[Beowulf] Sidebar: Vista Rant

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Tue Jul 17 17:26:53 PDT 2007

At 03:22 PM 7/17/2007, Robert G. Brown wrote:

>Another really excellent reason to go with XP.  Although MS is doubtless
>terrified of virtualization on general principles.

I don't think that MS necessarily worries about virtualization for 
their own products (after all, you still had to buy that copy of the 
OS, and the tools).  However I would assume that they want to expand 
into the "triple play" consumer area (cable TV, movies/audio, VoIP, 
etc.).  In order to do that they want to be in the position of having 
a unified user experience between telecommunications device (running 
Windows Mobile), set-top box (running Vista), portable computer 
(running Vista), desktop machine (running Vista) and home media 
server/repository (running vista).  (Think iPod, iTunes, etc, integration)..

However, I assume they would like to do this in a "software 
controlled" environment (as opposed to a proprietary set-top box) so 
that they don't have to be in the hardware manufacturing business, 
but rather, providing firmware/software/UI that runs on an 
appropriate hardware platform that could be made in whatever cost 
cutthroat factory wants to.

This wouldn't happen unless the "content providers" (who currently 
benefit from very much locked in hardware solutions: cable TV boxes, 
etc) feel comfortable that nobody is going to be able to write some 
Vista application that "rips" that content into a freely 
distributable form.  This means very much controlling the hardware 
interface (so nobody can write a virtual layer that can "tee" off the 
protected content on it's way between, say, video decompressor and 
graphics card).

Obviously, the ability to run in a virtual machine inherently means 
that you've virtualized the hardware interface (something that was an 
essential part of Win NT from the get go, with the Hardware 
Abstraction Layer), and if you can do that, there's nothing stopping 
you from putting in a shim that siphons off whatever you need (unless 
you start encrypting the bus communications between CPU and graphics 
card, which is also contemplated...)

In a full-up business environment, MS isn't going to be under as much 
pressure from the content providers.. most corporate environments 
that fork out the bucks for Ultimate edition aren't going to be 
allowing their employees to randomly put protected mode drivers and 
such in, if for no other reason than their potential downside in a 
lawsuit is much larger.  But in the home market, MS is going to want 
to discourage running virtualized, except in a very constrained way.

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