Thursday, May 07, 2009

Doing New Things the New Way

There are two types of people in the world: Those who divide the world into two types and those who divide the world into more than two types.

Whenever possible, I divide the world into two types -- just to see how far we can go with a simple explanation. As you know from experience, the simplest explanation normally accounts for 80-99% of all cases.

Anyway, I got to thinking about Microsoft's cool new approach to Windows XP virtualization inside Windows 7. See
my client facing commentary on the whole mess.

There are old ways of doing things and new ways of doing things.

At the same time, there are old things to do and new things to do.

Luckily for a lazy blogger, this makes a very simple matrix. You can:

Do Old Things in the Old Way
Do Old Things in the New Way
Do New Things in the Old Way
Do New Things in the New Way

Sometimes, the most profitable place to be is doing things one-generation old with technology that's one-generation old. You avoid the "bleeding edge" technologies and you have an established base.

But you can't stay there. Whether you like it or not, time passes at one day per day, one month per month, one year per year. Moore's law has not been repealled. So technology time is much accellerated over "normal" time.

Here's a true story from my friend Bob:

    Bob goes into a client's office. They're making some changes and need to get a bunch of pictures (.jpg's) moved. What are these?

    Well, . . . Client needs to have quick access to her clients' financial documents. But she's successful, so she has lots of clients and lots of documents. So lots of documents go into storage.

    And . . . some time back they started taking pictures of every document before sending the paper off to storage. Kind of a make-your-own document management system.

    But then something happened to the camera. Bob suspects the chip filled up. :-)

    Then client brought in a different camera from home. One that takes nice 35mm pictures. Film.

    Now she takes pictures of the documents, has the film developed, puts the pictures on a scanner, and scans the documents into .jpg files for storage.

    No kidding.

I know this is an extreme example, but every step in the process is logical and made sense to the client. She got down this wrong road one logical step at a time.

Let's say that document management is the new thing. But doing document management the new way would involve a high speed scanner straight to pdfs with an indexing process. This client is doing new things a really old way.

Again, it's an extreme example. But the point is very simple: Doing new things the old way "works" but is never the answer you think it is.

Doing new things the old way wastes money, time, and energy.

Enter Windows 7 with XP Mode

What about doing old things the new way?

Microsoft is releasing Windows 7 with a virtual machine that will run Windows XP SP3. Why? Because there will always be luddites opposed to new fangled knitting looms.

Think about how this all came about. Microsoft spent millions of dollars developing a way to bow down to people who will not give up a 2002 operating system.

Those of us who have adopted Vista and are running W7 RC know a dirty little secret: It's almost impossible to find a program DOES work in XP and DOESN'T work in a newer O.S.

In other words, Microsoft is solving a problem that primarily exists in the world of perceptions.

But it's a problem for Microsoft!

So they're using the absolute newest way to do an old thing.

XP Mode (XPM) goes way beyond creating a VM and sticking an operating system into it. Realtime virtualization. Publish an application in XP and it's available in W7. Super cool new technology -- to do an old thing.

And now we come full circle.

It is just as wasteful, expensive, and unprofitable to do old things in new ways as it is to do new things in old ways.

We all need to move into the future -- into the modern era -- at our own pace. We need to do what's comfortable to us.

But we also have a responsibility to the client. Some folks (see Vlad's comments on previous post) are suspicious of the term "trusted advisor." But whatever you call it, you have a responsibility to do the right thing for the client.

Maybe the right thing is a seven year old operating system.

Maybe the right thing is a less secure operating system.

Maybe the right thing is a hobbled together, patched up, band-aided old operating system.

or maybe not.

When I consult with a client, I try to come up with the best long-term investment in technology. I honestly want to come back in three years and have them say "You gave us good advice last time and we trust you to do it again."

We're on the verge of an amazing new era with virtual technologies and utility computing. I've had preliminary sales discussions with clients about Data Center As a Service (see and using virtualization as part of same-day disaster recovery.

And then I have to sell an old operating system to a client who spends too much time watching TV and thinks "Mac vs. PC" explains his world.


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1 comment:

  1. Its good to read someone else say it- I've never found anything that didn't run under Vista that I ran under XP. I never even bothered with Compatibility mode. For that matter, I don't remember things not working under XP that worked under 2000 either. Even ancient old Win95 things seem to generally work- at least under 32 bit Vista (and Win7)


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