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Heads Roll As Microsoft Misses Vista Target 386

Posted by Hemos
from the the-pressure-is-on dept.
A reader writes: "Business version is on time, but the company won't make the key holiday consumer sales season. After another delay in the release of its Windows Vista operating system, Microsoft last week put a new executive in charge of future Windows projects and replaced several other managers. The changes are designed to better align Microsoft's desktop and Internet software teams and get products to market faster." There's also a NY Times piece that discusses why Windows has been so slow (to come out). Worth the reading.
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Heads Roll As Microsoft Misses Vista Target

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:50AM (#15002231) Journal
    Either go to CNet's Hosting [com.com] of the article or use this login.

    Username: slashdot25
    Password: Slashdot

    The article in its entirety if you want to read it here:

    Windows Is So Slow, but Why?

    By STEVE LOHR and JOHN MARKOFF
    Published: March 27, 2006
    Back in 1998, the federal government declared that its landmark antitrust suit against the Microsoft Corporation was not merely a matter of law enforcement, but a defense of innovation. The concern was that the company was wielding its market power and its strategy of bundling more and more features into its dominant Windows desktop operating system to thwart competition and stifle innovation.

    Windows 95 had 15 million lines of code. That grew to 18 million lines by the time Windows 98 launched, above. Windows XP, released in 2001, has 35 million lines of code.

    Eight years later, long after Microsoft lost and then settled the antitrust case, it turns out that Windows is indeed stifling innovation -- at Microsoft.

    The company's marathon effort to come up with the a new version of its desktop operating system, called Windows Vista, has repeatedly stalled. Last week, in the latest setback, Microsoft conceded that Vista would not be ready for consumers until January, missing the holiday sales season, to the chagrin of personal computer makers and electronics retailers -- and those computer users eager to move up from Windows XP, a five-year-old product.

    In those five years, Apple Computer has turned out four new versions of its Macintosh operating system, beating Microsoft to market with features that will be in Vista, like desktop search, advanced 3-D graphics and "widgets," an array of small, single-purpose programs like news tickers, traffic reports and weather maps.

    So what's wrong with Microsoft? There is, after all, no shortage of smart software engineers working at the corporate campus in Redmond, Wash. The problem, it seems, is largely that Microsoft's past success and its bundling strategy have become a weakness. Windows runs on 330 million personal computers worldwide. Three hundred PC manufacturers around the world install Windows on their machines; thousands of devices like printers, scanners and music players plug into Windows computers; and tens of thousands of third-party software applications run on Windows. And a crucial reason Microsoft holds more than 90 percent of the PC operating system market is that the company strains to make sure software and hardware that ran on previous versions of Windows will also work on the new one -- compatibility, in computing terms.

    As a result, each new version of Windows carries the baggage of its past. As Windows has grown, the technical challenge has become increasingly daunting. Several thousand engineers have labored to build and test Windows Vista, a sprawling, complex software construction project with 50 million lines of code, or more than 40 percent larger than Windows XP.

    "Windows is now so big and onerous because of the size of its code base, the size of its ecosystem and its insistence on compatibility with the legacy hardware and software, that it just slows everything down," observed David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. "That's why a company like Apple has such an easier time of innovation."

    Microsoft certainly understands the problem, the need to change and the potential long-term threat to its business from rivals like Apple, the free Linux operating system, and from companies like Google that distribute software as a service over the Internet. In an internal memo last October, Ray Ozzie, chief technical officer, who joined Microsoft last year, wrote, "Complexity kills. It sucks the life out of developers, it makes products difficult to plan, build and test, it introduces security challenges and it causes end-user and administrator frustration."

    Last Mon
  • Re:Deja Vu? (Score:5, Informative)

    by porkThreeWays (895269) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:02AM (#15002307)
    here [slashdot.org] and here [slashdot.org]. It's comical really. The first story goes on and on and on how lean Microsoft has become with their new development process. Obviously little has changed. It's also comical that their solution to these sorts of things always seems to be a management shakedown. A shakedown doesn't really help anything if there is a deeper problem. In reality, it will probably just result in further delays.
  • by VikingThunder (924574) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:15AM (#15002381)
    Actually, if you remember, there is no 60% code rewrite. That was some BS Smarthouse made up, and everybody else sourced it.
  • Re:Mty suggestions (Score:4, Informative)

    by meringuoid (568297) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:21AM (#15002424)
    Or, get someone with a trackercord of delivering a modern OS. Like Maybe Linus.

    What the hell does Linus know about delivering a modern OS? He's a Unix kernel guru. I doubt the kernel is what's giving Microsoft problems.

    Now, maybe they could get in touch with RMS instead? After all, the OS based around Linus's kernel is mostly of his creation... Or maybe not. Though it would be amusing to read the reports in the news of Windows users' heads exploding the day after they find that their new Windows shell was in fact xemacs.

  • by segedunum (883035) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:28AM (#15002483)
    Plain and simple. I remember when Windows 2000 came out, and that was hyped to the hills as the most secure and high quality Windows that was really going to replace Unix everywhere. Funnily enough, the hype sounded like Vista now. There was an article in 1999 that described their development process, how they were redesigning Windows for security, (just like with Vista!) and God, is it a mess. It is just a massive production line where code is committed by programmers with little regard as to whether it will conflict with changes other people are making. It gets shipped off to the testers, they test some build, OK it and then another team commits code that breaks it in the next testing cycle and build. They then rinse and repeat this process until it seems to work. Small wonder they need so many programmers and people involved as well as the huge amount of time that takes.

    I hate to bring up Apple, but look at their OS. They've put an awful lot of features into their software, with less programmers and with much more of an idea of what they want to achieve - and I think that last point is the key. It just sounds as though some marketing people at Microsoft have been moving the goalposts shouting "Right, we need seven versions to extract more money!", "Oh right, now we're doing media!", "We're doing 3D eye candy!", "We're doing TV!", "We want support for new DRM hardware to please film studios!", "We want integration with some pointless app for social networking!" etc. etc. It seems to me that no one has drawn up a set of proper requirements for Vista. I get the Vista betas through MSDN, and honestly, I just cannot see how they couldn't have achieved where they got to now by evolving from Windows XP SP 2 and 2003 in a far shorter timescale and then building other products and components on top of it when it got finalised.

    Two-fold, on top of that, I'm also convinced that because of all those teams putting code into Windows, and having Windows interoperate tightly with other components and products and vice-versa, Microsoft are having very serious integration and communication problems. What's that saying? Nine women can't have a baby in one month? It seems as though Microsoft's "let's just throw programmers at it" strategy is doomed now and post-Vista, and they're going to have to work out what they're going to do. The big problem is, Microsoft don't know how to develop any other way, and changing a few managers around will change nothing.

    Computers that do speech? Intelligent systems? A digital home? Media systems running Windows? Flat touch-screen panels running Windows in every area of your house? On top of developing a base version of Windows, Office, development tools.....all inter-connected?! Fat chance. There's no way they'll be able to co-ordinate that kind of development complexity with the kind of absolute reliability that's demanded there. Windows still has a future, obviously, but I'm sorry to tell Microsoft that they're not going to be leading us into this new brave world they think we're going to buy into.
  • by QuantGuy (654249) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:29AM (#15002496)
    Mod parent UP! Heads have most pointedly NOT rolled. Jim Allchin is still employed by the company, and will be there until his scheduled retirement. None of the management team in charge of the development of Windows have been fired. Ballmer is still running the joint. Gates is still "chief software architect", in spite of the fact that the glorious innovations he dreamed up, like the relational-database file system (WinFS) and the next-gen API (WinFX) have been gutted from Vista. Microsoft has just shuffled around the senior executives a bit. How this could possibly be interpreted as "heads rolling" is beyond me.
  • Not so for me. I have seen countless reboots from XP taking a hike in mid air. The difference is you dont notice most crashes since nothing tells you the darn crap has crashed. It just throws its hands in the air cycle itself. What a way to get rid of BSOD, perform harakiri instead of showing the bluscrean.

    XP is better than crash_every_single_keyboardklick but its not that stable. Im not impressed until Windows is better than Linux or *BSD. Why shouldnt something i pay good money for be much better than something free?
  • by TrappedByMyself (861094) on Monday March 27, 2006 @10:53AM (#15002680)
    I have heard rumors that one of the reasons that Vista was not ready, was Microsoft's attempt to use "dot net", basically an virtual-machine based (interpreted) language similar in many aspects to Java, but the resulting code was huge, slow, and simply put - useless. Do these rumors have any basis?

    What the hell are you talking about? .NET has been out for years, as have applications written for the .NET platform. What does this have to do with Vista? Some bozos thought Vista was going to be written in C# or some nonsense like that, which may be the crap you're hearing.

    The reason I'm asking this is that I am getting the feeling that while companies (like the one I work for) love to code in Java, the users actually hate the resulting software, saying something like "Wow, this is nice software, but it's so easy to see it's written in Java - it takes half a gig of memory for doing almost nothing.

    Then your developers suck ass. The performance issues associated with Java are 99% usually because of Swing. The devs should be refactor the code to deal with the performance issues, or look at an alternative like SWT. I'd also recommend wxWidgets, but a majority of younger Java developers will burn from lack of experience if tossed into the C++ fire. As for .NET, a C# desktop application performs pretty well. Much closer to a C++/MFC app as opposed to a Swing app.
  • by Tim C (15259) on Monday March 27, 2006 @11:56AM (#15003245)
    To be fair, you're forgetting two things.

    1) Apple has complete control over the hardware, which simplifies development and testing enormously. Even if it's possible to run OS X86 on non-Apple hardware, they can completely ignore it from a QA point of view.

    2) Apple supports three form-factors - desktop and laptop for OS X, and server for OS X Server. MS has tablet, media and embedded versions of Windows because they support tablet PCs, media centre PCs and embedded devices. XP Pro 64 isn't entirely fair either, as it's only available OEM and it's only relatively recently that PCs have been available with 64 bit processors (another consequence of not controlling the hardware) A fairer comparison would be the various editions of Windows Server, not all of which (eg Data Centre) are due to legitimate hardware differences.
  • by seven of five (578993) on Monday March 27, 2006 @02:23PM (#15004387) Homepage
    Backward compatibility is not the problem.
    From early on the main goal of MS software was to "burn cycles". As Intel churned out ever faster processors something had to greedily consume those cycles, keeping the customers on the upgrade treadmill forever. MS software ensured that the latest generation hardware was just good enough, but the next gen of software brought the hardware to its knees.

    So, what do you get after 20 years of bloatware and burning cycles? A monster that's become impossible to manage. A monster of their own creation.
  • by Jozer99 (693146) on Monday March 27, 2006 @03:55PM (#15005155)
    Really now? Last time I checked, TV tuning on mac was pretty crappy. You have 2 or 3 tuners, overpriced, and the only software is from EyeTV, as far as I can tell, its pretty low quality compared to most Mac software (I will admit that Mac software is in general better than PC software), and has bascially the functionality of free programs such as Haupaggue WinTV, or DScaler for Windows or Linux. EyeTV in no way competes featurewise with media center, while costing almost the same amount (eyetv + tuner cost more than MCE OS). True, you guys have that new app on the new intel macs, but you can't watch or record TV in it, which is the feature I use most on my MCE PC. Dual tuners, HDTV? Don't think so...
  • by jesterzog (189797) on Monday March 27, 2006 @05:02PM (#15005778) Homepage Journal

    I'll readily admit that I don't much like Microsoft or their software, but they must be commended upon their due diligence on this one aspect. A lot of software from Windows 3.0 can still run on XP.

    This is true for the most part, but personally I've also felt that the problems with maintaining backward compatibility have been a result of Microsoft's decision to produce closed source software, and to encourage other developers and businesses to copy their model. (ie. Hide your source so people can't read it, charge people to install and continue using your software, and don't let anyone use or improve on your code.)

    With closed source software applications, any or all of the following are typically necessary when the OS is upgraded:

    • Pay for any software application upgrades.
    • Rely on a third party vendor to still exist to create new versions.
    • Rely on a third party vendor to support software upgrades.
    • Rely on the OS vendor to support old versions of an un-told number of applications.

    In essence, every time Microsoft changes Windows, its customers either have to rely on Windows having backward compatibility, or they have to rely on the vendors of all their software... even if the underlying API changes have been trivial. There's also a single point of failure because if the vendor doesn't fix any problems properly, there's no opportunity for anyone else to do it better.

    Compare this with open source software, where even though the OS API's tend to be a little more stable, it's still quite straightforward to upgrade to new versions of software when the API's do change. If the vendor of an OSS product doesn't do it quickly enough, and their product is popular enough, chances are that someone's at least going to produce a patch. There's rarely such a thing as a vendor going out of business and causing major problems, because at someone else is likely to pick it up if enough people use it, or provide an easy-to-implement alternative that'll simply read data from the original app's open formats.

    I'm definitely not trying to claim that open source is superior to closed source for everyone, and I doubt Microsoft could have been such a commercially successful company if it'd built itself on open source software. Having said so, though, I think the backward compatibility issues are a direct result of Microsoft promoting closed source software. It's not something that's even a consideration with open source users for the most part, and Windows wouldn't have to be anywhere near as backward compatible if it was easier to adjust and upgrade the applications that run on it.

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