Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Microsoft Vista Secret Sauce

I believe Microsoft Vista may be adopted much quicker than pundits are expecting. My guess is that by mid-2008 it will be in nearly universal use. Only businesses and consumers who are willing to be relegated to legacy systems will continue to use earlier versions of Windows. Computers not capable of running Vista will be obsolete, which will be good news for chipmakers Intel and AMD.

Why am I saying this? It isn't just that I've seen these hardware and software transitions before. Every time a big part of the IT crowd announced it will resist change, and every time the tide of necessity pushes them forward faster than they would like.

The reason is Microsoft Windows Presentation Foundation. The key players here are application programmers, a vast number of people who are out there doing the IT grunt work that enables the world to run efficiently. Often, in small businesses and in enterprises, automation requires more than just setting up spreadsheets, Word documents, and Access or SQL Server applications. The automation is created with programming languages such as C, Visual C++, and Visual Basic. Microsoft has always provided sets of code, called class libraries, that simplify various common tasks. Notably the last few years application programmers have learned to use the .NET class library to speed up development of networked applications.

What is so great about Windows Presentation Foundation? It combines markup - the tool used for Web pages, Web services, and XML databases - with traditional programming.

Creation of integrated Web systems will be an order of magnitude easier. The visual appearance of application programs will become easier to manage and to integrate with information from Web servers.

Windows Presentation Foundation works in Microsoft Visual Studio (and probably alternative vendors' IDEs) and runs in Vista. Programmers are going to love this. That means programs are going to be written in it. Those programs won't run on legacy systems. So the application programmers (at least the ones who still like the creative aspect of their jobs) within IT departments will be pushing for early adoption of Vista

So upgrades to Vista will come, often in the form of new hardware, rather than just trying to cram Vista onto older machines. Yet this is not an example of planned obsolescence. The lower cost of programming (including creation of Web site content) will more than compensate for the hardware and licensing costs.

For programmers running several tools at once, like Visual Studio and Macromedia (now Adobe) Web design products, on a Vista machine running dual or quad or 8 processor cores, is a real pleasure. For both business and home consumers Vista itself will provide plenty of benefit even if no application programs are added to the mix. But for business efficiency, programmers still rule, and business clients will be very pleased with the overall increase in product quality.

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