What Comes Next for Jim Allchin

Post ImageI just read Jim Allchin’s final post over at the Windows Vista blog, and I have to admit, it’s kind of sad. He has been in charge of Windows development at Microsoft for so long, I’m sure he won’t know what to do with himself now. I mean, it must be pretty hard to go from running the Windows team to just relaxing, right? Running the Windows team has to be one of the hardest jobs around. They are always behind, always getting dumped on by the press, always fighting the bad guys, etc.

Jim’s post conveys this very well, with a funny overview of what a “typical day” might look like now that he’s retired. I guess he knows it’ll be hard to transition. This one is my favorite entry:

9:30 AM: Spent 45 minutes looking around the house for the big refrigerator with the free soda just like Microsoft – was unable to find it.

When I visited the Microsoft campus a couple years ago that was easily one of the coolest things. Big refrigerators all over the place with all the Coke you could ever want. It was wonderful!

Anyway, here’s my “thanks Mr. Allchin”. My fellow Windows fans and I appreciate all that you’ve done. And hey, no need to stop blogging! Start a personal blog!

Read: Vista Team Blog

Windows Vista available today

Post ImageToday’s the day. Windows Vista is now available in stores, ready for you to purchase. I went to Best Buy today (for something else, not for Vista) and I have to say, the Vista display was sad. There were only a couple boxes on the shelf, and one demo computer. More people were buying the WoW expansion than Vista.

I guess that is to be expected though. Most people will get Vista when they buy a new computer. That has caused some people to wonder why Microsoft has spent so much on advertising for Windows Vista. I think it’s a tactical move.

Here are some of the more interesting things I have come across today related to the Vista launch:

Joel is wrong about Windows Vista's off switch

Post ImageNormally I agree with what Joel Spolsky has to say, but not today. His latest article, Choices = Headaches, smells like a lame attempt to bash Windows Vista just for the sake of it. He takes issue with the “fifteen” ways you can shutdown Windows Vista, though only nine of those apply to non-laptops. Here’s what he says:

I’m sure there’s a whole team of UI designers, programmers, and testers who worked very hard on the OFF button in Windows Vista, but seriously, is this the best you could come up with?

Joel apparently doesn’t think you can just press the power button – yet that’s exactly what I’d bet most people will end up doing. You can read all about the power button in this CNET News.com article which, by the way, was published over a year ago. Here’s a choice quote:

And with Vista, Microsoft plans to make it so that a PC seems more like all the other consumer electronics out there. Pressing the power button will give users the feeling they are either turning the machine on or turning it off.

So it really is as easy as Joel would like. And for crazy people out there like myself who want all the shutdown options, they are still there, tucked away neatly in a little menu.

I guess Joel’s main problem is having too much choice. Personally, I’m a fan of choice. The research I have come across is pretty divided on whether choice does more good or more harm. That said, Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail certainly makes more choice seem like the way to go. His newest catchphrase – the economics of abundance – conveys this idea really well too.

Note: I haven’t tried Windows Vista since the early betas, so I don’t know if the power button functionality has changed or not, but I haven’t come across anything to suggest that it has. Joel doesn’t say anything about it in his post either.

You can read more about this story here and here.

Read: Joel on Software

Windows Vista RTM

Post ImageMicrosoft announced today that Windows Vista has been released to manufacturing. Everyone is thinking the same thing – finally! Here’s what Windows chief Jim Allchin had to say:

“It’s rock solid and we’re ready to ship. This is a good day,” Allchin said in a conference call. He said that Microsoft is releasing Vista in five languages. The French, Spanish and Japanese versions were actually signed off on before the English version, Allchin said.

Now that we have some concrete dates, let’s compare Vista to XP:

  • Windows XP was released 62 days after RTM. Windows Vista will be released 83 days after RTM.
  • When Vista is released, a total of 1923 days will have passed since the Windows XP release. A total of 4177 days will have passed since the release of Windows 95.

Sources: ActiveWin, Wikipedia

If you’re looking for some related Vista RTM coverage, here are a few good links:

I’m looking forward to giving Vista a whirl!

Read: CNET News.com

Dynamic multi-dimensional scrolling in Vista

Post ImageThe launch of Windows Vista is drawing near, so you might be wondering if it is worthy of your hard earned dollars. Ask someone to tell you about Vista, and they’ll likely tell you that it is more secure than XP and has much nicer eye candy. That’s all well and good, but what you really want to hear is that Vista has dynamic multi-dimensional scrolling. No really, that’s what you want to hear. Long Zheng has an awesome animation that compares the scrolling experience in XP with the new experience in Vista (if you’re too lazy to look, essentially Vista does horizontal scrolling for you automagically).

I can’t say it better than Long:

Is it a feature? No. Is it worth mentioning? No. Is it a selling point? No.

Does it deliver a great experience? Yes.

Assuming Vista contains many more of these little gems, you’ll want to spend your money on the new operating system.

Read: Long Zheng

Integrated Launch Day for Vista, Office, Exchange?

Post ImageMicrosoft sure seems to like integrated launch dates! I guess it works for them though – my recollection of the Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 launch day is that went very well and generated good press coverage for both applications (and not surprisingly, highlighted how well they work together).

There’s a story floating around today that Microsoft will ship Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange 2007 on December 5th. Apparently ZDNet have since taken down the article, and it isn’t clear why. Hence the question mark in the title of this post. I do think an integrated launch for the applications would be a smart idea though!

Here are some related news articles from today:

Windows Vista RC1 Released

Post ImageWell so much for beta 3 – Microsoft announced today the release of Windows Vista Release Candidate 1, a “near-final” test version of the oft-delayed operating system. I am not planning to download or install it, so I’ll be watching the usual suspects to see what they think of the release. Apparently it contains lots of improvements:

Youll notice a lot of improvements since Beta 2. Weve made some UI adjustments, added more device drivers, and enhanced performance. Were not done yet, however quality will continue to improve. Well keep plugging away on application compatibility, as well as fit and finish, until RTM. If you are an ISV, RC1 is the build you should use for certifying your application.

I hope they have fixed all or at least most of the big problems that testers were citing during the beta 2 phase. I have always said to delay if required, but still, I really want Vista!

Read: Windows Vista

Does Windows Vista need Beta 3?

Post ImageVia Scoble I came across a post by Robert McLaws, in which he states that Windows Vista simply isn’t ready to be released. He suggests that the team add a third beta and push the launch back another four to six weeks:

I’ve been defending Microsoft’s ship schedule for Windows Vista for quite some time. Up to this point, I’ve been confident that Vista would be at the quality level it needs to be by RC1 to make the launch fantastic. Having tested several builds between Beta 2 and today, I hate to say that I no longer feel that way.

Beta 2 was a disappointment on many levels. It was nowhere near as stable as it should have been, and was a huge memory hog. Later builds have improved stability and performance, and have introduced visual tweaks and enhancements that make Vista feel more like a finished product. But several events are conspiring to make life a lot more difficult for beta testers, and I forsee problems if they are not addressed.

He then goes on to detail each of the problems.

I’ve always been in the “don’t ship until it’s ready” camp, so I agree with Robert. I haven’t been testing Windows Vista (though I did install Beta 2 onto a virtual machine) so I can’t chime in with my own experiences, but Robert is an expert, he knows what he’s talking about. Additionally, he isn’t the only one sounding the warning bell – remember Chris Pirillo’s crazy interface posts?

When I get the final version of Windows Vista, I want it to blow me away. I want it to be the best version of Windows I have ever laid eyes on. I want it to be quick, responsive, and pleasantly surprising when I least expect it. I want it to be a solid, finished, and polished release. If adding another beta and delaying the launch is what it takes to get there, so be it.

Read: Robert McLaws

WinFS is no more

Post ImageWell this news sucks. The WinFS team at Microsoft has posted a new blog entry that sounds so positive, but really can’t hide the fact that WinFS is basically dead. Too bad they felt the need to spin this. For those of you that don’t know, WinFS was technology meant to bring the advantages of a database to your desktop.

Today I have an update about how we are delivering some of the WinFS technologies. It represents a change to our original delivery strategy, but it’s a change that we think that you’ll like based on the feedback that we’ve received.

With most of our effort now working towards productizing mature aspects of the WinFS project into SQL and ADO.NET, we do not need to deliver a separate WinFS offering.

As one commenter noted:

It sounds so positive. But it’s like giving a speech in front of the coffin. You just keep remembering the guy inside, and the more you do, the more you remember he’s dead.

What does this mean? Well, SQL Server will get some cool new technology built into it. Which is fine, except that the original promise of WinFS was to bring a database layer between your file system and you (basically a relational file system), meaning you could do cool things when looking for pictures or contacts or any file for that matter. It looks as though that kind of functionality will now remain a dream.

So WinFS is dead – for now. Similar technology was originally planned for the version of Windows code-named “Cairo”, which eventually became Windows NT 4.0. That operating system was released about ten years ago. It was in 2003 that plans for WinFS really started to heat up. Maybe they’ll try again in another seven years?

I am also wondering how much Windows Live factored into this decision. If Microsoft has decided that people are going to use services on the web to organize and store their data instead of their desktops, then it would make sense to focus on SQL Server and not bringing a database to Windows. I find it hard to believe that Microsoft would so completely abandon the idea of the computer being the central hub for you data, however. I guess time will tell.

Read: WinFS Team Blog

The Media Delayed Windows Vista

Post ImageI’ve been reading a lot lately about why people think Windows Vista has been delayed so many times. There tends to be a set of consistent theories that always appear in a discussion, which I’ll summarize here:

  • The software is too complex, with too many interdependencies that are confusing or not understood very well.
  • There is too much bureaucracy and too many levels of management which slows down the development process.
  • Microsoft started sharing information about Vista far too early which led to unreasonable expectations for the end product.

I think there is definitely some truth to all of these different theories, but I have another one. I think another significant reason Windows Vista has been “delayed” is the media. With all of the media coverage everytime there’s a change in the Vista release schedule, one can’t help but think that something must be horribly wrong for the operating system to have been delayed. I mean it makes CNN for crying out loud! Consider the following two things:

  • The average user still doesn’t really have a clue what Windows Vista is. They are pretty happy using whatever operating system they are currently using. I see this all the time when I help people with their computers and start talking up a feature of Vista. (And no, this doesn’t mean that we don’t need a new version, for the same reason that Ford still manufactures a new version of the F-150 every year.)
  • Despite all of the fanboys, the other operating systems haven’t done anything particularly special since Windows XP was released. The various Linux distros are still emulating Windows. Mac OS X has some excellent eye candy, but doesn’t stand out in any other way. Of course those last two statements are just my personal opinion, but proof is in the numbers – neither Linux nor Mac OS X have taken market share away from Windows (at least in the consumer space). People are not breaking down the doors of Best Buy to purchase a Mac.

Which means what? Basically, I would argue that if the media didn’t report on every single schedule change, most people could care less if Windows Vista was released in 2006 or 2008. With no pressure from rival operating systems, and the only loud customer request being security (which was the reason XP SP2 was such a big deal) there really isn’t a huge reason for Vista to be delivered right away, and thus no reason for anyone to be up in arms about it being delayed.

Keep in mind that this theory about the media being a reason that Vista has been delayed is largely focused on the consumer/business side of things. Developers, hardware manufacturers, and of course Microsoft’s shareholders all have good reasons for wanting the OS to come faster. I think I have a valid point though.