There seems to be this belief that Microsoft is the new IBM. Namely that they are no longer cutting edge and that they have no new ideas anymore. When I say, IBM, I do not mean today’s IBM, but the IBM that could not establish OS/2 as a mainstream operating system, that IBM. So if Microsoft is IBM, then who is Microsoft? Most technews junkies would say any number of companies, but the favorite would have to be Google. There is this desire to see Microsoft fail and to have it toppled by Google, RedHat, or even Apple. Microsoft clearly is seeing a lot of competition these days, and in some markets Microsoft is just another competitor, not even a leading one. However Microsoft’s dominance has always been in operating systems and productivity software, the Windows & Office Suite are what Microsoft has always been about. One look at Windows 2006 and it’s Vista theme is all the reminder I need, to know that Microsoft is not going away any time soon.
I remember that Steve Jobs once said something about how Microsoft is the Wal-mart of the computer industry, meaning that if you want functionality without designer design, you buy Microsoft. At the time Apple was touting Mac OS X and its Aqua interface. It was evident then and it is still is now that Apple knows how to implement and design slick looking user interfaces. Comparing Apple.com to Microsoft.com will immediately tell you that Microsoft is all business and Apple.com is designed by artists.
Which brings me to Vista, a radical new design for Windows which implements vector based graphics, a new Start Menu, and tons of other features that make WindowsXP look down right pedestrian. Vista is Microsoft’s Aqua interface. Some Mac users are probably thinking it is an outright copy of OS X, but it really is not. Microsoft has learned quite a lot about user interface and even though they have made some horrible mistakes like WindowsXP’s Start Menu, they have also made some nice implementations like the the Right-Click Properties option. Mac OS X’s Aqua has been a work in progress and even in 10.4, Apple is still changing it and modifying it here and there. Apple can do this cause it’s user base tends to upgrade OS X rather frequently, but Microsoft cannot have this luxuyry. A Windows release tends to last years, maybe even a decade. Windows95 anyone? Microsoft has to get the new interface just right on the actual release.
Over the coming months as Microsoft gets closer to actual release, Vista will become more well known and accepted as one of the most sweeping changes in interface design since Windows95. Although I am sure Microsoft will borrow and modify some ideas from its competitors, including Mozilla’s Firefox, Mac OS X, and maybe even the Linux distros out there, it will create in the end something which its market audience will find using for many years to come. I for one welcome a change from WindowsXP, the interface which makes me think is in really bad need of a makeover.
Will Vista and a new Internet Explorer look better than Apple’s Safari and Mac OS X, probably not, but they will be much needed improvements to the mainstream platform that millions of businesses use day in and day out, and that’s what matters to Microsoft.