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June 15, 2006

Vista’s dirty linen gets an airing

Posted by David Hunter at 12:00 PM ET.

Former Microsoft Windows development manager Philip Su unburdens himself about why Windows Vista is late with a post on his blog titled Broken Windows Theory:

Ask any developer in Windows why Vista is plagued by delays, and theyll say that the code is way too complicated, and that the pace of coding has been tremendously slowed down by overbearing process. These claims have already been covered in other popular literature. A quick recap for those of you just joining the broadcast:
  • Windows code is too complicated. Its not the components themselves, its their interdependencies. An architectural diagram of Windows would suggest there are more than 50 dependency layers (never mind that there also exist circular dependencies). After working in Windows for five years, you understand only, say, two of them. Add to this the fact that building Windows on a dual-proc dev box takes nearly 24 hours, and youll be slow enough to drive Miss Daisy.
  • Windows process has gone thermonuclear. Imagine each little email you send asking someone else to fill out a spreadsheet, comment on a report, sign off on a decision is a little neutron shooting about in space. Your innocent-seeming little neutron now causes your heretofore mostly-harmless neighbors to release neutrons of their own. Now imagine there are 9000 of you, all jammed into a tight little space called Redmond. Its Windows Gone Thermonuclear, a phenomenon by which process engenders further process, eventually becoming a self-sustaining buzz of fervent destructive activity.

I think I’ve heard this plot before, but how about:

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.

When a vice president in Windows asks you whether your team will ship on time, they might well have asked you whether they look fat in their new Armani suit. The answer to the question is deeply meaningful to them. It’s certainly true in some sense that they genuinely want to know. But in a very important other sense, in a sense that you’ll come to regret night after night if you get it wrong, there’s really only one answer you can give.

I believe the technical term for the latter is Complimenting the Emperor on his new outfit.

There’s much more by following the link with many details of Vista problems, but the main surprise is that mighty Microsoft is running into the software development pitfalls that afflict mere mortals. More commentary at Mini-Microsoft, Slashdot, and The Inquirer and I’m sure that’s just the start. One suspects that Mr. Su will find things a trifle hot, even though he is no longer in Microsoft’s Windows group.

Filed under Employee Retention, General Business, Microsoft, OS - Client, Windows Vista

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