Preview reviews of Microsoft’s ballyhooed Longhorn release are beginning to appear and this tireade, I thought, was worth blogging as Dvorak Uncensored member Keith Burel rants about what to expect from Longhorn. If you don’t want to read the essay, the answer, in advance, is “not much.” Upon reading this and the Case review here I’m most baffled by Microsoft’s inability to change the look and feel of the OS, especially the iconographic designs. How much would that cost anyway? Next to nothing is my guess.

Anyway this essay reads between the lines of the review and I think may have struck gold early on with the comment that Longhorn is “just SP3.”

Burel Reading Between the Lines

Like a sufferer of Tourette’s syndrome, I need to vent my pent-up reactions whenever I read a preview to a new release of Windows. Here I go…. [insert peculiar sounds and motions here]:

The preview of Longhorn illustrates why “shit” becomes my most oft used vocabulary word for several weeks after I first install a new version of Windows. At Microsoft, it’s always about reinventing the wheel.

Case: ”When you first bring up the Longhorn desktop, you could just as well be looking at the Windows XP desktop….”

That’s already a pretty good sign that it’s just SP3.

”As you start to drill deeper, though, nifty little refinements become apparent.”

My heart starts to sink. I’ve seen these buzz phrases before– “nifty little refinements”– they always spell h-a-s-s-l-e.

”If you’re like me, your programs menu has no doubt become a massive, unwieldy list of programs..”

I’m never like the reviewers. Never. What is so unwieldy about a list in alphabetical order? I already smell another wheel ready to be re-invented.

”In this build, a scrolling list of your programs is built in a sub-window on the left side of the start menu.”

Somebody tell me how to disable it.. NOW!.. before I scream!!!

”Also, a small dialog entry box lives at the bottom of the start menu. If your list of applications is very long, just start typing an app name in this box. As you type, Windows will make a guess as to the name..”

Oh wonderful, we all know how well Windows “guesses” what you *really* intended.

”It’s a great boon for users with tons of programs.”

Well, I guess users who use words like “tons” to describe how many programs they have will really enjoy it. They’re the ones who can’t find a program within the alphabetized list.

”Opening up “My Computer” gives you a more pictorial view than seen in Windows XP.”

“Pictorial” — yes, if there is one word to describe what Microsoft deems “innovation,” it would probably be “pictorial.” Much of my time setting up Windows is invariably turning off all of the “pictorial innovations.”

”Bar charts instantly give you a feel for how much space is left on your storage devices. One thing you’ll notice as you drill down into folders—the “up” icon is now gone. Mostly, you’ll navigate the folder structure with forward and backward icons..”

Now this is what I call a revolution in computing– up arrows replaced by back-and-forth arrows. That’s what I call a leaner, meaner operating system.

”You can have multiple shortcuts to the same documents in different lists, allowing you to think in a multidimensional way, rather than trying to work within the straightjacket of a hierarchical folder structure.”

We waited how many years for this?

”Oh, and the search puppy is gone (to much rejoicing).”

I haven’t seen the search puppy since day one– I killed him immediately. Well, not quite immediately. I still remember that when I disabled him, I had to watch him wag his tail and walk off into the distance before he disappeared. And he didn’t walk away fast either. Idiocy.

”Finally, there’s good old Internet Explorer. This particular build only contains a version of IE6”

Now I am ROFLMAO. Still IE6 ??????

”Meanwhile, this release seems snappier than past versions..”

Ziff Davis *always* gets this punchline into the Windows reviews with each new release. In the next article, we’ll no doubt hear about a faster boot.

Now let me step back and guess what Lloyd Case was really thinking when
he was told to write this article:

DAY 1. Longhorn Demo arrives. “I’ll work on it tomorrow.”

DAY 2. Installs Longhorn Demo. “I’ll play with it today and tomorrow.”

DAY 3. Tinker tinker tinker.

DAY 4. “Damn. Where are the features they promised ????”

DAY 5. Begins to sweat.

DAY 6. “Report is due tomorrow. There’s nothing to report!!!”

DAY 7. Bulb appears over his head. “I’ll find a few cosmetic changes to the interface and label them ‘nifty little refinements.'” Report submitted; editors happy.

— K B [Keith Burel]

P.S. I feel better.

  1. Miguel Lopes says:

    Personally I still haven’t understood why we ever needed to change from the Windows 3.11 GUI to Windows 95… I still don’t understand the ‘why’ of the START button. I mean, you could do most stuff that was included in Windows in 95 without changing the whole look and feel… OK, maybe make it a bit more refined to go with the improvements in hardware, but I’d stop about there… And why, oh why, have 30 different ways of doing things? What’s wrong with just 1? This creates a support situation that’s absolutely a nightmare… ‘ok, now go to Edit, View, Toolbars’… and the voice on the phone ‘what? I don’t have ‘Toolbars’… Autohidden, of course… WHAT FOR? We must realise most people don’t know much about computers and DON’T CARE – just MAKE IT SIMPLE!!!

    I work in IT, including helpdesk and desktop support. A nice chunk of my time is spent just disabling menu options, standardizing and limiting features so that people don’t get lost and then call my IT support ‘team’ of 1!!! Power users can have it any way they like it, but don’t come running to me for answers, I may be *very* busy…

    This whole Longhorn thing is starting to look like just another way to force us to upgrade to the latest version… This really has to stop… And I hope it does. It took ages to get companies to use Win 2K, eons to get them to even start looking at XP, I hope it takes *forever* to go to Windows YP or whatever it’ll be called. There is no reason to even go there. Unfortunately all new PCs will then have YP and since it looks ‘cool’ on a brief acquaintance, everyone will start wanting it… and the circle goes on and on…

    I too get Tourette’s whenever a new GUI comes out for no GOOD reason… And severe depression when I realize no real progress is being made. My next stop – I want to check out the Macs OSX GUI, haven’t played with a Mac since System 7.5

  2. Thomas says:

    So, if the interface looks almost the same it must be the same OS? So, Win95 was just like Win2000?

    BTW, isn’t it a little hypocritical to expect incredible interface changes and then balk when there are some?

    Now, this is not to say that I’m not critical of Longhorn. Microsoft threw out the single most desired feature (WinFS) and kept some of the eye candy.

  3. RonD says:

    Excellent rant by K B. I would like to see that published in PC Magazine! 🙂

  4. Microsoft should not waste their time “improving” the interface to run a program. They should offer a clean API to control it and let other companies fight it out for the most useful interfaces. There is no other part of WIndows that can be more conveniently farmed out to see who’s good at it. And there are no security issues involved.
    – Precision Blogger

  5. gquaglia says:

    Yeah SP3 that will cost $200+ and need new hardware to run. No thanks microsuck, when my current PC craps out I’m replacing it with mac osx. I’m already running it on an ibook and never want to turn back.

  6. Nothing to see here… move along!

    Boy what a surprise. I didn’t expect much from Foghorn once MS started dropping the much vaulted next-gen features fast then MS seciruty releases! 😮

    Maybe Bill and boys were too busy adding nifty little feature to the XBox360?! Repeat after me – Dreamcast. Dreamcast, Dreamcast!

    Later John!

  7. jojo says:

    Wow! ZD and PC Mag ought to hire this person. This is the kind of succinct review I’d like to read more often. Instead of the junk that most reviewers regularly write to cover their asses and try to stay on the companies good sides so that they continue to buy advertising.

    Looks like Longhorn is continuing to build on the 15 year old NT base, which is a disappointment, since NT is riddled with security bugs and poor design. So Longhorn will just be another in a long series of expensive (to the buyer) upgrades to a nearly obsolete OS design.

    One would think that a company with 50,000 employees could recognize the need for a complete new OS and could have made this happen with Longhorn, if not before.

    Maybe time to get serious about looking into Linux alternatives?

  8. Ima Fish says:

    Oh my friggin’ god! Have you seen the screen shots?!

    It IS Windows XP! It uses IE6. It uses Media Player 10. It uses the same Start Menu. Is the different color the big deal?

    Gates talks about the “improved searching and printing capabilities.” But any search problem in XP can easily be fixed with a much better Applet. E.g., Google has improved hard drive searching without any update to the OS at all! And who has problems printing anymore?! And do we really need an entirely new OS with new hardware to fix these “problems”?!

    I like your approach John. Microsoft should simply start from scratch on an entirely new OS. Because giving us an updated XP, which was an updated Win2000, won’t get anyone excited about upgrading.

    The gravy days of Microsoft have past. Microsoft cannot rely on its minions automatically upgrading to its latest OS and Office products. From now on Microsoft has to EARN our money. And from what I’ve seen so far, Microsoft won’t get a dime from me for either XP or Longhorn.

  9. Ed Campbell says:

    I saw a tech note about this, yesterday. All I could figure out is that folks get new icons and [if they’re lucky] a few more feature sets copied from OS X.


  10. Imafish says:

    Miguel, in answer to your question about why we need the Start button, here’s my answer: There is a Dilbert cartoon in which a vendor is selling a computer that is so easy to use because there is only one button, AND “…we push it for you before it leaves the factory.”

    The Start button is Microsoft’s attempt to make computing that easy. They’re implying that all you need to do to use your computer is to click only ONE button. That sure sounds easy. But of course it isn’t, because that one button opens up in to an unmanageable nightmare.

  11. mbg says:

    #8, the fact that the alpha they are currently showing includes IE6, WMP10 and other XP-era artifacts doesn’t mean that these artifacts will be in the shipping version. Things like that are developed in parallel with Longhorn and will be incorporated into Longhorn as they are finalized.

    From other reports, we already know IE7 will be in beta this summer for XP, and we know that it will not have all of the functionality that the Longhorn version will have.

    It is also very likely that a Media Player update will occur in the 18 months remaining before Longhorn, especially since Microsoft is very focused on AV at the moment.

    I would also argue that MSN Desktop Search is a much better product than Google’s desktop search product with respect to customization and the presentation of search results. Also, search is really an operating system function.

    I also agree that an OS rewrite would be a good idea. But, how long would it take? Are you ready to replace all of your hardware and software with versions compatible with the new OS? How do you know they are not already working on it in parallel with Windows?

    It confuses me a bit to see the accusations of Mac OS X ripoffs. The things that resemble OS X features in Longhorn go way beyond what Apple is offering, and they are the types of features that take a great deal of research to implement properly. Microsoft didn’t just happen upon a Tiger beta one day and decide to start copying its features. It could just as easily have been the other way around (and I think that is the more likely story). All that aside, Jobs keeps going on about how OS X is out months before Longhorn. Who cares? OS X isn’t going to make any significant number of people switch. The fact that he wants to be first makes me suspicious of who copied who; besides which, Apple features are pretty and easy-to-use, but they’re rarely advanced or flexible.

  12. Pat says:

    Give me an OS that has fewer security problems, more stability, faster patches, and friendlier support for less money.

    Give me Linux. Linux and Open Source is the way of the future.

    I use XP Pro at home and am less happy then when I used ME. I have had to re-register it about every 8 months, only to go through a hassle each time and end up talking with someone whose accent is unintelligible. The patches come late, can cause problems, and WHICH IS NOT MICRO$OFTS PROBLEM.

    Nope, I plan on upgrading my HD in the next month and will then switch over to Linux. And from what I have heard, I won’t be looking back.

  13. FredJobst says:

    After reading the above — I’ sick. Where is my pencil!

  14. WinRulz says:

    I agree with mbg (Microsoft’s Bill Gates?). Apple uses lots of eye candy to hide much of their shortcomings in OSX. Maybe that’s why they’ve released a new version almost every year so the users won’t catch on. So what if Longhorn looks like XP.

    Longhorn’s real benefit is in the plumbing that will make it easier for developers like me to code more robust applications. Microsoft is just taking everyone, including the consumer, to the next level of computing and that will be evident by the swath of Longhorn ready applications coming out after its release.

  15. Cam says:

    @Miguel Lopes: “I still don’t understand the ‘why’ of the START button.”

    Like why you neesd to hit the Start button in order to stop (turn off/log out) your computer? Am I the only one that finds that silly?

    @WinRulz: “Apple uses lots of eye candy to hide much of their shortcomings in OSX. Maybe that’s why they’ve released a new version almost every year so the users won’t catch on.”

    Shortcomings like what? OS X is stable and, more importantly, secure. If you take a look at the feature sets of the various upgrades that Apple have released (which are sold as point releases, not whole new OS), you will see that there are sharp increases in both the user- and developer-facing funtionality of OS X.

    Longhorn (a “new” OS) seems to offer the user a lot less in the way of functionality than one of Apples point releases. It might be better for you as a developer, but as a user, I could care less.

  16. Jim Dermitt says:

    Just don’t use it! What’s the big deal?

    I snipped this from a search.
    Apr 15, 2005NewsFactor – Technology –
    Elizabeth Millard, Microsoft ( – ) is starting to get chatty about the features of Longhorn, its upcoming operating system that is slated for release in late 2006. Company executives have noted that in comparison to , Longhorn will be easier to use, less costly to manage and more secure, according to news reports. The company also has given some journalists and analysts a limited preview of Longhorn’s features. Longhorn was unveiled at a developers conference in 2003, and scheduled for shipment a few years ……l=story&u=/nf/20050415/tc_nf/32955

    There are already news reports for a product that won’t come out until late 2006. Talk about your breaking news. I’m giving away a million dollars to charity in late 2006. I gave a bum a quarter as a preview on Saturday.

  17. Swissfondue says:

    The Burel article is very good.

    Longhorn was supposed to lay the foundation (core APIs, etc.) for developpers to build on. Now they are delaying the most important parts and developing improvements on the existing system.

    The whole goal of Longhorn has changed: it has become a long development path instead of an operating system to replace XP.

    The worst is that MS keeps changing expectations, so that the very developers on which they depend are uncertain of how LH impacts them.

    The main customers of MS are companies. They don’t care for a new system, they just want improvements of their current system (security, control, stability). So it is in their interest that MS does not disrupt the existing OS.

    MS is apparently leaning toward satisfying its major customers, the companies.

    Personally I don’t care, as I will be using Mac OS 10.4 as of Friday. But I would really like MS to come up with nifty features that Apple would want to copy. Competition is often good for the end user.

  18. Ima Fish says:

    MSG – you don’t get it. They’ve been working on Longhorn for SEVERAL years. Officially it was already supposed to be released. And here is is, years late, and all they have done is XP with a different color scheme! Sure they can start adding stuff now, but what the fck have they been doing for the last several years?

    Others are right, as of right now “the amazing” Longhorn is nothing but SP3.

  19. Pat says:

    I am less concerned about the interface. Most GUI interfaces are basically the same. Besides, beauty is only skin deep. What has it got under the hood?

    Is what is beneath the surface much different then XP? Is this an upgrade or another version of XP.

    Is it just another bloatwared piece of software that hogs resources? Will I next need a second Gig of RAM to run a word processor?

    Are the apps in LH similar to XP and 98 / ME which require constant patches? Will holes be easy to exploit? Will I need even more programs to protect / repair / clean my computer?

    Actually, I don’t really care. M$ has lost my confidence and ain’t getting any more bucks from me.

  20. jojo says:

    Given that MS looks to not be doing anything najor with LH or Office, what exactly is it that their 50k employees DO everyday?

  21. rdf says:

    Let’s review….

    Combined costs of all 11 Apollo missions 6 of which landed men on the moon (in 2004 dollars)=18,201,000,000*

    Microsoft R&D spending 1995-2004=38,444,000,000**

    How could anyone say Microsoft doesn’t innovate? These figures make it apparent that…….uhhhh……well…….yeah, $40 billion ……but just look at……well…….uhhhh……


  22. Miguel Lopes says:

    I’d give up my WIndows XP if that meant we could go back to the Moon!!!


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