Does Microsoft know something about app compatibility and Windows Vista that the rest of us don’t? Is there some compatibility bombshell the team is waiting to drop on or before the business launch of Vista and Office 2007 in New York City on November 30?
I ask because of announcements like the one Microsoft made today. On November 1, Microsoft and a handful of systems-integrator partners unveiled the Vista Application Compatibility Factory, an initiative via which Microsoft will help business customers pair up with Vista-deployment experts to guide users over potential app-compat hurdles.
The participating integrators include Wipro Technologies, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and Satyam Computer Services. (I hear there are others who may join in, too, including EDS.)
Microsoft’s stated explanation as to why the company is launching the Application Compatibility Factory comes from Dave Wascha, director of the Windows client business group:
“We know that customers are excited about Windows Vista but may be reluctant to deploy in the first months after availability because historically application compatibility has been a major concern that they were left to deal with on their own. We’re doing everything we can to help customers through this process with ACF and other tools such as the Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.0.”
Makes perfect sense. But Microsoft already has the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT), the new version of which is due to launch alongside Vista; Business Desktop Deployment Solution Accelerator; the soon-to-be-unveiled Windows Easy Transfer Companion migration tool – and, as my ZDNet blogging colleague George Ou has so often (and so zealously) mentioned – shimming functionality, all of which are designed to ease compatibility woes.
Do users really need Microsoft-brokered partner services to pull off a seamless Vista migration? The more app-compat tools, the merrier, said Windows client group product manager Stella Chernyak.
The Application Compatibility Factory partners will “have access to Microsoft’s own application-compatibility SWAT team,” making them especially well qualified to guide enterprise customers through any rough Vista deployment patches.
(Chernyak was Microsoft Russia’s employee No. 3, and has been part of the Windows team since 1999.)
“We don’t think there will be more (compatibility) issues with Vista than we had with XP,” she said. “We’re more trying to address the perception” that app-compat problems are a good reason to delay Vista deployments.
“We’re trying to be proactive and address it.” The focus of the App Compat Factory will be on custom, line-of-business applications, as opposed to ISV-developed, shrink-wrapped ones, Chernyak added.
Meanwhile, Chernyak said that Microsoft also is readying a Release Candidate (RC) test build of ACT 5.0. The new build, due sometime soon (no firm date yet available), will include an improved user interface, as well as enhancements for pushing app-compat testing results to customers, she said.
“We feel very good about the tools we are making available,” Chernyak said, as well as on where Microsoft is at, app-compatibility-wise with Vista."
“By the time Vista RTMs (releases to manufacturing), we will have tested 1,900 apps for compatibility,” Chernyak said. “We know the issues and we know the vendors we need to work with. (For example), we built a new TCP/IP stack with Vista, so we know we need to work on apps around that."
“With Vista, we want there to be less shimming required. When it is required, we want it to be easier,” she added.
So when is Microsoft going to make public a list of apps that don’t work with Vista? Still nothing to announce there, Chernyak said.