John Jordan connects the dots:
Everyone is watching Microsoft, which is preparing to launch a new operating system next year. Last month merely changing the name from code (Longhorn) to product (Vista) devoured a lot of attention, and more recently a stripped-down version of the product shipped to beta testers. The product has been a long time in coming, and the scope has been managed downward in several respects. Nevertheless, both Microsoft and the industry more generally see Vista as a potential jump-start very much in the same category as Windows 95 ten years ago. Because Vista represents the first opportunity in over ten years to begin with a “clean sheet of paper,” unlike Windows 3.1, 98, ME, and 2000/XP, Bill Gates has repeatedly linked the two products in public.
Here’s another way of thinking about the comparison. In 1995, Microsoft turned the telephone network into an extension of the computer, or vice versa: between them AOL and Windows 95 made the Internet a household utility. In 2006, no parallel leap into an adjoining domain – think of home entertainment, specifically the television – will be supported. Bill Gates longstanding prediction about widespread adoption of a voice and speech interface to the PC will be addressed with Vista support, but even given a powerful standard processor configuration at its disposal, Vista still won’t make masses of people retire their keyboards.
In short, Windows Vista looks like a solid product for corporate purchasers, but the lack of “gee-whiz” and “I’ve always wanted to be able to do that” desirability will prevent end-user excitement from reappearing the way it did ten years ago. An industry in search of the next big thing will probably have to keep looking.