Former Microsoft VP Explains Why Windows Vista Ended Up A Mess

Image: Andy Melton / Flickr

The writing may have been on the wall when Windows Vista was released to the public, but it's only after many, many years we're starting to hear the stories of those who worked on the ill-fated operating system, providing insight into exactly what went wrong. Like any complex project, there wasn't just a single point of failure.

Ben Fathi, who worked as VP of Windows Core Development at Microsoft during Vista's creation, recently shared his views on what went wrong with the OS.

While there were a number of contributing factors, he puts a lot of the blame on the quick turnaround of releases pre-Windows 7:

On average, a release took about three years from inception to completion but only about six to nine months of that time was spent developing “new” code. The rest of the time was spent in integration, testing, alpha and beta periods — each lasting a few months.

Some projects needed more than six months of core development so they proceeded in parallel and merged with the main code base when ready. This meant that the main tree was almost always in a semi-broken state as large pieces of functionality were being integrated or replaced.

He goes on to say that Vista was a wake-up call in this regard; when work began on Windows 7, "much tighter controls were put in place ... to ensure a constantly healthy and functioning code base".

Fathi also talks about how Microsoft got into trouble with anti-virus vendors when the company tried to lock down the OS:

In my role as the head of Microsoft security, I personally spent several years explaining to antivirus vendors why we would no longer allow them to "patch" kernel instructions and data structures in memory, why this was a security risk ... our "friends", the antivirus vendors, turned around and sued us, claiming we were blocking their livelihood and abusing our monopoly power!

It's a long read, but well worth it if you have any interest in the history of Windows, particularly the dark times of Vista.

What Really Happened with Vista: An Insider’s Retrospective [Noteworthy]


Comments

    The toxic culture at Microsoft couldn’t have helped. They had a system that automatically failed at least one worker in every group, who was, I believe, fired. As such, people in those groups would turn against each other to ensure they weren’t the one at the bottom. Very healthy.

    When Windows 7 came out, a manager working on it admitted they tried to copy the MacOS in term of ease of use.

    From memory, his bosses didn’t appreciate his candour.

    Last edited 04/02/18 7:54 am

    What ever changes they made were good, windows7 in my opinion has been their best release.

      Not going to lie I love how 10 just grabs any drivers it needs makes like so easy, I've installed a few 7 clean installs lately and you forget that you need drivers for the Ethernet port

      A lot of the stuff that made it into 7 was first introduced in, or at least mooted for, Vista. Many people don't have anything good to say about Vista but it was an important stepping stone between XP and 7.

    Vista did bring a lot of valuable features to the windows eco system and I feel like it came down to three things:

    1) people don't like change

    2) most home PC's at the time were too under powered to run it

    3) bugs

      It did bring a lot of features but in what more seemed a beta version.

      1) yeah true people don't always like change but when you change from something that works to something that doesn't people do tend to get annoyed.

      2) it's not that people's pc's weren't powerful enough, it's Vista was so inefficient. Requiring a faster pc to run it. The fix for a slow computer running Vista was to upgrade it to 7, being more efficient it ran so much better.
      The aero desktop in Vista was the killer, disabling it made a Vista system run a lot better, luckily they had it sorted for 7.
      3) yeah that's true.

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