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Editorial: Microsoft's next big challenge

Microsoft's stranglehold on the corporate (and home) desktop has been attacked many times through the years but the Redmond, Wash., giant has been able to fend off each assault, mostly without much effort. The biggest challenge came during the company's first (and last) major operating system technology upgrade -- from MS DOS to Windows 3.0 -- which marked the first time many users worked with a graphical user interface and a mouse.

At that time, the Apple Macintosh was still a potential big-time desktop player, The Santa Cruz Operation (the original SCO, not today's edition) and others were making some strides pushing Unix for the PC, and IBM thought it was working with Microsoft to make the fledgling OS/2 the real MS DOS follow-on. Then Microsoft undercut partner IBM and crushed the rest of the pack with Windows 3.0 and its successors Windows 95/98, Windows 2000/NT, Windows XP and the rest. And through it all, Microsoft has remained king of the desktop.

Some observers say that as Microsoft develops the next-generation desktop OS, code-named Longhorn, ownership of the desktop may be in play again. This time it is Linux that could pose a challenge to Microsoft's world.

In our Cover Story [see "Longhorn roundup"], senior correspondent John K. Waters looks at what is known about Microsoft's efforts so far, how experts expect the technology to fare, and what IT organizations can do to prepare for it. Though Microsoft has not disclosed a release date for the OS (it could be two or more years away), experts say the corporate development community should start studying options for migrating apps to Longhorn. And the Microsoft folks, clearly understanding the importance of the new technology, are doing all they can to ensure that Longhorn meets the needs of corporate users. As Intellinet consultant John West told Waters, Microsoft is "pleading" for substantial feedback from the user community. Waters looks at Microsoft's plans as they are now and where they may go in the future.

Clearly Longhorn, along with next-generation development tools (code-named Whidbey) and a new SQL Server (Yukon), provide a technology and market challenge the likes of which Microsoft has not seen since the shift from DOS to Windows many years back. Here at ADT, we'll keep an eye on the status of Longhorn and friends, as well as on the alternative desktop technologies. Developers could be in for a very interesting time.

Best regards, MiKe Bucken

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.

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