Microsoft's new (dim) horizon
First of all, it's no big secret that Microsoft recently announced its next version of Windows. Formerly codenamed "Longhorn" it will now be called Windows Vista, as in the Italian word for view, such as one would see by looking out of a window (Microsoft is so clever). Previously though, Microsoft had slated this version for release during 2005, but on their Vista announcement page it says that it will not be available until 2006.
This comes hot on the heels of the recent announcement that Microsoft has partnered with the Web Standards Project in order to ensure that Internet Explorer 7 does not continue to be the worst browser on the planet. However, in typical style, Microsoft has made it clear that this "free" upgrade to IE7 will be available only to users of Windows XP. This seems to me like one more pathetic attempt to force users to buy Windows XP rather than wait for Vista.
The Mozilla Foundation appears to be undaunted by this announcement, and expects Firefox to dominate the Windows 2000 market (sources: 1, 2). The the official build version for 2000 is NT 5, while XP is just 5.1, so the actual differences (aside from the plastic skin) are negligible. Therefore it is unlikely that the average user will shell out additional funds just for XP / IE7. What will happen is that as Firefox continues to improve over IE6, the differences will become all the more glaring on a Windows 2000 machine.
With the delayed release date of Windows Vista, and the general strong-arming of IE users, it will be interesting to see how many more users make the "switch" to Apple computers. OSX already clearly blows away XP in a side-by-side comparison (not to mention Safari kills IE), and it can only get better with time. For Microsoft, is this new version too little, too late?
Only time will tell, but this much is certain - the glory days of Microsoft have passed. No longer do they dominate the operating system and browser market. They let their company stagnate, hoping that they would continue on mere name-recognition, but open-source has begun to chip away at their narcissism. Will WaSP bring new life to Microsoft? Don't hold your breath.