How Windows Vista Became A Huge Mess For Microsoft

Windows 10’s software updates have become a bit of a disaster for Microsoft thanks to a spate of OS-borking bugs and equally problematic patches. It’s gotten so bad that each compulsory installation is now met with fear and dread from users.

But it could be worse. At least it’s not Vista.

The troubles currently plaguing Windows 10 got us to thinking about the company’s previous big OS fail – the endlessly maligned Windows Vista.

Even now, more than a decade after the operating system was discontinued, Vista remains a running punchline. So what went wrong?

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.

Last year, ex-Microsoft VP Ben Fathi revealed the myriad causes for the OS’ downfall in an epic blog post entitled: ‘What Really Happened With Vista: An Insider’s Perspective.

As the VP of Windows Core Development at Microsoft during Vista’s creation, Fathi was certainly well placed to witness 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]

This story haa been updated since its original publication.


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