Microsoft responds on backwards compatibility issue with Intuit QuickBooks

Earlier today, in my post about a backwards compatibility issue with QuickBooks 2006 (which runs on XP but, in all of its configurations, not Windows Vista), I closed the post with a promise to update my blog if Microsoft issued a response to my inquiry. About an hour ago, I received the following statement from Microsoft via e-mail:Microsoft has always made and delivered on a commitment to the eco-system about making backwards compatibility a top priority.

Earlier today, in my post about a backwards compatibility issue with QuickBooks 2006 (which runs on XP but, in all of its configurations, not Windows Vista), I closed the post with a promise to update my blog if Microsoft issued a response to my inquiry. About an hour ago, I received the following statement from Microsoft via e-mail:

Microsoft has always made and delivered on a commitment to the eco-system about making backwards compatibility a top priority. With Windows Vista, Microsoft undertook the largest application compatibility effort in the history of the company to ensure the entire industry is ready for what will be the most advanced, fastest adopted and most exciting client operating system. Microsoft made significant efforts to ensure that industry partners had the resources they needed to make their applications compatible. From onsite visits with key global ISV’s to breadth compatibility readiness efforts through our "Works with Windows Vista" and "Certified for Windows Vista" programs to the upgrade advisor programs, the Windows Client team worked closely with thousands of ISV applications to ensure positive customer experiences and to support stable business/sales environments. 

The response, particularly the "Works with Windows Vista" and "Certified for Windows Vista" parts bear additional scrutiny, especially given my colleague George Ou's post on the issue. Said Ou:

More to the point, it's the intercommunication between all those applications and the fact that they're using forbidden techniques that have been banned since 2001 with Windows XP certification requirements that's the issue.  Intuit admitted to me that they declined to seek Windows XP certification for all these years and they're just now making the necessary modifications for QuickBooks 2007.  The reason this is relevant is because most software that is certified for Windows XP will automatically be compatible with Windows Vista.....The forbidden techniques in question is the fact that Intuit uses the Windows registry as a communication medium to talk to Intuit or third party add-on software and the portion of the registry being used requires full administrative privileges to write to.  Windows XP certification has banned these practices since 2001 but Intuit never sought XP certification.  The reason these programming techniques are banned is because they're dangerous and leaves the operating system wide open to attack. 

So, while Microsoft's response doesn't point the finger directly at Intuit as the culprit in this situation, it makes it clear that its certification programs -- programs that Intuit has apparently eschewed since 2001 -- are the centerpiece of its efforts to guarantee backwards compatibility. 

As a side note, my earlier post was not meant to identify either Intuit or Microsoft as culprits in the matter, but rather to make it clear that when word of such backward incompatibilities in such a popular software title arises, the entire ecosystem is put on alert that other such incompatibilities could exist in with other titles. That QuickBooks hasn't been certified for compatibility with Windows is unquestionably an issue that should cause those considering upgrading to Vista to take stock of which of their Windows applications were previously certified and which were not.

Also, in a subsequent phone call (after I published my initial post), I recommended to Intuit that it stretch the time frame during which QuickBooks 2006 buyers would automatically be upgraded for free to QuickBooks 2007 to 90 or 120 days before the release of the latter (instead of 60 as it is now --- QuickBooks 2007 was released on September 25, 2006. With the 60 day grace period, anyone who purchased the '06 version on July 26th or later gets a free upgrade to the '07 version).

Even so, it's no secret that (1) most installations of new versions of Windows penetrate the market through new system purchases with the OS preinstalled and (2) except for early adopters and enthusiasts, many people and businesses wait to upgrade to the new version of Windows until some unofficial time period elapses (often when the first Service Pack ships). This practice doesn't necessarily reflect poorly on Microsoft. It just reflects on the conservative nature of many of its customers and generally speaking, there aren't any major penalties for such conservativeness.  Regardless of whether the application software in question is certified or uncertified, when a popular title like Intuit's QuickBooks surfaces backwards incompatibilities as it did, it just reinforces that conservative approach to upgrading. Like or not, this doesn't work in favor of Microsoft or its hardware partners who are looking to capitalize on better-than-usual early adoption of a new operating system.

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