The first interesting missive to arrive in my inbox came courtesy of the words of Microsoft COO, Kevin Turner, speaking at the July 26th Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting 2007. Turner decided to focus his attention on Vista security, rolling out the usual 'most secure Windows operating system ever' company line as expected. Perhaps less predictable was his insistence that it was safer than both OS X Tiger and all major distributions of Linux!
Talking about high-severity vulnerabilities, Turner insisted that "in the first 180 days we've had 12 in Vista" comparing this to the 25 in XP over the same period and drawing attention to how much more sophisticated people are when it comes to exploiting vulnerabilities today. "Over that same time period, I think you should also note that Windows Vista had far fewer than Apple, as well as any major desktop Linux distributor" Turner added. As I previously stated in my blog posting here, given the resources available to them the level of security vulnerability exposure achieved by major players such as Microsoft is still way too high.
Comparing oranges to oranges, I would contend that Microsoft should stop playing the blame game and start concentrating on quicker responses, better testing and more open vulnerability disclosure. All areas where they could learn a thing or three from the Linux folk.
The second Microsoft missive to land on in my inbox was word that Steve 'Barmy' Ballmer, the Microsoft CEO, is predicting that the installed user base for the Windows OS would reach 1 billion in under a year. Speaking at the same Financial Analyst Meeting 2007, Ballmer confirmed that as from 2008 it would only be selling Windows Vista as far as direct OEM and retail licenses were concerned, XP only being an option for system builders after February 2008. "If you stop and just think about that, parse that for a second, by the end of our fiscal year '08, there will be more PCs running Windows in the world than there are automobiles, which is at least to me kind of a mind-numbing concept" Barmy Ballmer said. Mind-numbing is not the word I would use to describe this vision of the computing future: mind-boggling perhaps, frightening definitely, and misleading possibly.
Misleading because Ballmer is talking about Windows as a whole, everything out there including the die-hard Windows 95 users for example. The prediction might be very different were he to concentrate on the numbers of users likely to be running Vista within a year. Current market share statistics are revealing, with Windows XP hogging the limelight on some 81.94% of the OS market, and Vista with its 4.52% share sitting between Mac OS with 6% and Linux on a rather disappointing 0.71%. Those figures could change dramatically once support for XP is dropped, when it fails to benefit from security updates for example and users are pushed towards making the decision whether to upgrade to Vista or move to another OS altogether. It is not in the realms of fantasy to imagine both Mac OS and Linux starting to increase their presence considerably under such circumstances. Users having to invest in new hardware in order to run a new version of the OS, might just be tempted into making the change to Apple, now that this platform can comfortably run Windows in a virtual environment. Users looking for real security, however, might be tempted by the value for money offered in the Linux field, especially while upgrade prices to Vista remain so high.
With the installation woes of Linux distributions becoming a thing of the past, and the desktops becoming increasingly familiar in look and feel, it really must only be a matter of time before Microsoft starts treating the OS competition with a little more respect.