As I, and other evangelists, showed off Longhorn to developers we kept hearing the same thing:
"This is cool."
"Oh, wait, it's Longhorn only?"
"Yep," I'd answer.
"Uh, call us after it ships and you get X marketshare." (X being a variable between 0% and 100%).
That's basically what Mozilla answered too, and they weren't alone.
Then there was Joel Spolsky's rant about how Microsoft was losing the API war. Out of all the developers who write blogs, his is the most influential in my mind -- one link from his blog recently sent 12,000 readers -- and his rant caused more conversations internally among the geeks (devs and testers) than anything I've seen written all year. I've been reading his new book this weekend, by the way, and it gives deep insights on Microsoft and software development and management culture.
Then there's the constant meetings with non-geek customers that I kept having. "Can you help me get my system back working? I keep getting these bizarre popups every few seconds..."
I got just that question again while traveling this weekend. Translation: non-geek customers are asking for better protection against malware, spyware, etc. They care about that a lot more than if they can do some cool new video or 3D trick on screen.
Another point of view? We were making the wrong bets based on where the industry is going. Sales of Tablet PCs has been going up lately. And notebooks are white hot.
One thing, what matters on Tablet PCs? Battery life, and low heat while giving decent performance. Now, what happens when you need a better graphics processor? Less battery life and more heat. Longhorn's Avalon was going to require a beefy graphic processor (look at all the demo machines, we barely could get the latest builds to run on a top-of-the-line Alienware machine).
Translation: Longhorn wasn't aimed at the sweet spot of the market anymore and our customers were telling us to go in a different direction.
Another point of view? Remember when a group of us tried to go off and build an app about two months ago with the product teams? That was a turning point for me. I saw that Avalon was pretty easy to work with (I even understood that). But WinFS was very difficult. Only the best teams actually got something done there. And we were working off of a script that basically told us where everything was.
That told me that WinFS needed more work. Plus, when I asked about certain scenarios (servers, networks, adding in weird devices, etc) the team didn't have strong answers that made me feel good...
Workplace OS was IBM's fiasco. Pink was Apple's fiasco.Taligent was IBM AND Apple's fiasco. Longhorn is Microsoft's fiasco. Each of these projects was immensely complex, and each tried to tackle fundamental problems in the representation of data -- especially data about "people, places and things".
What's differnte about Longhorn is that it's also the first massive project to run ahead of Moore's Law. The graphics and WinFS layers assumed massive processing power -- the classic Microsoft approach to forcing hardware and software upgrades. The big mistake was assuming Moore's Law would continue to hold. Well, it's not holding when power availability is a constraining factor. Given sufficient power (one or more household outlets) one can handle the power needs and heat output (liquid cooling!) of a Longhorn system. Lacking a power cord, Longhorn won't fly.
Microsoft isn't going to just delay Longhorn for a year. Gates is going to kill it. They may claim to release "Longhorn" one day, but it will be a marketing illusion. They'll release WinXP SP3 and call it Longhorn.
If there's one thing Gates absolutely excels at, it's shooting a failing horse. He kills massive projects fast and efficiently, and without a shred of sentiment. It's a weird and unique talent. Don't be fooled by the internal Microsoft statements and the press releases. Unless Gates has undergone an unlikely transformation, Longhorn is utterly dead.
Want malware protection? Run Safari, OmniWeb, or Firefox on OS X. This is a nice get well gift for Steve Jobs.