One OS, all platforms—yeah, right

Posted: 12.03.13

How many times do we have to see this movie—its got a bad ending 

Sometimes I think the overpaid geniuses at Microsoft live in a cave, seldom seeing daylight, no contact with the outside world, and totally unaware of what happened last week, last year, last decade, and before that. Every so often they push the big rock blocking their cave’s entrance, designed to keep marauding strangers and curious elves out, and toss their latest idea, product, pronouncement, or (ahem) initiative out. It rolls down the hill, like other things that roll down a hill, and plops at the gate of the village below called the IT community. The leaders of the community sniff it, poke at it, and decide if it’s feces, farce, or valuable; usually it’s one of the first two choices.

The latest plop from the cave dwellers is an intuitive called “Threshold.” The baby cave-dwellers didn’t see the charcoal drawings on the wall that told the history of NT, the all-in-one OS Microsoft “initiated” in 1989 and called OS/2 3.0. The drawings are pretty smudged as the elders at MS tried to erase that story, and all of them are long gone now, so there’s no one to tell the tales of heroic MS defeating the IBM dragon. Although one, Joachim Kempin, lives and has scratched his recollections on a parchment he calls Resolve and Fortitude.

Microsoft brought in villagers from the DEC camp, led by Dave Cutler, to build Windows NT, and many elements reflected DEC’s VMS and RSX-11. NT was going to run on every processor imaginable, from ARM, ARC, and MIPS to X86, i860, SPARC, the almighty Alpha, and others still on the drawing board. By the time it became an official product and was re-named NT 3.1, it ran on, well, ummm, x86.

IBM and Unisys ran similar experiments on mainframes and minis in the 1970s, but those clay tablets were lost in the great flood and the MS cave-dwellers couldn’t read mainframe anyway.

Unix would run on everything, in one form or another, and its stepbrother Linux almost does.

Presumably, if there was one common OS, all apps would run on it on any machine one encountered. That suggests files would be compatible, and except for the FLOPS difference from one processor to another, life would be grand. But of course the UIs would have to be different so we’d still get confused going from one machine to another and develop brand loyalties to the ones we understood how to use.

VILLAGER TRYING to return unwanted gift from MS.


Another plop rolled down the hill and informed the villagers that Threshold refers to a new slew of upgrades coming to Windows 8, Windows Phone, and the Xbox One, and not a single new operating system project (allegedly, the name Threshold comes from Halo—gee, that’s exciting).

Threshold the non-operating system operating system, is expected to be rolled down the hill in the spring of 2015, a time when plants need all the fertilizer they can get, so the villagers should welcome it.

Other semi-cave-dwellers that with their fruit-bearing logos or cute green robots don’t seem to share the in¬terest in a common OS. Admittedly, their foundations can trace their lineage back to Linux, the father of all other OSs, so why should they bother to unify?

The thing about OSs is this: if you are aware of them, then they have failed. Are you aware of the OS in your car, or your TV? You are aware of the OS in your phone, and isn’t that just an endless joy? Yes, by all means, let’s have a unified OS so we can hate every device we own and try to use