… and indeed, Vista is in the news this week, for reasons Microsoft cannot enjoy. The company says that it's delaying for good reasons of testing and security assurance, and it is true that the worst possible thing it could do would be to ship the product in a broken, unreliable and hack-tastic form.
The second worst thing would be to drag the project out for three years over the original plan, dropping promised feature after promised feature in a doomed attempt to catch up, while showing a drip-feed of demos and betas that compare badly to the stuff the competition has mysteriously been able to ship in the meantime.
For me, the most effective satire of the whole Vista farrago was the sound track of Bill Gates doing an on-stage demo of the product, cut to video footage of Apple's OS X doing exactly the same thing. Like everyone, I've been asking "What's Vista's big idea?": having seen and played with a few of the more recent beta releases, admittedly not for any great length of time, it still eludes me.
As it does others. "It's not Longhorn, it's XP Service Pack 4", says one developer. Hell, you ought to check out the thread on Mini-Microsoft where internal and external developers chip in with a catalogue of woe. Testing outsourced? Client application compatibility running at 40 percent? General misery? Check.
Now, Office 2007 is being "rescheduled" — "there's no slip in schedule, just a change in delivery" — to match Vista's late launch. I like that phrase, and plan to use it next time I hit deadline woes. It's not late, there's just a change in delivery. Curiously, that change in delivery is nominally to help retailers but the next beta of Office — due this month — is now not expected until May. I'm sure the retailers will be relieved.
I suppose it would be in bad taste to ask how Windows Vienna is doing — the operating system formerly known as Blackcomb and the anointed successor to Vista. By now, it's impossible to work out what features from Vista will end up in Vienna, which ones will appear in service packs and mid-life upgrades, or even if there is anything that passes for a roadmap in MS' operating system division.
The best thing for Microsoft to do would be to open source the lot and let the community sort it out. It really couldn't do any worse.