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Hey Larry: Two Sizes Of Windows Aren't Enough

Larry Osterman of Microsoft recently pondered why one of his fellow Microsoft developers would complain that a Windows Server 2008 system had poor audio quality. After all, he reasons, a server operating system isn't meant to play music, games, or other consumer-desktop functionality. If you want those features, a desktop client version
Larry Osterman of Microsoft recently pondered why one of his fellow Microsoft developers would complain that a Windows Server 2008 system had poor audio quality. After all, he reasons, a server operating system isn't meant to play music, games, or other consumer-desktop functionality. If you want those features, a desktop client version of Windows is a better fit. So why would an intelligent developer choose a server OS for their desktop?Larry begins his blog entry with, "Sometimes the expectations of our customers mystify me." As a software developer, I know what he means. However, I often find that when I am mystified by the expectations of customers, it means that I have missed something. Customers misuse or misunderstand a product because its user interface is confusing, its documentation isn't clear, or because it's a close but imperfect fit for the product they really want that they can't find. I think the latter case applies here.

When Vista was released, it wasn't just the pundits who complained mightily about its speed and performance. The OS had been bloated by features and functionality that had the potential to suck up plenty of system resources. A year later, Windows Server 2008 took the opposite approach and actually removed components or disabled them by default to eliminate attack surfaces. It also got the advantage of another year worth of work on the Windows OS. That resulted in an OS that feels smaller, faster, and rock solid.

Underneath the covers, Vista and Server 2008 are the same operating system. The difference is in the way the core operating system is tuned, and the additional noncore software bundled with the system. Many Windows users, and especially software developers, want a system that's fast and unencumbered by junky features intended for computer novices. Vista can be made to do that, but it takes a lot of tweaking. In some cases it seems like less work to start with Server 2008 and tweak up from there.

Larry's blog mentions one of those up-tweaks that Server 2008 users might want to do. A change to the Multimedia Class Scheduler Service can help Server 2008 to play glitch-free audio. A lot of users probably find themselves in the same situation as Larry's co-worker, wanting something like Server 2008 on their desktop but also wanting the parameters tuned more like a client OS. I would love to see more Microsoft bloggers talk about these sort of tweaks.

While I was writing this entry, Larry has clarified his post in comments on his original entry and in a reply to another blog that made some good points about the usefulness of a server OS, especially for developers.