Why Did Vista Stink? Developers, Developers … - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
3/28/2008
10:01 AM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
Commentary
50%
50%

Why Did Vista Stink? Developers, Developers …

Microsoft wields incredible power in the computer industry. Still, when it comes to the image of its flagship operating systems, it is greatly at the mercy of third-party software developers. When users sit down to use Windows, the code written by Microsoft sometimes doesn't matter as much as the bugs left behind in poorly written applications and drivers. If a crash happens, the average user is more likely to blame "crummy Windows" than to figure out it's a bug with a device driver.

Microsoft wields incredible power in the computer industry. Still, when it comes to the image of its flagship operating systems, it is greatly at the mercy of third-party software developers. When users sit down to use Windows, the code written by Microsoft sometimes doesn't matter as much as the bugs left behind in poorly written applications and drivers. If a crash happens, the average user is more likely to blame "crummy Windows" than to figure out it's a bug with a device driver.We rarely get to hear Microsoft's side of the story on this; it doesn't want to publicly berate partners about software quality. Occasionally, though, some unvarnished truth gets through. For example, the folks at Ars Technica have been digging around in the Microsoft e-mails released as part of the "Vista Capable" lawsuit. (CRN has an in-depth story.) Those e-mails had some revealing information about the causes of Vista woes.

According to the Microsoft e-mails, Nvidia's drivers alone caused 28.8% of the crashes seen in Vista during the report period. (The report says only that it covers 2007, but it likely does not cover the entire year.) Microsoft drivers come in second at 17.9%, ATI is third with 9.3%, and Intel takes fourth place with 8.8%. Webroot Software, makers of an anti-spyware application, was next with 2.9%. All the other drivers, from hundreds of companies listed on the report, plus "Unknown", make up the other 32.3% of the crashes.

Cumulatively, this data shows that the Nvidia-ATI-Intel "Axis of Driver Evil" caused almost half of the crashes in Vista! What could Microsoft have done to prevent this problem? A longer beta period probably would not have worked. Vendors weren't going to get serious about making their stuff work with Vista until they were sure that Microsoft was serious about shipping Vista. (If this sounds like a game of chicken to you, then you understand the situation perfectly.) Reports from Nvidia users seem to indicate that their drivers are much better now, but the damage already has been done to Vista's reputation.

Vista's challenge to developers was in the multitude of new security and interface changes that happened "under the hood." Display drivers in particular got a totally new software interface called Windows Display Driver Model, or WDDM. Given the data, it seems likely that a lot of crashes were in drivers that used the new WDDM model. That should not be a surprise to Microsoft; it was a new software technology and nobody had experience with it.

If Microsoft wanted to improve Vista's quality, the best thing they could possibly have done would be to provide more support for driver developers. In particular, they should have carpet-bombed the major display hardware makers with assistance, treated them to "driver ed" classes, and even paired Microsoft experts with the hardware developers to make sure the drivers would be excellent. Or, as Steve Ballmer would say: "Developers, developers, developers, developers."

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

News
Remote Work Tops SF, NYC for Most High-Paying Job Openings
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  7/20/2021
Slideshows
Blockchain Gets Real Across Industries
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  7/22/2021
Commentary
Seeking a Competitive Edge vs. Chasing Savings in the Cloud
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  7/19/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Monitoring Critical Cloud Workloads Report
In this report, our experts will discuss how to advance your ability to monitor critical workloads as they move about the various cloud platforms in your company.
Slideshows
Flash Poll