I often tell people that my experiences with every version of Microsoft Windows -
going back to 1.0, which I purchased at the very first Staples store in Cambridge,
Mass. - resembles my pre-marriage dating life.
Before I met Jean, I'd find myself dating this or that young woman. Things would
go along well for a time, and then I'd hear those much-dreaded words: "It's
not you, Mark, it's me."
The syntax is different, but just about every version of Microsoft Windows with
which I've worked for 22 years has ultimately issued the same message.
A couple of recent developments, then, raise an interesting question: Is there
finally to be an end to Windows as we know it? The answer: perhaps, and perhaps
sooner than we think.
Recently, a gaggle of journalists, led by the very-well-sourced Mary-Jo Foley of
ZDNet.com, have written about "Midori," code name for the "next" operating
system planned by Microsoft, one that will have an architecture devoid of any
Windows "legacy code." The details are sketchy, of course, since the project is
housed in the firm's "skunk works" where only the most advanced - as in,
"somewhere down the road" - projects lie. But the thought is that computing
will more and more take place in the Internet "cloud," or network, and that
we'll all collaborate and interoperate together, IM'ing "Kumbaya" to each
other, perhaps, instead of singing aloud.
Ironically, that sort of collaboration is available right now, albeit on computers
running some sort of operating system and a Web browser, due to a rather interesting
collaboration in real life: a group of Israeli and Palestinian techies have formed
G.ho.st, which offers a "virtual computer" online. Sign up, create a user
profile (your i.d. and password), and you can log into this "Global Hosted
Operating System" from anywhere and get your work done. Oh, and for good measure,
the package includes 3 Gigabytes of e-mail storage.
The desktop in this thing is icon-rich, with pictures of files, functions and
programs. I could, for example, upload an Excel spreadsheet from my work computer
and open it up in G.ho.st, and the macros apparently worked. However, in printing,
some of the headers were truncated, which made a normally nice-looking document
appear sloppy. It's early days, however.
Part of the appeal of G.ho.st is its collaborative functions: you can work with
others across boundaries and borders - penetrating "walls" as a real ghost
does, but via the Internet. Right now, the collaboration extends to file sharing and
instant messaging, but if everyone is in the same "cloud," it's not a bad
And you can't beat the cost: G.ho.st is free to individual users. I imagine the
firm will "monetize" its work, at least in part, by offering site licenses and
customization to large enterprises.
Most of the commands are consistent with Windows commands, but some aren't: it
seems a mouse click is the only way to close a window, not the Control-W that many
of us are familiar with. Response time, for launching applications and for working
within those apps, seems more than reasonable. The "Zoho Editor," or word
processor, started in the blink of an eye; relatively fast typing on my part
didn't overwhelm it.
I'm not sure I'd be ready to commit an enterprise to this system, not without a
lot more testing and usage. There may be other reservations users will develop,
given that everything is run from, admittedly, one of the more volatile parts of the
world. But given the determination of its top two executives: Zvi Schreiber, an
Israeli, and Palestinian Tareq Maayah, I wouldn't be surprised if this project has
far more than a G.ho.st of a chance.