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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Get technical: Shrinking Vistas for Microsoft’s latest OS

So you bought a "Vista Capable" system expecting all the whiz-bang graphics and other generally neat stuff. You extricated your new toy from the depths of the box, powered it on and sat, waiting for the glassy new interface to greet you.

Disappointment set in when you realized "Capable" means "this paperweight will run Vista, but it’ll look like XP."

What was the point of buying a whole new machine then?

Consumers were outraged, and now Microsoft’s karma is coming back to bite them.

In what appears to be a problem of executives cutting deals behind others’ backs, Intel was allegedly given special treatment, outraging Hewlett-Packard.

E-mails recently unsealed by a federal judge show a lack of communication led to the confusing terminology, according to

The problem lay in the new Windows Device Driver Model, a set of requirements for new machines’ hardware. In order to be "Vista Capable," a PC had to be compatible with the WDDM, which ensures that a computer could run Windows Aero interface.

Intel and HP took wildly different approaches to supporting the WDDM. HP did the responsible, forward-thinking thing and developed new graphics chipsets for its low-end desktops, compatible with the WDDM. Intel just kept its old hardware and complained a lot to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Windows Client Business Vice President Will Poole told Intel that Microsoft would drop the WDDM requirement from their "Vista Capable" specification, enabling Intel to keep their old hardware.

HP was furious. Having spent millions of dollars in research and development of new hardware to match the WDDM, they were suddenly undercut in the market, though the consumer wouldn’t get the same experience.

HP product manager Mike Ybarra sent an urgent e-mail to Jim Allchin, then in charge of Windows development, citing an agreement not to let Intel influence Microsoft’s WDDM decisions.

Allchin fired off an e-mail to Ballmer, saying he was "beyond being upset" and that Microsoft’s credibility had been shot, along with his own.

This mess has been a long time coming. First there was the fiasco about the umpteen million different versions of Vista and then the problem about Vista not working out of the box with some systems because of driver incompatibilities.

Microsoft and its manufacturing partners even went so far as to offer "downgrades" to Windows XP – though many argued Vista was the downgrade – and extended XP’s support cycle well beyond what was originally planned.

Even after all this, little has been done to placate consumers other than the "downgrades," many of which had to be purchased as an optional package.

On the other hand, this bizarre furball of executive mismanagement has only made Windows 7’s announced arrival even sweeter.

Next year’s Windows 7 release promises faster boot times, shut down times, and improved reliability.

Essentially written on top of Vista’s engine, 7 will be physically no faster than Vista, although efficiency will be much improved. Developers have put a lot of pre-planning into everyday tasks, making the whole system feel springier.

With Vista being such a failure, can 7 actually wash it from our minds and make its memory little more than a bad joke? If not, Microsoft may have some more serious competition from various distributions of Linux (Ubuntu being chief among them) and from Apple, who is readying OS X Snow Leopard as we speak.

Hang on to your hats, folks. This is going to be a rough ride.

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