Microsoft's latest operating system has been well received, but a lot of important features, including system restore and automatic updating of third-party software and drivers, didn't make the cut.
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Slideshow: Top Features Absent From Windows 7
Acquisitions, Third Parties Could Be The Plan
Why would Microsoft skimp on offering features that seem in their best interest to provide natively? One possibility is that they don't feel that way -- because they're waiting for someone else to develop their own approach to the same problem.
Consider a technology like SteadyState: it's the sort of thing which could be (and to some degree is) provided by third parties, who create their own implementation of such a feature and sell it. Microsoft's next step from there might be to license the technology in a stripped-down implementation for within Windows itself, as they did with Diskeeper for their own disk defragmenter utility. Or they might acquire the technology in question entirely, as they did with the LookOut search add-on for Outlook. (LookOut was eventually deprecated in favor of the indexing technology in Vista and Windows 7.)
Microsoft has two reasons for doing this. One, the fact that certain features are not available in Windows is an incentive for third-party makers to create them in the first place, and the presence of that much more software for Windows in any form is always a plus for them. Two, there's always the chance a third-party implementation of an idea may be more comprehensive or elegantly executed than something Microsoft develops in-house.
This philosophy isn't always bad, but there are certain aspects of Windows where a native Microsoft approach to improving the system simply makes more sense. System protection and integrity, device-driver distribution, software management, user-interface handling -- these are functions close enough to the heart of Windows that Microsoft owes it to themselves and their customers to top themselves when developing these features. That and it's easier to use a sanctioned, native solution to a problem than to pick through the offerings by multiple vendors.
There are encouraging signs that the overall design of Windows 8 will help transcend many of these individual concerns. I see this as being analogous to how Microsoft attempted to deal with many individual security issues in Windows by moving to a model where the user -- even the administrative user -- ran with reduced privileges by default. That by itself made a great deal of difference, although better engineering overall and responding quickly to known security holes also certainly helps.
But Windows 8 is two years or more away, and most people will not wait that long for solutions to the problems described above. They want some sign, sooner rather than later, that the right thing is being done.
And if it Microsoft doesn't provide it, someone else will.