chips (PowerPC) were Macs. Ancient history now. Since then, the correct term is 'Wintel'. Today, IBM is just an abbreviation for 'I bought Macintosh'. Any questions?
What is it they say again about living by the sword?