Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Mix 06 - Solutions looking for problems

I was concerned that they ended the keynote intro with "let the conversation begin, we're listening" with the OS so close to launch - it all made sense after they announced the Vista postponment (which surprised me).

Something serious must have caused MS to announce the delay - especially after all the recent Vista previews on news sites - it's even been splashed across MS.com for the last couple of weeks. There are rumours that Vista staff have left but I think they are concerned they are going to ship something that misses the point - like when they shipped Windows 95 with no web browser or dial-up networking (you needed the Plus Pack released later).

They have previously been in the fortunate position of being able to release a partially complete OS to a public tolerant of problems.

Consumers are less tolerant now and I feel a lot are looking for something new but they don't know what it is (as people were in the early 90s before Windows 3.0 was released).

The speed of growth and innovation at Google is clearly causing MS a lot of concern and the surge of VC into tech start-ups has to be a worry too.

From a consumer point of view the highlights for Vista are a list of other people's innovations (aero interface, sidebar, tab browsing, desktop search, better media support etc.).

The support for rich internet applications is the start of something exciting, but it's not nearly ready - and if launched without more thought and structure it will be another 'Active Desktop'.

I can envisage large take-up of WPF in browsers (like the My Yahoo! demo) as an alternative to Flash, but right now the tools for Flash are more advanced - and designers are complaining the new MS tools are too technical (with developers saying they are too artistic).

However Atlas appears more interesting and usable in the short term.

InfoCard looks like a solution to a problem many ecommerce companies face and could be a step-change in customer acceptance of buying online - I'm certain it will support Visa etc. and possibly even take PayPal head-on.

MS are looking for some direction and things are likely to change a fair bit before they ship Vista to consumers.

Atlas, browser embedded WPF and InfoCard look the most likely to make the cut in in their current form and are also most likely to be used by developers and accepted by consumers.

Full WPF like the Nascar demo still looks like a solution looking for a problem - I'm guessing Media Center will be the problem.

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