The Windows 8 series of Operating Systems is no doubt a technical and usability transition between the past of Windows NT and Win32 to what we know to be Windows Runtime and what we speculate is known as Midori.
For those who may not know, Midori is/was the current form of a MS Research Project called Singularity which was to be a new core for a future OS from Microsoft based on managed code and is possibly at some point a possible replacement for what we know today as the Windows NT Kernel. But there is not that much information out on Midori so we will leave that to the future.
What we do know is currently the Windows 8 Series of Operating Systems, Windows 8x if you will, is a transition from what we knew as Windows in the past to what will become Windows in the future.
This process has been going to be a long and hard transition for everyone who does more than the most basic tasks like web browsing.
When Sinofsky took over the Windows Team he had to deal with the Longhorn failure and critical failure of the more traditional but foundation laying Windows Vista. His job for Windows 7 was actually extremely easy in comparison with the previous Windows Team. Fix up Vista and advance the current codebase and stabilize and add to the new foundations laid in NT 6.
This was very straightforward and we got Windows 7 which is a fantastic operating system. Everything Vista promised (but not longhorn).
Microsoft had many plans for integration of services, app stores, service as a platform, and unification of everything under one brand long before the likes of Apple and Google actually made them a reality. This around 2002 was called “.NET”.
We saw several indications, rumours, and speculation about .NET at the time. These started to manifest themselves in Codename Whistler which became Windows XP. After XP was released work on the next version of Windows started. Codename Longhorn was to be that bridge between Windows of the past culminating in Windows XP (the unificiation of Win9x and WinNT) and the future which was Codenamed Blackcomb.
Whistler and Blackcomb are mountains and a lodge between them is named Longhorn.
Windows Longhorn would have started to provide what we call today “service as a platform” and a new application programming model which old documents can still be found on msdn/technet. It literally would have been the bridge between local computing and what we call cloud services.
Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way due to many delays and shifting of resources off Longhorn to deal with the summer of worms, XP SP2’s development, and the NT 5x codebase could not sustain these new technologies without starting to collapse under it’s own weight.
Around 2004-2005 it was decided that since Microsoft HAD to get an operating system out there and needed to retool the codebase to lay a foundation for these new technologies rather than trying to tack them on to the current codebase, development was reset. This event has been nicknamed “Omega 13” which is where Windows Vista comes from. It starts with the then pre-release codebase for Windows Server 2003 and starts the retooling and rethinking of the whole foundation of Windows.
Windows Vista’s foundational changes were massive compared to NT 5x and laid the foundation for the future where Microsoft could attempt these concepts for Longhorn (and some dating back to Cario/NT4) later on. So when Windows Vista was released it only had about two years of actual development and besides some of the UI changes like Aero which it inherited from Longhorn much of what was originally promised wasn’t in it. That coupled with such a perceived long development time with the whole of LH being scrapped caused OEMs to hesitate in releasing the next generation computers and drivers for Vista. THIS is what lead to the critical failure Vista but it also lead to the overall success of Windows 7.
Now that the foundation was laid and Windows 7, in everyone’s eyes, fixed any issues that Vista had. Microsoft could go forward with Windows 8 and implement their original plans that they had wanted to some years prior.
However, times have changed and everyone else has managed to, already to varying degrees, implemented most of Microsoft’s own .NET plan in the form of Google and Apple’s services.
In Part II, we will discuss what happened with .NET during the Vista and Windows 7 years and how with the Windows 8 series of operating systems these same sorts of concepts are back with a vengeance and fury.