In 2003 I wrote an article in ZDNet that basically said that Microsoft was going to struggle over the next few years as Web services technology takes hold and Microsoft's hold on the desktop will begin to erode. I expected to get pummeled by Redmond loving fans worldwide but when the death threats started coming in (seriously), I realized that there are a lot of people dependent on Microsoft to survive and unwilling to consider that change might be coming.
Back in 2003 the code-name for Vista was Longhorn and at the time it was forecasted to be released sometime in 2004. I had no idea that my criticism was so prophetic, the product didn't release until 2006. The underlying point I was trying to make back then was that the PC desktop platform is going to become less and less relevant over the next few years.
There has been three significant events in the shift of thinking at Microsoft over the past few months that lead me to believe they have begun (perhaps kicking and screaming) to embrace the idea that there is a world beyond Windows. First, Microsoft joined the odd alliance with Novell to provide a "license" for the Novell Linux user. You might think this was an attempt to co opt Linux (and it was!) but there was a subtle admission that Linux matters in that move. Secondly, The Vista Genuine software program that required users to accept updates and validate their copies of Windows was modified to no longer disable the OS if a copy of Windows wasn't certified "Genuine" within the specified time period. (side note: what about not registering the license made the code fake? Just wondering) Finally, Today I learned that Microsoft has admitted defeat in the desktop wars. What do I mean? Back when Vista released, Microsoft first declared that Vista Basic and Home editions could be put on a Virtual Machine then reversed itself. The only version of Vista that my be used in a virtual machine was the Ultimate edition for $499. Today Microsoft recanted that position and has reversed their reversal to allow any edition of Vista to be put onto a VM. This is significant. In the months and years to come I believe we will look back on today and view this as the beginning of a shift in thinking at Microsoft from being desktop bound to becoming a technology innovation company again.
Will this make me run out and buy a copy of Vista to replace the XP I have running on Parrellels on my MacBook Pro? Probably not but I feel better knowing I can do so.