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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Vista not even widely understood in Microsoft

Slashdot It! Even internally, Microsoft couldn't agree on what the base requirements to run Vista were, but that didn't stop it from inaccurately promoting the OS as running on some hardware, new email evidence in an ongoing consumer class action suggests. What do the latest revelations mean for the future of Vista? Ever since Vista was placed on a firm release schedule, Microsoft has adopted a united front when it comes to explaining the multiple flavours (Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise and Ultimate). Each had clear benefits and a well-defined set of hardware requirements; consumers could choose the option that met their performance and budgetary needs. To get the souped-up interface known as 'Aero', Home Basic wouldn't be any good, but it still offered some improvements. Microsoft's external front might have been firm, but internally there were endless arguments over whether that strategy was appropriate, and how much PC manufacturers were going to get annoyed by the shifting requirements and endless delays. That information has emerged as a result of court documents filed in a US class action which argues that systems labelled as Vista-ready and sold in the months prior to Vista's official debut were not in fact capable of running the OS. Microsoft is always in something of a no-win position when it comes to minimum system requirements. If it specifies huge hardware needs, then the opportunity to sell upgrades is reduced since most existing PCs can't handle the new version. If it sets a minimal baseline platform, then it's difficult (though arguably not impossible) to add any features that make upgrading worth the hassle and risk. But the worst-case scenario - the one that increasingly looks like the most plausible explanation for what happened with Vista - was that it dithered so much over which path to take that neither new system buyers or upgrading owners were satisfied with the outcome. The end result was an unprecedented number of versions of Vista (including the Aero-free Vista Home Basic) and a bunch of programs designed to stop PC sales tanking while the code was endlessly tinkered with. Whether the class action succeeds or not, the 158 pages of email evidence released this week (even with numerous redacted pages) shows the internal challenges Microsoft faced in getting the software off the ground, and balancing the apparent hardware requirements of the new OS with what hardware vendors were currently selling and planned to sell. Even MS executives in the Windows group had trouble comprehending whether or not Vista could easily run on a given hardware combination. "Is it true that Vista Ready doesn't necessarily mean Aero capable?" senior VP for Windows engineering Steven Sinofsky asked in one email. Microsoft's preferred strategy would have been to set much higher graphics requirements for Vista, regardless of the consequences in terms of partner relationships. "Originally we wanted to set the capable bar around Aero but there are a bunch of reasons why we had to back off . . . a bit messy and a long story," general manager of the Windows Client Product Management Group Brad Goldberg wrote. Some PC manufacturers took a similar view. "The bar was set too low when Aero was dropped as a requirement for Vista Capable," an internal Dell analysis (also included in the evidence) concluded. "Set and keep the configuration bar high or don't bother." Dell planned to offer only some versions of Vista, arguing that too many options would confuse consumers. In the end, however, the need to placate other hardware vendors became a major factor -- particularly Intel, which was keen to keep selling its 915 graphics chipset, which couldn't handle Aero at that point. "In the end, we lowered the requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with 915 graphics embedded," general manager John Kalkman wrote. "It was a mistake on our part to change the original graphics requirements." Via APC Get Daily Updates via Email Protect your computer with Windows Onecare Get paid $7.50 for reviewing my post Ad Space

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