Microsoft Vista: long-delayed and pared-down

“In 1975, Frederick Brooks published ‘The Mythical Man-Month.’ It had no right to succeed. The book detailed Brooks’ experience managing IBM’s bet-the-company System/360 computers and OS/360 software, and featured odd illustrations, an awkward title, and loads of jargon. Yet Brooks’ deconstruction of what went right and wrong became a must-read among tech and nontech execs; dog-eared copies are still passed around. The best known passages expose flaws in the then common use of ‘man months’—the tool (okay, gender-biased tool) for estimating project cost and length. A 12-man-month project might have three people assigned to it for four months; if delays set in, managers simply added more people. Brooks proved that doing so increased bureaucracy and training, leading to Brooks’ law: Adding people to a late software project makes it later. He also laid out new strategies for organizing teams and managing creative types. In November, Brooks, now 74 and since 1964 a computer science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explained in his Southern drawl why people still turn to his book for guidance,” Daniel Roth writes for Fortune.

A few excerpts:

If a project is already late and throwing more people on it is just going to make it worse, how do you solve the problem?
One is to officially slip the schedule. And officially doing it has many benefits over unofficially letting it slip. Peter Fagg, a really wise System/360 engineering manager, gave very sound advice: ‘Take no small slips.’ That is, if you’re going to take a slip, get everybody onboard, get organized, and take a six-month slip, even though you may at the moment feel as if you’re only four months late. The other obvious solution is to lighten the ship: Decide there are some things we’re not going to do. A third thing is to phase the work: Say, ‘All right, we’re going to do a version that has just the essentials for the most important or most numerous users.’ Meanwhile schedule and develop the things that should go in version 2 and ship them later.

Sounds like a recipe for Microsoft’s Vista, its long-delayed and now pared-down new operating system. Does it surprise you that the same mistakes are being made 30 years later?
No. People still build bridges that fall in. That art has two centuries of engineering practice behind it, if not three. The software engineering discipline is just plain younger than the electrical engineering discipline. So software is less mature than hardware, and by a whole generation of people. Also, the median age of the practitioners is probably younger.

What’s your computer setup today?
I happily use a Macintosh. It’s not been equalled for ease of use, and I want my computer to be a tool, not a challenge.

What do your former colleagues think of your being a Mac user?
I haven’t discussed it.

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews reader “drz” for the link.]

MacDailyNews Take: Frederick Brooks is a smart man.

The New iPod with Video. The ultimate music & video experience on the go. From $299. Free shipping.
Connect iPod to your television set with the iPod AV Cable. Just $19.00.
The New iMac G5. Built-in camera and remote control. From $1299. Free shipping.
Apple USB Modem. Easily connect to the Internet using your dial-up service. $49.00.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Microsoft Windows Vista compared to Apple Mac OS X – December 05, 2005
Thurrott: Microsoft may cancel Windows Vista Beta 2 in manic bid to keep Windows Vista on track – December 02, 2005
Gartner: Ignore Microsoft Windows Vista until 2008 (why not just get Apple Mac OS X Tiger today?) – November 12, 2005
Thurrott: Microsoft’s Windows Vista Beta 1 vs. Apple’s Mac OS X Tiger (Part 2) – November 29, 2005
Microsoft’s Windows Vista strives to deliver what Apple’s Mac OS X already offers – October 10, 2005
Thurrott: Microsoft’s Windows Vista Beta 1 vs. Apple’s Mac OS X Tiger – August 29, 2005
Apple to unleash Leopard on Microsoft’s Windows Longhorn; Mac OS X 10.5 due late 2006 – early 2007 – June 07, 2005
Thurrott: many of Windows Vista’s upcoming features appeared first in Apple’s Mac OS X – September 26, 2005
Microsoft’s Ballmer: It’s true, some of Windows Vista’s features are ‘kissing cousins’ to Mac OS X – September 19, 2005
Microsoft suffers from malaise, key defections, Windows Vista struggles, lack of towels – September 16, 2005
Microsoft’s Bill Gates’ prediction of Apple iPod market share decline fails to materialize – September 18, 2005
PC World: Microsoft innovation – an oxymoron – September 15, 2005
Microsoft debuts Dashboard Widgets, er, ‘Microsoft Gadgets’ – September 13, 2005
Microsoft appropriates Apple’s ‘brushed metal’ look for Office 12 for Windows – September 13, 2005
Apple to unleash Leopard on Microsoft’s Windows Longhorn; Mac OS X 10.5 due late 2006 – early 2007 – June 07, 2005
Windows tech writer Thurrott: ‘In many ways, Mac OS X Tiger is simply better than Windows’ – May 07, 2005
Bill Gates jokes about Mac OS X ‘Tiger’ and calls Apple ‘the super-small market share guy’ – May 03, 2005
Thurrott: ‘Longhorn is in complete disarray and in danger of collapsing under its own weight’ – April 27, 2005
Windows czar Allchin says Apple copying Microsoft’s Windows Longhorn – April 27, 2005
Thurrott: Longhorn ‘has the makings of a train wreck’ – April 26, 2005
Thurrott: Longhorn demos ‘unimpressive, fall short of graphical excellence found today in Mac OS X’ – April 26, 2005
Microsoft employees leaving due to (and blogging about) malaise smothering company – April 25, 2005
eWEEK Editor Coursey: Longhorn so far ‘looks shockingly like a Macintosh’ – April 25, 2005
Due in late 2006, many of Windows Longhorn’s features have been in Mac OS X since 2001 – April 25, 2005
Microsoft’s new mantra: ‘It Just Works’ ripped straight from Apple’s ‘Switch’ campaign – April 22, 2005
Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Microsoft’s Longhorn: ‘They are shamelessly copying us’ – April 21, 2005
Microsoft’s Windows Longhorn will bear more than just a passing resemblance to Apple’s Mac OS X – April 15, 2005
The Age: ‘Apple’s Mac OS X at least a generation ahead of Windows XP, iMac G5 clearly the best’ – December 15, 2004
Silicon Valley: Apple CEO Steve Jobs previews ‘Longhorn’ – June 29, 2004
Apple CEO Steve Jobs: Mac OS X Tiger ‘is going to drive the copycats crazy – June 28, 2004
Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs previews Mac OS X 10.4 ‘Tiger’ to ship in the first half of 2005 – June 28, 2004
Apple takes dead aim at Microsoft, ‘Longhorn’ with WWDC Mac OS X 10.4 ‘Tiger’ ads – June 28, 2004
PC Magazine: Microsoft ‘Longhorn’ preview shows ‘an Apple look’ – May 06, 2004
Microsoft concerned that Longhorn’s look and feel will be copied if revealed too soon – August 25, 2003
Windows ‘Longhorn’ to add translucent windows that ripple and shrink by 2005 – May 19, 2003
Apple leads; Wintel follows as usual – November 11, 2002


  1. Sounds like the story i’ve told PC friends young and old…

    when i was young and naive, i like pc’s cause i could build them, fix them, hack them, etc.. .but as i got older i just wanted a computer that worked, and not have to spend tons of time getting it to work

  2. I own the book. It’s an interesting read.

    I own an iBook, but also run a Linux (Gentoo)/Windows XP box. Linux box for messing around with setting up a server, and my iBook for doing work.

    MW: remember
    as in… “Remember when Longhorn/Vista was first announced? Hmm, that was a really long time ago.”

  3. Ha! Lord Byron hit the nail on the head. That’s my experience too. I learned everything good and bad about computing on a Windows PC. When I finally learned what I needed to do my work, I switched to a Mac and haven’t looked back. No more crashes, no more defragging, no more opening the machine to fiddle with jumpers, and fewer patches. I’m a happy camper and I get a lot more work done.

  4. The real difficulty for M$ in releasing ‘Longhorn’ aka ‘Vista’ on time is they obviously need to wait on Apple’s to release new features to market before they [M$] can copy the more compelling feature set. This has been the case for years.

    Secondly, unlike Linux and Darwin (OS X’s underpinnings), M$ OS is not open source. Therefore they have to labor at improving it by themselves. That is another reason why they have so many security issues.

    Linux comes out with major updates almost bi-anually and OS X around the same frequency. SJ doesn’t need to work on the plumbing like M$. So Apple resources are free to innovate on the GUI and iApps.

    Rock on SJ!
    ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”raspberry” style=”border:0;” />

  5. So, ahem, MDN, how delayed is Longhorn/Vista?

    When was “Longhorn” first mentioned, what was the original ship date, and what’s happened since then?

    I’ve lived through the details, I just can’t remember them at the moment.

    Thanks, I’ll listen for the answer.

    MDN MW: “problems” Really, I’m not making this stuff up!

  6. Here is a bit of trivia I learned from the Wikipedia article on Vista:

    “Build 5048 of Longhorn featured a red screen of death in addition to the blue one. It was dropped in Build 5112 of Windows Vista.”

    Because you get bored seeing the same old blue screen every time.

  7. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”gulp” style=”border:0;” /> I can’t get over this poor guy named “Peter Fagg”. Is that a joke? Seriously, how would you like to grow up with a name like that? All the schoolyard beatings he received must have toughened him up real good.

  8. (grump grump grump) If people are gonna make the VISTA acronym joke, I wish they’d get it right. “Viruses, Infections…” is redundant and just makes us look dumb. The original joke was “Viruses, Intrusions, Spyware, Trojans, Adware”.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.