This is interesting. I just read that Microsoft is looking to buy Softricity. Softricity makes an interesting virtualization product that does “application virtualization”. Basically, you run only one OS, but each application runs in a protected “sandbox”. Each application can have conflicting DLL’s (for example), and are otherwise unable to affect each other. An obvious benefit from a stability and security standpoint, but they go further and use their technology to stream applications over the network to allow them to be installed “on demand”. It sounds interesting, and MS acquiring them would suggest we’ll be seeing this in future version of Windows or of SMS.
One of the things I’ve hated about having to move from a Mac to Windows at work is how completely kludgetastic the installation and management of applications is on Windows by comparison to the Mac. The example I always like to give people is that I was able to backup my Mac by merely copying my home folder and the Applications folder to an external hard drive. The I reformatted my Mac and was able to restore by just copying the home folder and Applications folder back to the local hard drive. With the exceptions of my Cisco VPN client and Virtual PC, Every single application on my Mac simply worked without a re-install. Compare that to the nightmare of trying to figure out where a Windows applications has dropped it’s bits and pieces around your system.
On the PC, it’s virtually impossible to move an application from one system to another or to restore an application that you’ve backed up. The result is that to move your applications to a new PC, to move them to a new hard drive, or to move them back to your system after reformatting is virtually impossible. Instead, you’ve got to go through the timeconsuming process of re-installing everything. This was painful enough back in the day when all apps came from physical media, but these days have the stuff on my computer is downloaded from the internet, and even those applications that did come on media (Windows, Office, etc) will require a lengthy process of downloading updates and service packs after I re-install them. It’s just so….. primative.
It sounds like the Softricity technology could potentially allow for application install/deinstall on Windows with a simplicity that’s at least similar to OSX app bundles, but with the added advantage of runtime isolation. We’ll see what the reality pans out to be.