Windows Chief Allchin: Id Buy A Mac

    December 12, 2006

An exhibit in an Iowa antitrust case against Microsoft had this tidbit about Jim Allchin, the longtime chief of Windows development:

    Exhibit 7264. Almost three years ago, on January 7, 2004, Jim Allchin, the senior executive at Microsoft, sent an E-mail to Microsoft’s top two executives, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and the subject was losing our way.

    Mr. Allchin says, I’m not sure how the company lost sight of what matters to our customers, both business and home, the most, but in my view we lost our way. I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems our customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that does not translate into great products. He goes on to say, I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft.

Now, its obvious that Jim was trying to make a point using strong terms, as he explains on the Vista team blog:

  • This email is nearly 3 years old, and I was being purposefully dramatic in order to drive home a point. The point being that we needed to change and change quickly. We did: We changed dramatically the development process that was being used and we reset the Windows Vista development project in mid-2004, essentially starting over.
  • 2-and- years later, Windows Vista has turned into a phenomenal product, better than any other OS we’ve ever built and far, far better than any other software available today, in my opinion. It’s going to be available to customers on Jan 30, and I suggest everyone go out and get it as soon as you can. It’s that good.

The fact is, Allchin shouldn’t be ashamed of that quote, he should be proud of it. Longhorn at that point was becoming a disaster, and the decision later that year to reset development was spurred on by emails like this very one, and most likely saved the company.

If you don’t reset Longhorn in mid-2004, there might not even be a Vista today. Right now, arguements around Vista center on design issues, battery issues, and graphics issues. If we were still dealing with the old Longhorn, the discussion would center on buggy code, incomplete and broken features, abysmal performance and awfully inconsistent interface and design issues. The only way Microsoft would have had Longhorn out when it actually got Vista out, would be by rushing it out the door, and not getting all the stabilizations and bug-fixing we’ve seen over the last year.

Thomas Hawk
Todd Bishop
Information Week
Computer World



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