Echoing my earlier comments about Windows Vista being a train wreck, Microsoft group vice president Jim Allchin walked into chairman Bill Gates' office in July 2004 and told him that the software project was horribly behind schedule and would never get caught up. "It's not going to work," he said, according to a report in "The Wall Street Journal." The problem was that<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />
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Despite my repeated efforts at getting Microsoft to speak on record about the events of last year, when the company halted development of Windows Vista--then codenamed Longhorn--so it could completely start over, from scratch, the software giant and its PR firm has consistently railroaded me and prevented me from sitting down with people who are knowledgeable about what happened. However, I had been briefed informally about these events, referred to internally as "the reset."
Contrary to the WSJ report, however, the reset was underway months earlier than July 2004. At the company's annual Windows Engineering Conference (WinHEC) show that April, Microsoft handed out a Longhorn build to developers that would be the last pre-reset version of the code to ship outside the company. Microsoft executives knew at that time that the development situation had spiraled way out of control, and that they would need to start over, scrapping much of the code that had already been developed.
According to the WSJ, Gates initially resisted Allchin's plan to reset
Previous to Windows Vista, Microsoft had developed new client and server versions of Windows fairly regularly, every few years. But the enormous laundry list of promised features in Windows Vista proved costly to the software giant. Originally due in 2003, Windows
How damaging has Windows Vista been to Microsoft? Allchin, the man mostly directly responsible for Windows development at Microsoft, will retire when the product ships. The entire Microsoft corporate structure has been reorganized to meet the company's new competitive needs, which only came to light when
Much of the problems are related to corporate culture, and that won't be fixed by Microsoft's recent reorganization. Microsoft is far too big a company with far too many levels of executives, to move quickly and seize on new market trends. Windows Vista, as a result, is fighting the OS battles of the last decade, reacting rather than being proactive and innovative. Mac OS X users, for example, can point to many of
All that said, Windows Vista is now on track. Current beta builds of the system show an OS that is far more similar to Windows XP, with fewer new features and a much less elegant interface, than originally planned. But it's a solid-looking release, and some of the upcoming consumer-oriented features, which Microsoft will reveal between now and the Beta 2 release in early December, are sure to wow users. Has Microsoft gotten its groove back? Not at all, and there are still huge changes that need to be made. But righting the ship for Windows Vista was a good first step.