In a session at the \n\n\t\n Gartner\n \n Emerging Trends conference\n today, analysts Neil MacDonald and Michael Silver identified\n many reasons that Windows (and thus Microsoft) are in\n trouble.\n \n \n \n\n \n Related on CIO.com\n \n Should Microsoft Throw Away Vista?\n \n Getting Ready for Windows Vista Deployment\n Microsoft's operating system (OS) development times are too\n long and they deliver limited innovation; their OSs provide an\n inconsistent experience between platforms, with significant\n compatibility issues; and other vendors are out-innovating\n \n\t\n Microsoft\n \n. That gives enterprises unpredictable releases with\n limited value, management costs that are too high, and new\n releases that break too many apps and take too long to test and\n adopt. With end users bringing their own software solutions\n into the office...well, it's just a heck of a sad story for\n Microsoft.\n \n \n\n Those arguments probably don't surprise you. (See\n Should Microsoft Throw Away Vista? and\n Vista Never Had Its Moment in 2007.) But\n the Gartner analysts offered several more points to show how\n Windows is in a whole new world of hurt. High on the list is\n Windows' complexity, its lack of modularity, its hardware\n footprint (particularly on low-end PCs) and the increasing\n movement to Web-based and other OS-agnostic\n applications.A few of their arguments:Mature markets have limited growth in terms of PC\n hardware. The computer hardware business is expected\n to grow only 2 percent to 8 percent between 2005 and 2011. The\n opportunities for PCs are higher in emerging markets, where the\n growth rate is 16 percent to 24 percent for PC hardware\u2014but they're\n more price-sensitive so vendors and enterprises have to keep\n the price down. That means less memory and storage, for\n example\u2014and Vista is not appropriate for that sort of\n memory model. Linux is the preferred OS on low-end PCs\n including "one laptop per child" and certainly Microsoft\n doesn't want to see that happen. "All these things are in\n opposition to what we've seen with people expanding PC use year\n after year," MacDonald said.Version compatibility is relevant in more than\n software development terms. For example, they said,\n iPhone's version of OS X is closer to the desktop version of\n the Mac OS than Windows Mobile is to Vista.Servers are evolving in multiple and sometimes\n conflicting directions. Some industry trends imply\n that we need to scale up computing, such as single instance\n data stores and partitioning. Others are driving it down, such\n as grid and cloud computing, server farms and cluster\n computing. The result, they believe, is that enterprises will\n want to customize the OS based on the need.Microsoft has taken some first steps in this regard, they\n pointed out; for example, Windows Server 2008 can be\n preconfigured based on roles. "That's a step in the right\n direction, but it's still fairly superficial," said Silver.\n What's needed is a radical change in architecture that goes\n beyond packaging DLLs, he added.The move to server-agnostic applications is still in\n its infancy but will soon have a major effect on enterprise\n computing. The legacy applications won't go away, even\n if the exciting stuff is being done on Internet-based apps,\n they said. But it won't stay that way. Today, 70 percent to 80 percent\n of corporate applications require Windows to run, but the\n Gartner analysts expect a tipping point in 2011, when the\n majority of these applications will be OS-agnostic, such as Web\n applications. "Sometime in the middle of the next decade,\n Windows will be playing a much less important role on the\n desktop," MacDonald said.Virtualization changes our view of what operating\n systems are. Virtualization starts offering levels of\n abstraction between the OS and the hardware, pointed out the\n analysts. The hypervisor is taking on some of the role of what\n the OS did. "Is this the time to redraw some of these lines?"\n asked Silver. "For us in IT, the interjection of these new\n layers helps introduce fluidity, and lets us better manage\n IT."And Yet, Gartner Says: Don\u2019t Skip VistaAll of these points don\u2019t necessarily mean that your\n enterprise should skip Windows Vista entirely. Although half\n the Gartner clients they surveyed don't plan to begin Vista\n migration until the second half of 2008 (the same clients who\n represent 2.5 million PCs and, in 2006, confidently said they'd\n get going with Vista in the second half of 2007 or the beginning of\n 2008). "We don't recommend skipping Vista," said MacDonald.\n They do, however, suggest that enterprises adopt Vista by\n attrition (such as when buying new computers that have it\n preloaded). That's not because of Vista's virtues but, said\n MacDonald, because Windows 7 is scheduled to be released in\n 2009 or 2010, and you don't want to wait until 2012 for\n deployment.The analysts recommended that in the short term, enterprises\n assess the range of Windows OS types and instances in their\n infrastructure and determine their company's own tipping point\n for OS-agnostic applications. In the next year, they said, IT\n managers should evaluate where various virtualization\n technologies and OS-agnostic apps can provide early\n advantages.Should you consider other operating systems? (It's not an\n unusual idea.)MacDonald and Silver believe you should at least calculate\n the cost of switching to another environment. Microsoft won't\n change its message unless enterprises make it clear they'll\n adopt technologies and strategies that serve its users best,\n they said. Do proceed with Windows Vista deployments as you've\n planned, though, as the earliest Microsoft could deliver\n against the analysts' vision (if they wanted to) would be\n 2010.What does Microsoft think of all this? MacDonald and Silver\n said they've talked with Steve Ballmer about their analysis,\n but 95% of Microsoft revenue comes from OEM shipments. Ballmer\n "has billions at risk," Silver said. "I believe Microsoft will\n pursue a path of slow, incremental change because that's safest\n for their stockholders\u2014unless you vote with your\n dollars."