The Birth of Microsoft 5.0: Optimized Desktop to Live Mesh

This "fifth version" of the software giant reflects the first major moves post Bill Gates and the impact from the influx of large numbers of Open Source advocates into the company.


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I’m writing this from the Microsoft Management and Integrated Virtualization Analyst Summit. In many ways this event reflects what I think of as Microsoft 4.0. It is the culmination of .NET, and it showcases their massive focus on large-scale systems management, vertical integration between Microsoft products, and their strength in the back office.

However this event also looks ahead to Microsoft’s fifth revision, one that puts them into the cloud and positions them for the next decade. You are likely to hear more of this on the consumer side in their Live products at the moment, largely because both IT and the organizations that serve them tend to move at a much more measured pace (the word “slow” comes to mind).

Some of the most dramatic efforts involve Microsoft embracing alternative products like Linux and UNIX with their management tools. The most interesting thing to watch at Microsoft and any company are conflicts between the old and the new. On the desktop the new is Live Mesh and the old is their largely Vista- and XP-focused Optimized Desktop platform. Live Mesh isn’t done, while Optimized Desktop is, but blending these two concepts will be interesting to watch. Both likely will reduce dramatically the costs of managing your PCs and risks surrounding the desktop platform.

The 5th Rebirth of Microsoft

We are entering what I think is the 5th rebirth of Microsoft. Microsoft started as a tools company. Their first major revision was when they picked up DOS and built Windows to be a platform vendor; their third revision was when they brought out Windows 95 and discovered both the Web and servers; their fourth was .NET and making the back-end the integrated power it is; and their fifth revision is discovering Open Source, Cloud Computing. We are just at the beginning of that revision.

What makes this fifth revision interesting is seeing the first major moves post Bill Gates and the impact from the influx of large numbers of Open Source advocates into the company. In this case this revision may have as much to do with the internal conflicts in Microsoft between the old guard who came up with one approach to building and controlling software (closed and proprietary) and the new guard who believe the company’s survival depends on being much more transparent and open with their partners and customers.

Given that people joining the company are largely in the latter camp, it is doubtful this trend toward open will be reversed. But until something is done anything is possible and the transition is going to be painful for the firm yet, if done correctly, should position it well for the next 5 to 10 years.

Something else I think is interesting is that the first 3 transitions were largely driven off the desktop, the 4th was balanced with most of the advancement in the back office, and the 5th is heavily back-office oriented. Strangely enough it is on the desktop where I see the most contrast between Microsoft 4.0 and Microsoft 5.0. The Optimized Desktop represents 4.0 thinking and Live Mesh (even down to the name) represents 5.0.

Optimized Desktop

This is actually an umbrella term for a number of solutions targeting the desktop from Microsoft. This has also been a long-term project that focused on solving a number of deployment problems with desktop computing. One of the biggest was the time it takes to set up and provision a PC.

Basically this separates the files and settings from the PC and places them up on a Microsoft Server. These settings can then be applied to systems, both real and remotely virtualized, which will clone the personality of the originating system. Should a system be lost, these files and settings can be applied to the new hardware at network speeds, effectively moving the entire user personality to the new system.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Microsoft, virtualization, Vista

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