Home opinion-and-analysis Fuzzy Logic Is a modular Windows 7 in 2010 really such a good idea? No.

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Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley is suggesting that Windows 7 will be a modular operating system, with a central core that is the OS itself, with other modules to be separately installable. Why isn't this a good thing, and would it mean only ‘one’ version of Windows at retail?

There’s been a lot of talk in the last couple of days about Windows 7, due in 2010, being offered as a modular version.

Microsoft Watcher Mary Jo Foley has a blog posting about Windows 7 potentially going to pieces, while Ars Technica suggests that Windows 7 won’t just be modular but will have subscription elements, too.

If Windows 7 is modular, it could mean that you’d have the base OS, such as the ‘MinWin’ core that was suggested by Microsoft a few months ago, and on top of that, different modular parts. Foley suggests there could be a ‘mail, photo, video’ module, although in one way that sounds a little bit like iLife with only the photo and video bits.

There could be an Internet module that has a browser and mail. Yet another module might have Windows utilities.

Part of the reasoning for Microsoft doing this could be to get the DoJ and other regulatory authorities off Microsoft’s back for including so many different technologies into Windows itself.

Microsoft could also then start charging subscription fees for certain modules, such as an Internet security/anti-virus/anti-spyware module, much as they do now with Windows OneCare.

Another reason for going modular is to lower to attack vector for Windows, supposedly. Of course, if you have several or all of the modules loaded, it sounds to me like you get a wide attack vector back, but hey, it kinda sounds good – Windows isn’t as secure as Mac OS X or Linux, so why not give it a shot?

Some of this talk might be coming from Microsoft in an attempt to deflect attention away from the SP1 debacle, and Vista itself. Both have had horrible publicity, despite the fact that after a year’s worth of updates, Vista is actually Microsoft’s best operating system yet.

There’s also the chance that Windows 7 could be a single OS version. But if you then need to buy modules, some of which may, or may not be included in the retail version or on retail PCs, the add-on modules end up becoming the different versions of what you can get with Windows, rather than Windows 7 being one version itself.

It’s a bit like transferring the problem somewhere else – you still have the problem, however.

Please read onto page 2 to find out why Microsoft shouldn’t put all its efforts into modularising Windows 7 now, something I think spending a whole heap of effort on is just a monumental waste of time – and potentially very dangerous. Please read on.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

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One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks, including stints as presenter of Ch 10’s Internet Bright Ideas, Ch 7’s Room for Improvement and tech expert on Ch 9’s Today Show, among many other news and current affairs programs.