Windows Is So Slow, but Why?
This article by the New York Times is quite interesting, and it looks at why Windows can be so slow. Before people jump the gun, it's not an anti-Microsoft, anti-proprietary article, read it if you want.
It says that one of the main reasons that Windows is so bloated (with Vista set to have about 4 times as many lines of code as XP) is that it keeps backward compatibility with old software and hardware.
The interesting comparison that they made here was with Apple and Mac OS. In 2001, Apple bit the bullet with Mac OS X. They basically rebuilt the whole operating system from scratch (OK, not quite, but you get the idea) and built it on a foundation of Unix. It was a major change in the way Mac OS worked, and none of the Mac OS Classic applications ran on it (you had to run a 'Classic' virtual machine).
XP was also a big step forward in the evolution of Windows, being the first consumer Windows OS to ditch the ageing 95/98/Me setup and go for a Windows NT-style setup. But the support for 95/98/Me applications is still there today, and although that is a good thing, it does make Windows more bloated, and hence slower.
I think that the question is, will Windows change like OS X did? With the release of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition (the version of XP for 64-bit processors) and with Windows Vista being released for both x86 (current generation Intel and AMD CPUs) and x64, we may well see older applications losing support and perhaps evolution on the Windows platform. Through that, Microsoft might not see the need to keep lines and lines of code to run legacy Windows applications, and hopefully, Windows speeds up a bit.
But will Microsoft ever do an OS X and completely overhaul everything? Will it be Vienna (the codename for the successor to Vista) that brings about this change? My answer, I don't know.