Microsoft and plumbing fixtures.

I was having an email discussion with Ben Slivka the other day, and he asked me what three things were going to make customers enthusiastic about Longhorn.

My answer to him was as follows:

I'm not sure.  My guess would be the changes around the Multimedia experience (persistent per application volume control, and improved handling (you can have windows sounds be mp3 files), WinFS means that you can search the metadata on your multimedia as quickly as you can Google, which makes slicing and dicing play lists better). 

The new UI should be REALLY slick, and should attract a lot of consumers (eye candy always does).

Beyond that, I'm not sure - the reality is that most of the cool stuff in Longhorn is plumbing - Avalon and the rest of WinFX means that app authors will be able to easily do stuff that they've never been able to do before, which means that there's a host of new cool apps that will be able to be written for longhorn.  That also means that app authors have even more ways of writing annoying applications (if you think skins are bad, consider what happens when app designers will do when they can put video on a button face), so...

But the thing is that consumers don't see the cool stuff that's going on in the platform.  Unlike Apple, who spends HUGE amounts of time and effort on making the UI cool and flashy (and responsive and consistent, etc), Microsoft tends to work on getting the plumbing right.   But customers don’t see the plumbing.

Which means that our toilets flush and our sinks drain really, really well, but they're not very pretty.  To continue the plumbing analogy, Apple is Kohler - lots of flash, looks great, works well, Microsoft is Delta - not as much flash, but totally rock solid reliable.

The reality is that I just don’t see customers going totally bonkers about things like the games library or parental controls, or the other end-user features of Longhorn.  But man, Longhorn as a platform is going to let developers do really amazing stuff.


Please note: I’m not an evangelist.  I don’t know all the bells and whistles; I work on windows audio, which is why my answer was multimedia-centric. 


Comments (8)

  1. Anonymous says:

    LongHorn does look good, though if it falls short of expectations it will be the fault of too-high expectations and too much pre-release hype and chatter.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If the .Net framework is to be consistent across platforms, does that mean it will not support the added features in Longhorn? Or will this be handled through another version of the framework or class libraries for Longhorn specific apps?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Actually, the per app volume control is the most exciting Longhorn feature I’ve heard so far. I know it sounds strange, but I’m really looking forward to that. The lack of it is one of the few things in the current versions of Windows that actually bothers me on a regular basis.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Avalon (and the rest of WinFX) are built on top of the .Net framework. So the .Net framework will work cross platform, but Avalon won’t.

    Think of an app that targets Avalon as an app that targets the XML DOM. The XML DOM is a just a component that’s built on top of the Win32 APIs. Win32 exists everywhere, but the XML DOM might not.

    Oh, and Nicholas, I’m psyched about it too – it’s my code that implement per-app volume controls, but I think it’s just about the coolest thing that I’ve done in a while.

  5. Anonymous says:

    That is awesome, I have to totally agree. That is one of those small annoyances that we all just live with as a fact of life. I am psyched to have per-app volume control! It does sound hokey, but this is definitely going to be a popular new feature for sure.


  6. Anonymous says:

    The crazy thing is, I know people who are really upset at Longhorn quite simply because it’s so highly developer-focused.

    Linux is developer focused.

    Mac OS X is not developer focused.

    Which of the two has the greater market-share?

    (Answer: where it counts – that is, the huge sales volume, revenue creating consumer market – Mac OS X).

    This should tell you what Windows should be doing. Developers don’t buy thousands of operating systems. End-users do. And without the end-user base, no one will develop for the platform.

    I recently saw a Mac in action running OS X. In comparison to Windows XP? Wow. No competition. The OS X system won HANDS DOWN simply because of the amount of polish. It looked *slick*.


  7. Anonymous says:

    "Developers don’t buy thousands of operating systems. End-users do."

    No but developers make applications, end users buy applications…

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