Redesign needed under the hood, too

Tom Temin, Editor in chief

A press release last week from a PC manufacturer extolled the company's new desktop machine. It has a cooler-running chassis, uses new Intel technology for better networking and management, and sports numerous hardware innovations.

Exciting as these new machines can be, you turn them on and there it is'the same old operating system and dated browser that was shipped with machines three, four and five years ago.

It reminds me of when my dad got a new Buick LeSabre, all sleekly redesigned on the outside. Yet under the hood, there it was: the venerable pushrod V-6 that GM had been churning out for at least a decade.

This isn't a diatribe against Microsoft. Like that old V-6, Windows XP has become stable and reliable. But it doesn't really meet the needs of government in 2005 and beyond. I'm not sure any operating system does.

The chief requirement in so many people's work is data integration'plus the companion function of searching. But current search tools give you little insight into the gazillions of links they spit out. Mostly, they find irrelevant or marginally relevant links to text documents. Yet anti-terrorism, law enforcement and border security activities use multimedia files.

Nor do search tools integrate in any meaningful way with commonly used desktop suites. Even well-integrated systems are blunted by the 15-year old, file-based designs. Integrative technologies such as XML and data mining are thus largely unrealized.

Whether the next generation of Microsoft's flagship OS is totally new or just souped-up Windows, the whole integration problem remains bigger than Microsoft. I don't believe any single company should be expected to solve this problem. The world doesn't look to Proctor & Gamble to solve the universal problems of dirt, disease or ring-around-the-collar. Yet so many default to expecting Microsoft to solve the world's software problems. I'd be happy if they just put tabs in Internet Explorer.

The government's huge appetite and immensely important requirements should spur the whole industry to make software that hums with great new hardware.

Tom Temin
Editor in chief


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