Attention Microsoftie Infidels!
The OS needs to be re-written from the ground up. You more or less pulled it off between 95 and XP, though let's face it: DOS is still at the heart of matters, HAL or no HAL. But now compatibility is easy: Anything that runs can run in the Virtual Server/Workstation. Yes, that would have to be partially rebuilt and recompiled but using that or a subset of it would let you start the OS all over and still keep most backwards compatibility.
You guys could go into hiding, declaring your intentions of starting anew. Everyone will wait. You can afford it. Those who are actually investors and not arbitragers will sit it out knowing they'll reap the rewards.
One hint: stop kissing RIAA's, the MPAA's and similar asses. They don't buy your software -- we do. The three biggest reasons people will continue to hate Microsoft OSes are: they get infected and crash easily, requiring another reboot and probably re-install; users have no idea what's actually going on and can't find out even if they're technically savvy; and you give control over files that I bought and paid for to a third party.
I'm a geek; I'm not terribly worried about the restrictions because even WMV10 has been dealt with. I can watch anything encoded in it using other software. But I can't fix Aunt Minnie' computer so she can do the same. If you give the users (not "consumers") what they wanted, you'll be able to drag the big companies who don't pay nearly as much as the users into the 21st century. They'll finally figure out a business model which suits them and the users.
Dammit. I didn't mean to go into a rant, but I've received quite a few private mails from Microsofties (and true to my word, I will never reveal sources) that I pretty much had to write this.
I don't think Microsoft is evil but I disagree with a lot that the company does and plans to do. Not I18N -- you guys are stars there. But the licensing and DRM and broken standards (thanks for fucking Kerberos!)... those are some of the things that beg people to hate you.
With the available cash, the company could take a hiatus for the next ten years, work with every new technology being developed, dictate to the chip manufacturer standards -- open standards -- to move computing forward, and everyone worth a shit would play along. I expect that's the reputation you'd rather have than the one you're currently saddled with.
Microsoft, you can change computing again. You keep changing it for the home user. How you do it next is up to you, but three years behind on Vista and almost every promise already broken as well as tease pushed back? What else is there for me to say?
Some of your managers deserve a giant, bold-faced 17 from me. And in Helvetica, not Arial.