Some days ago, I was rumbling against the confusion regarding the availability of Service Pack 3 for Windows XP. After that, the confusion continued. One of our admins mailed me an article about Microsoft’s decision to pull SP3. He wanted to tell me that this service pack might not be ready for prime time and that we'd better wait some time before we start deploying it. What I found interesting is that he didn’t notice the reason why Microsoft stopped delivering XP SP3. There is an incompatibility with Microsoft Dynamics RMS. Well, we don’t use this software and that certainly also applies to 99.99% of all Windows XP customers.

I think, my colleague was not the only one who perceived Microsoft’s back-and-forth behavior this way. It just makes an unprofessional impression if a company has to withdraw a new product because of technical issues. Some commentators wondered if Microsoft doesn’t test Windows service packs with their own products.

You might remember that when Vista SP1 was released, we had exactly the same situation. Microsoft was forced to postpone its public release because there were incompatibilities with a couple of device drivers from important hardware vendors. Like with the recent incident, only a very small minority of Microsoft customers were affected by those incompatibilities.

I have been complaining a lot before about Microsoft’s information policy regarding service pack release dates. However, I’m beginning to have doubts if those complaints were really justified. I am also seeing now a connection to the slow Vista adoption. The often unfair media coverage might be one explanation. But I think the real reason is that the whole Windows ecosystem is much more complex than it was six years ago when Windows XP was released. There are now so many dependencies between Windows and the rest of the software and hardware industry that even the release of an absolutely harmless service pack for a very mature operating system becomes a real challenge for the biggest software company in town.

There are quite a few analysts who have criticized that Windows Vista is too fat. But I don’t think that this is the real problem. These accusations were also quite popular when Windows 2000/XP came out. I still hear all those voices saying that it doesn’t make sense to unite the consumer version of Windows (95/98/ME) with the corporate edition (Windows NT) because the whole thing will just get too bloated. How can an operating system good for gaming also be an option for the corporate network? All these complaints are long forgotten and Windows XP is everybody’s darling now.

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No, I don’t think that Windows is too bloated. The only thing that is too bloated is the whole Windows market. This is the real and the only reason for the slow Vista adoption. Journalists started bashing Vista only after the first adoption numbers were released. That made them feel safe and secured them lots of applause from the early adopters who had to fight with incompatibilities. The reason why those incompatibilities were so problematic is simply because it takes much more time than ever until this giant Windows ecosystem can digest a new operating system version or even a tiny service pack such as XP SP3. And this is the real problem because it makes radical changes (some call them innovations) very difficult. The most interesting question certainly is what can Microsoft do against this bloated Windows market? I must admit, I have no answer to this one.

6 Comments
  1. Christopher 14 years ago

    (Great article, good reminders, good things to think about) + (very, disturbing, image) = I just want to run away and wash my eyes out.

    I don’t think bloatware is the appropriate label for Vista. I see Vista more as a superficial and poorly executed attempt at hanging with the cool kids. This happens to all adolescents who are still trying to find their identity. Vista is more like a cheesy Saturday TV special about the kid that abandoned all of their friends and family to try to be someone else. Hopefully the story will end with the kid realising the value of their foundation, and returning to it.

    What I see in Vista is a lack of clear company values and goals; lack of knowledge of industry and customer needs; lack of forethought in to the current hardware base; lack of effective project management; lack of effective executive management and ownership; lack of vision, creativity, and innovation; greed at many levels; and the typical crud that results when executive management says “JUST SHIP IT”.

    But no, certainly not bloatware. Vista is not bloated. Microsoft has simply fallen off course.

  2. Anonymous Coward Paid By The Word 14 years ago

    There are more commentators now than ever and its only natural that more of them jump on the bandwagon and bash Vista because they get paid by the word or because it’s a popular standpoint and probably will get them more traffic.

    About the bloated windows market? Stop releasing Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, Media Center etc. It would be better to have something like a Mac OS X model. One size fits all.

  3. Jarred Fehr 14 years ago

    Please… no more pictures like that. 😉

    You are spot on with the rest though.

  4. gordon 14 years ago

    Great, insightful post, thank you. Some people just don’t seem capable to understand reality as it is. Others just prefer to not even try. That’s why is easier to bash Vista… and all its predecessors.

  5. Michael Pietroforte 14 years ago

    Christopher, I like your analogy with the abandoned kid. Vista is indeed not a mature operating system like XP, but I do believe that is has its advantages. I will address the company value issue in a series of articles coming soon. And I hope your eyes are well again. 😉

    Anonymous Coward, I agree that all these different Vista editions are not really helpful. I hope that Microsoft will change this with Windows 7. My guess is that there will be only one basic edition with the ability to add certain components.

    Jarred, what’s wrong with that picture? Don’t you think it is a work of art? 😉

    Gordon, thanks. What I find so fascinating is that so many bash Vista without even giving it a chance. I know of two admins who used it for two or three days, encountered some problems and then upgraded as they say to XP. Obviously, they were already well prepared by the media.

  6. Rohan 14 years ago

    Not Bloated! Try using vista in a somewhat low end computer and see if you can’t say w* t* f*. They did not try to improve the OS. They only add useless special “effects” and such which nobody really need and sometimes want! That what bloated is. You may not have experienced this because you have a wallet that could buy the big horsepower computer. But hey! look at other perspectives. Not every one could abandon their old computer. And not every one need to have such large computers.

    Throw away the one size fits all idea. There is no such thing. That is what they are already doing and it fails… terribly. They think just because they give out a new OS everyone would be able o use it(one size fits all). They are wrong. Every one has different needs. Some want it fancy with a lot of effects, some want it plain and clean. Some people have the latest pc some just have their few year olds. Now what size would fit?

    If only they could make it modular and customizable, a lot of problems would be solved. The users could change the OS according to their needs and wants. That would be great if it happens.

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