Microsoft GUIs (was: The end to all language wars and the great unity API to come!) (OT)

Chris Angelico rosuav at
Wed Jul 6 06:25:56 CEST 2011

On Wed, Jul 6, 2011 at 2:13 PM, Andrew Berg <bahamutzero8825 at> wrote:
> On 2011.07.05 09:31 PM, Chris Angelico wrote:
>> I've said for a while that Microsoft could do far worse than to turn
>> Windows into a GUI that sits on top of a Unix-derived kernel. They
>> won't do it, though, because it would be tantamount to admitting both
>> that Unix is superior to Windows, AND that Apple got it right.
> In my experience, it's been the GUIs that are awful and the backend
> stuff that's been good in Windows.

Suppose I gave you a computer that had GNOME ported to Windows, and
used the purplish palette that Ubuntu 10.10 uses, and had a Windows
port of bash as its most convenient terminal. Members of this list
will doubtless have no problem duck-typing that as a Linux box (to the
extent of being quite surprised on seeing something that functions

What is Microsoft selling? They're a company, which means they need to
keep selling stuff year after year. What's saleable in Windows? Is it
the kernel? Maybe, but only by its specs. Far more saleable is the
user-facing parts of the system. Sell them a pretty new GUI with
transparent windows. Sell 'em a fancy new Office that looks and feels
different. Sell a development package that lets programmers use these
same facilities in their own code.

(And of course, sell them bug fixes, by declaring end-of-life on older
products and forcing everyone to move up. But that's different.)

Since XP, the Windows kernel has been mostly reliable. I've had
programs go wrong, and (eventually) managed to kill the process, upon
which everything cleans up fairly nicely. Not that that's really a
boast-worthy feature; I'd call it mandatory these days.

The main reason I would recommend unifying kernels is simplicity. Let
Microsoft play with, and sell, pretty GUIs and pretty apps. Let
someone else worry about what's underneath. As an advantage, it would
then become possible to buy a copy of Windows, run it *under Linux*,
and treat it like a VMWare window.

But it's not likely to happen, and I'm not 100% convinced it'd really
be a good idea (see DNS root servers argument from earlier). It would
make cross-compilation a lot easier, though!

Chris Angelico

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