Project Midori Might Be A Necessary Hail Mary

You may have heard about a Project Midori in the last few days. If you haven’t, I’ll try and catch you up to speed. You will see there’s a lot of speculation involved and the world as we know it is not coming to an end right away. However, I think this may be a story worth keeping in mind over the medium/long term because the rumors may just turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of sort.


The Story so far…

Let’s see.. the relevant bits of information we heard in the past few days:

  • Joe Duffy, “architect and developer on an operating system incubation project at Microsoft” published C# for Systems Programming, a blog post on the topic of a new programming language targeting the Systems Programming use-case.
  • Around the same time, rumors spread about Project Midori moving under the umbrella of MS Unified Operating System group (from its previous home in the tech R&D group).
  • The pundits link the two: MS is working on a non-windows OS, Midori, using a new language (M#).

Here’s a couple of links where you can read the story as described so far by professionals:

Behind the Headlines:

MS pulled a project from its R&D into its Unified OS Group. This presumably indicates the project may have a future as a product on the market, or, more likely, as one of the sources for a product.

So.. that’s it, right? Give it a few days and everyone should get the message (ie: yes, a project moved from one group to the other; yes, the R&D team has worked on a different programming language and a different OS, but no, this doesn’t mean MS is dropping the Windows OS for this Midori).. right? I mean, we had essentially the same earth-shattering headlines back in 2008, about the same project: Microsoft sees end of Windows era.. and then we all forgot about it and nothing came out of it, right?

Well, this time I would suggest remembering the name, because the stars could line up just right for Midori.

MS Is Facing Tremendous Challenges:

I’m no industry analyst so I won’t try and prove the point with a long analysis, but I don’t think it’s a secret if I tell you that MS is facing an incredible challenge at this point in time. Sure, it isn’t the first time, and it has proven time and again to be a company that can pull amazing feats. For whatever reason, though, MS does not seem to have figured out how to turn the market around yet.

We could sit down and talk about the disappointments MS has gathered in various areas (mobile devices, mobile OS, app development, OS and Office sales, etc…), but the bottom line is that the moves it has done lately to try and regain the predominant position it used to have have not quite panned out (again: I must say yet).

One of MS’s biggest plays in recent times has been, of course, the launch of Windows 8 (and, by now, 8.1).
The average consumer may not realize it, but everyone in the industry knows that owning the OS that runs on your device is a tremendous advantage because that company can make further deals directly with the consumer, or with third parties that want to run on the same platform. It’s like having a hen that makes 2 golden eggs at the time!

So, the fortunes of Windows 8 are very important to MS. And, so far, they haven’t seen the most stellar results.
This is not the first time that a MS OS has not gained the market traction and share they would hope for, but one must wonder how many losses MS can take on its flagship product line.

So.. Microsoft Midori to the rescue?

Well, I, for one, don’t believe for a second that MS is rushing to jump off of Windows and onto Midori right now.
I believe a new version of an OS takes time to be developed and then reach the market, and that a whole new OS would take even longer. I believe that MS realizes that better than anyone else. I believe Midori, and M#, and many more projects will get a chance to contribute to the next version of MS’s OS, which may entirely be Windows-based.

But I also believe that MS may be looking for a Hail Mary pass if things don’t turn around in 2014. Take the current challenges MS is facing on multiple fronts, add the generational succession they are planning to go through, and add the usual misc variables (overall economic trends, public pressure for review of perceived business leaders, a failed product launch or two) and… well, MS may want to pull a big move like that sooner than we would normally expect.
The company may not need it, but the people that will be at the top of the organization may need it more than the company, to establish themselves and their role.

Even if that scenario happens, does that mean that Windows will be gone? I don’t think so, and keep in mind that changing name to a product does not necessarily mean the product has changed. However, if the scenario materializes, whomever will be heading MS at that time may very well pick Midori as the public face of their wave of change. The industry will already know the name and be able to trace it back to this time (and even to its R&D roots).. why not?


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