10 Features Longhorn needs

Published on Friday, October 7, 2005 By Brad Wardell In Windows Vista

The next version of Windows really does need to take things to another level.


Let's face it, Windows XP is basically Windows 2000 with some fixes and cosmetic enhancements.


Longhorn needs to be much more than that.  Here are a few things I think it needs:


1) New display system. This is what Avalon is supposed to address. The new display system needs to let us always run our systems as the maximum resolution our monitor supports and have the DPI (dots per inch) be fluidly scaleable without impacting software compatibility.  I shouldn't have to run my laptop at 1024x768 in order to be able to read text if it supports 1600x1200.  I should be able to run at 1600x1200 and size everything on the fly to be bigger. 


2) Updated Searching.  Google Desktop search only exists because the Find Files feature of Windows is essentially useless.  I should be able to quickly find something on my system instantly.  WinFS won't be out as part of Longhorn so what will they be improving in the meantime?


3) Smoother Multitasking.  Windows still sucks at multitasking.  Even when running on an SMP box, if the OS is "busy" doing something, you still can't quickly do something else.  I eventually gave up on SMP since on Windows it's only good for CPU bound tasks and doesn't really affect multitasking efficiency very much (on MacOS X and OS/2, for instance, SMP basically made it so you could always be doing something in the UI, but on Windows, the UI is apparently not as multithreaded as it could be). In the meantime, I use Multiplicity to maximize my computing power. But I'd like the OS itself to let me always be able to do stuff -- even if the app is written badly.


4) More Componentized. Whether we'll get Microsoft to make it so that pieces of Windows can be replaced or inherited from remains to be seen. I would like to be able to easily add more views (no, Ishell stuff doesn't cut it) to foldrers. 


5) Stop bloating with needless bundling.  Every new version of Windows throws in some half-assed immitation of third party software.  While we can all appreciate having a "free" version of ZIP or uxtheme or movie maker, it damages third party software development. I'd rather think that when I BUY my copy of Windows that the work was put into features that only the OS vendor could do.  Especially since Microsoft rarely puts any effort to let third parties expand on what they bundle (like adding RAR support to the compressed folders for example). There are some features only the OS vendor can really do. I'd rather see resources put there.


6) Make Networking better. I don't know about you guys but the LAN support in Windows is still quite a pain.  As I type this, I am on a wireless LAN which has several computers on the same work group.  It often takes several seconds, if at all, to find all the machines on the network.  It would be nice if Microsoft re-thought how people use network resources and included ways of working with them in a more straight forward, ROBUST, centralized way.


7) Better use of memory. I have 2 gigabytes of memory on my main machine. I turn off the swap file.  And yet I still hear the hard drive chipmunks going away.  Why is that? And don't even get me started about the limited number of handles. Even on my 2 gigabyte machine, if programs use more than 24,000 or so handles, programs start crashing. The average person doesn't even know why their system becomes unstable because limited user handles on Windows XP has been largely ignored.


8) Fix Internet Explorer. CSS 2.0 compliance would be a nice start. How about making it much smarter about what it caches? I have lots of friends at Microsoft who admit to having switched to Firefox (or Opera).  That's sad.


9) Fix your third party licenses. One of the ugly secrets of the PC OEM market is that computer manufacturers can't install things on Windows that changes the first boot-up experience. At best, they can put a few things on the desktop.  But they can't, for example, include an alternative shell or have WindowBlinds running by default or change the boot screen or many ohter things.  In short, there's not much way for PC manufacturers to distinguish their computer from every other computer.  That means a LOT of lost innovation.


10) Fix Security.  Outlook Express is still a spyware/spammer's dream. We shouldn't have to "upgrade" to Outlook to have some basic protections. There should be more end user tools that make it very easy to monitor net traffic.  The "Network" tab in task manager is a nice start but it needs to go much furthre than that.  Worms and the like should be stopped at the OS level. SP2 was a nice start, but there's still so much more to do.


There's lost of little things that are being addressed that I'm very excited about.  Avalon is the big thing for me. XAML in particular is interesting but I fear it may lead to a ton of wacky looking "apps". I don't want my apps to be as poorly designed UI as the typical website. Let me put it this way, the people who make Office are VERY different from the people who made http://www.microsoft.com.  I want the former writings the stand alone apps I use, not the latter.


So what would you like to see? What features in Longhorn make you excited?