Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageEXCLUSIVE: Microsoft Shows Off an Impressive Windows Vista, But Are the Holes Fixed and Will it Be Delayed Again?

By Christopher Hogg     Jun 23, 2006 in Technology
In January 2007 Microsoft plans to launch its new operating system, Windows Vista, and usher in a new era in product quality, customer satisfaction and software market share. Digital Journal met up with Microsoft to discuss delays, security problems and what the company plans to do to save itself.
Digital Journal — “We are still planning to launch [Windows Vista] in January but sometime in Q1 is expected,” Barry Goffe, Director of Windows Product Management, tells me. “It’s quality-driven, not date-driven.”
His response suggests more delays with Vista, and it’s the type of non-answer that all Microsoft execs now live by — they’re wishy-washy but cover every base in the event the company delays the launch again.
But then Goffe surprises me. In a downtown Toronto boardroom where he met Digital Journal to demonstrate new features of the upcoming Windows Vista, we discuss the heavily-reported fact that Microsoft is having difficulty sticking to a release date. He refuses to commit the company to a January launch, saying, “I wouldn’t bet my kid’s life on it.”
It’s something I never expected to hear uttered from anyone that works for the Redmond-based software giant. And while I give credit to Goffe for having the guts to have a sense of humour when talking about the uber-sensitive release date issue, it’s unfortunate that one little joke sums up the whole problem with Microsoft: They can sometimes have difficulty doing what they say they will.
Goffe works in Washington on the product management team for Vista. His group owns the SKU strategy that must define the number of unique audiences that will want to use Vista. He’s one of many that believe Vista should be launched in six different editions.
“We heard some criticism about offering six editions,” Goffe says, “but it’s the same as Windows XP. They’re just organized differently.” Goffe says it is difficult to say which version most people will want, because fewer than 10 per cent of consumers usually adopt new operating systems when they are first released. With so many security changes and upgrades, Goffe says Microsoft believes the business sector will be the first to move to Vista.
“There’s a lot of stuff under the covers that are really important to business customers,” Goffe says. “We have made significant changes with the OS and made it much more secure.”
While the jump from XP to Vista might not be as dramatic as the change from Windows 98 to Windows XP, Vista includes a lot of cool features

Ah, the primary suspect: Security. These days it seems that the word “security” means “patch holes” to Microsoft. With XP, security has been a nightmare as the Swiss cheese operating system has been a playground for hackers, viruses and worms. And with a long track record of problems, it’s going to mean many people will doubt Vista is as safe as Microsoft claims.
When asked about how Microsoft plans to quell fears of the doubters, Goffe says, “I would never stand up and say it’s perfect. It’s software — it’s 50 million lines of code. No software is perfect.” But even though it’s not perfect, Goffe says Vista is very secure.
Before XP service pack 2, Microsoft would build software, send it out, get reports of problems, fix them and then release a patch. It is a nasty cycle for any company, but especially awful when hundreds of millions of people rely on that flawed software.
Goffe says Microsoft has used an entirely different approach to the development of Vista than it has for previous operating systems. “We were on a treadmill and we realized we had to get out in front,” he says. “We went beyond fixing problems — we designed walls so that if a problem exists, it will be contained inside a certain area of a computer and not allow anyone to hijack the entire system.”
What Goffe says sounds great. If it works. He explains that Vista has an incredible level of artificial intelligence built-in, meaning that if a hacker takes over a function of the PC, Vista is smart enough to monitor the system on its own, investigate suspicious actions and shut down applications if it finds strange activity.
And rather than having so many programmers work on one giant piece of code, Goffe says Vista has been broken down into segments which mean the final product is far more secure. The decentralization of development is not a new idea, but a needed one for Microsoft. It’s a page out of the open source playbook, as any programmer will tell you it’s foolish to approach that much code as one colossal entity.
And like so many things in Vista, Microsoft talks about the idea of decentralized development as though it invented it. When Digital Journal’s Vice President of IT, Alex Chumak, told Goffe it sounds very close to open source development, Goffe scoffs at the idea, saying, "Open source lacks Vista's level of quality and security checks," he said.
For example, on any current Windows-based PC, the system core executes hundreds of services, including printing and networking. Problems with XP have included the fact that a worm or computer virus could exploit one of these services and make the print service talk to the hard drive and erase it or steal its data. It was just one of the many holes in Microsoft code that meant the company had to constantly provide patches. In Vista, Microsoft says a lot of fixes have been made.
During our meeting, Goffe also demonstrates a plethora of bells and whistles that are very impressive. For example, Vista allows users to do far more effective searches, including adding keywords to metadata of JPEGs so that the OS can find any photo buried anywhere on the PC without having to rely on the file's name or location.
Vista also allows users to do quick photo editing, changing contrast, brightness and everything else Paint failed to address in previous versions of Windows. The new photo editing tools are unique, in that you also don't have to save every change and select folders to store updates — simply click "back" and it auto-saves. Vista also preserves the original photo so that no matter how many changes you make, you can always revert back to the original.
Many of Vista's other functions behave the same way, meaning the improvement over XP is great because a user isn't forced to purchase a whole bunch of third party software to do basic day-to-day tasks.
No doubt, Vista looks like a really great upgrade from XP. While the jump from XP to Vista might not be as dramatic as the change from Windows 98 to Windows XP, Vista includes a lot of cool features. Many are very similar to those you can currently get on a Mac, with some tweaks and changes.
But going forward, security is probably the biggest issue. Goffe sells the product well and is convincing when he says Vista will begin a new era for Microsoft and patch up the negative reputation the company has been given.
From what he showed us, Goffe might be right. Microsoft just has to get Vista released in time to prove it.

The Six Windows Vista Editions Explained:
Goffe says the problem with the way SKUs are organized today is that there is a lack of variety and explanation — consumers see XP Home and XP Professional and that is about it. “In Vista, we try to look at what scenarios customers will want and build good/better/best choices with naming that will make it more obvious.”
To better explain what each Vista edition will provide, here is a quick breakdown:
  • Windows Vista Starter is designed to allow families and new PC users to learn how to use computers to maximize educational benefits that PCs and the Internet have to offer.
  • Windows Vista Home Basic will cater to users who only browse the web or check email.
  • Windows Vista Home Premium will add on to Basic by offering a whole bunch of digital media capabilities including DVD authoring software that lets users burn in high definition.
  • Windows Vista Ultimate will take Home Premium and Business tools so that a user’s PC can be geared toward use at work, home or when travelling.
  • Windows Vista Business is the new version of XP Pro, but Goffe says the company learned that people didn’t like the word “pro” in the title of the previous OS because it made small business think it would be too powerful or complicated.
  • Windows Vista Enterprise will cater to the more complex business segment that needs an OS that can mange complex IT structures and file management.
More about Microsoft, Vista
 
Latest News
Top News