Pragmatic versus idealistic product evolution

Once again, Joel explains it all.

I wrote some MS-DOS utility programs back in the 80’s. They run just fine on Vista, and I even use one of them once in a while. 25+ years of backwards compatibility.

I can’t even load up my old Apple IIe or original Mac software.

Microsoft has gone to great pains to make sure that "things just work" with each new product release. They’ve been rewarded with massive market share, but at the price of never being able to jump very far ahead.

Apple has repeatedly reinvented itself and abandoned massive installed bases. They’ve been rewarded with the ability to jump further ahead, and they get to be super-cool, but (till now) they’ve only been able to serve the smaller market that valued cool / easy / new / beautiful over compatibility.

The world’s changed. I don’t run as many applications as I did; most of it’s on the Internet. The apps I do want to run are big, fresh, and important. They’ll always be updated to work with the latest and greatest.

In a fast-moving world of increasing complexity, I need "obvious" and "just works" (and even "beautiful") more than I need any old technology.

It’s time to push the reset button on lots of technologies. I think consumers are ready for "insanely great" solutions in every category. Many of the technologies we use every day have been too backwards-focused for too long. The built-up layers of inconvenience that each "compatible" generation accumulates have gotten too thick. Today, more than ever, we’re willing to give up the old if the new is great.

In the operating system world, virtualization is the silver bullet that allows this. Microsoft took a bold step in creating .NET and WPF, setting aside the Win16/Win32/GDI programming model, but they hacked it onto an ancient OS stack. It’s too thick. Give me a ".NET Operating System" and Windows XP in a well-integrated sandbox.

Kind of like Mac OS with a copy of XP and Parallels

(Fun thought: What if the Mac had always come with an Apple IIe emulator inside? Not a hacked OS that could run IIe apps as first-class citizens, but a literal "sandbox", like the emulators available now, that let you use the old apps in a way that didn’t cut you off, but still encouraged you to move to newer Mac apps as they became available? Could Apple have used that IIe momentum to get further with the early Mac?)


2 thoughts on “Pragmatic versus idealistic product evolution”

  1. This is off topic, but if I were with you I’d give you a hug! Logos Scholar’s Library on my iMac. I cannot thank you enough!
    John, smiling in Brampton!

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