Why Windows Vista continually slips

“Vista has suffered a series of high-profile delays, including most recently the announcement that it would be delayed until 2007. The largest software project in mankind’s history now threatens to also be the longest,” Philip Su blogs. “I managed developer teams in Windows for five years, and have only begun to reflect on the experience now that I have recently switched teams. Through a series of conversations with other leaders that have similarly left The Collective, several root causes have emerged as lasting characterizations of what’s really wrong in The Empire.

“Ask any developer in Windows why Vista is plagued by delays, and they’ll say that the code is way too complicated, and that the pace of coding has been tremendously slowed down by overbearing process,” Su writes. “But that’s not where it ends. There are deeper causes of Windows’ propensity to slippage.”

“Deep in the bowels of Windows, there remains the whiff of a bygone culture of belittlement and aggression. Windows can be a scary place to tell the truth,” Su explains. “Every once in a while, Truth still pipes up in meetings. When this happens, more often than not, Truth is simply bent over an authoritative knee and soundly spanked into silence.”

“There are too many cooks in the kitchen. Too many vice presidents, in reporting structures too narrow. When I was in Windows, I reported to Alec, who reported to Peter, to Bill, Rick, Will, Jim, Steve, and Bill,” Su writes.

MacDailyNews Take: Too many cooks in the kitchen is the overall problem with the entire “Wintel” hegemony. Several outfits make the hardware, more often than not on razor-thin margins, another tries to make the OS, another one makes one peripheral, and so on, and none of it works together smoothly. Big surprise.

Su continues, “We shouldn’t forget despite all this that Windows Vista remains the largest concerted software project in human history. The types of software management issues being dealt with by Windows leaders are hard problems, problems that no other company has solved successfully. The solutions to these challenges are certainly not trivial. An interesting question, however, is whether or not Windows Vista ever had a chance to ship on time to begin with. Is Vista merely uncontrolled? Or is it fundamentally uncontrollable?”

Full article, once removed by Su and now restored (explanation in full article) here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “DreamTheEndless” for the heads up.]

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Related articles:
Computerworld: Microsoft Windows Vista a distant second-best to Apple Mac OS X – June 02, 2006
Mossberg: Apple’s end-to-end model beats Microsoft’s component model in post-PC era – May 10, 2006


  1. Why Windows slips?

    MS almost single handedly defined BLOATWARE.

    Vista is their ultimate statement of hugeness.

    Millions of lines of legacy code down in the bowels of a massive lumbering beast.

    Mmmmmm, sounds great, I want some of that…. NOT!

  2. Lou —

    Microsoft already did, once, with Windows NT 3.5. Completely new OS from the ground up. (I know a source working at Digital at the time that says Microsoft simply bought the core of an experimental new version of VMS and put the Windows look and feel on it; whether that’s true or not, the hand of Dave Cutler is apparent in it.)

    Then in NT4 they made it look like Windows 95. Windows XP, as you can find if you dig into the right About and Properties panels, is Windows NT version 5.1.

    They probably ought to do it again, but from what it sounds like their problems are not really technical but managerial. The sales guys are running the company.

  3. “Deep in the bowels of Windows…”

    Thank you, MDN for not putting a picture of Steve Balmer after that line… (Though, it’d be hilarious)

    I agree with SU and MDN’s take on this one. It’s simply a beast that’s gotten too big, with too many trying to control it’s destiny, all the while being chained to the Past. Microsoft cannot afford another “Revision” of Windows. Once Vista ships, if it ever does, it simply must copy Apple one more time, and break completely with it’s past in order to move forward. Have a “classic mode” for more recent legacy apps, but for God’s sake Redmond, you have to tell people still running Windows95 to put the past to rest and move forward.

    The question is…can they?

  4. That’s a golden opportunity for Apple. I hope they’ll have the guts to take some risks and steal market from MS. Bootcamp is a step in that direction. Let’s see what’s next.

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