Vista app compatibility: What's the story?

Vista app compatibility: What's the story?

Summary: As Microsoft rounds the final bend of the winding Windows Vista road, I’m surprised we’ve heard so little about application compatibility. Sure, Jim Allchin, co-president of the Platforms and Services division, recently played up the need for Vista testers to push hard on making sure existing applications are backwards-compatible with Vista.

TOPICS: Windows

As Microsoft rounds the final bend of the winding Windows Vista road, I’m surprised we’ve heard so little about application compatibility.

Sure, Jim Allchin, co-president of the Platforms and Services division, recently played up the need for Vista testers to push hard on making sure existing applications are backwards-compatible with Vista. But Allchin also admitted in an open letter to developers posted to the Web late last week that “some of the (Vista) system enhancements, such as User Access Control, changes to the networking stack, and the new graphics model, may require code changes on your part.”

Microsoft states publicly, in its Vista Application Compatibility Cookbook: “While Windows Vista is highly compatible with most of the applications written for Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft Windows Server 2003, and their service packs, some amount of compatibility breaks are inevitable due to new innovations, security tightening, and increased reliability.” (The cookbook is Microsoft’s guide for folks building new Vista apps and retrofitting existing ones so they will work on Vista.)

However, the cookbook claims, “overall, Windows Vista compatibility is high.”

But how high is it?

Symantec has been railing publicly about Microsoft breaking compatibility with antivirus and other security software, as have certain other security vendors.

I’ve been asking other testers what is working and what isn’t. Their reports back are mixed. One tester told me about half of the apps he has tested don’t work. Another said “a bunch” don’t work. Sounds like it’s the usual suspects –- antivirus, VPN products – applications that rely on the new Internet Explorer 7.0 and/or have to accommodate User Account Control.

If there is a comprehensive list of applications that don’t run correctly on the latest Vista test builds, I have not found it. I have asked Microsoft for such a list for a couple of weeks now, to no avail.

Microsoft is promising to detail more on the Vista app compat front at its upcoming TechEd conference in Barcelona in mid-November. But is that soon enough?

As Microsoft historians may recall, Microsoft hit some serious roadblocks, in terms of application compatibility, with Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 2. Just over a week after it released XP SP2 in August of 2004, Microsoft published a Knowledge Base article in which it listed problem applications that “seemed to stop working” or worked incorrectly with SP2. On the list were a number of key Microsoft applications, including SQL Server 200 and Microsoft CRM 1.2, as well as some major third-party applications from Macromedia, Symantec and Veritas, among others.

After the outcry that followed Microsoft’s disclosure, I’d expect them to think different with Vista. Why not publish a list of applications with problems before the operating system goes live? Why not head off unpleasant surprises at the pass?

Vista testers: What does your app-compat list look like for Vista? As of Release Candidate 1, what’s working? What’s not?

Topic: Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Vista Compatibility

    There is a wiki maintained at that gives a fairly exhaustive list of what works and doesn't.
    brian a.
  • Mary Jo rejoins ZDNet...

    I guess welcome back is in order, or not...

    Mary Jo, can you tell us why you are so fixated on Microsoft? Was it the fact you were jilted and banned from ever entering a Microsoft building, campus or office?

    And while we are on that subject, what was the reason you were banned? I mean you seem to want people reading your blog to gain an understanding so why not be honest and tell everyone what happened???
    • What - she left Zdnet for a time - I am so sheltered

      • Yup, she was here before.

        But it wasn't called ZDNet at the time if memory serves.
        • Memory doesn't serve!

          No_Ax: Your memory has done you a disservice -- ZDNet was indeed called ZDNet when I worked here with Mary Jo.

          For someone who doesn't what ZDNet was called five years ago, you seem awfully confident in alleging that there's an untold back story behind Mary Jo's relationship with Microsoft.

          Yes, she's certainly tweaked some noses in Redmond from time to time, and sometimes the tweaked party has responded by delimiting her access to specific news. (Any tech reporter worth his or her salt has experienced similar talk-to-the-hand moments.)

          But the notion that she's somehow exiled from Microsoft is just silly. Where are you getting this from?

          Matthew Rothenberg
          • Where did I get it from

            Would you believe directly from Mary Jo? I suggest you do a little talking to her yourself. Even David Belind admits it...

            As to when she was here and the name on the header you may be right and it may have been called ZDNet, not certain which change happened first.
          • *Which* change?

            "As to when she was here and the name on the header you may be right and it may have been called ZDNet, not certain which change happened first."

            No_Ax: That sentence doesn't even parse: The ZDNet name never changed -- first, second or third.

            And back to the question of MS access: I can't testify as to what conversation transpired between you and Mary Jo, but she does indeed make frequent visits to Microsoft. Indeed, I've helped *send* her on many of them!

            MJ may indeed have told you about pushback from someone at Microsoft -- it's certainly happened -- but this notion of a lifetime, blanket ban is untrue.

            Matthew Rothenberg
          • Oh, I don't think so

            This site was at one time owned by TechTV and CNet (ZDNet) took it over. It was around the same time that MJ left.
          • ZDNet history

            No_Ax, it's cofusing but let me try to sort it out:

            Ziff Davis started an online division called ZDNet. Ziff Davis started a cable TV operation called ZDTV.

            Ziff Davis split up. The magazine group kept the name. ZDNet was sold to CNET. ZDTV was rebranded TechTV (and later sold to G4).

            Mary Jo worked for Ziff Davis in the olden dayes. She wrote for the magazines and ZDNet. She left ZDNet to work for the magazine group after the split up.

            And now we have her back.

            Stephen Howard-Sarin
            VP, ZDNet
            (and 18 year veteran)
            Stephen Howard-Sarin
          • Proof that No_Ax works for ZDNet! Deleting my message that he is OWNED!

            Because the VP of ZDNet (Stephen Howard-Sarin VP, ZDNet (and 18 year veteran)) posts proof that No_Ax lied about his so called 'knowledge' about Mary Jo! No_Ax is a liar! EOS! See the post from the VP of ZDNet to his post! No_Ax is OWNED (and a liar)!
          • What the heck is going on here one ZDNet?

            Now the 'Message has been deleted' messages are wiped! There were at least seven of them last night and now they are gone? Sounds like a cover up!
          • Yep me too i've had all my posts deleted as well

            Seems like i hit an open wound in No_Axe.
          • I wonder . . .

            If No_Axe is thinking of when CNet boughtout/merged/whatever with ZDnet in terms of ownership or consolidation or WHATEVER they did. (Darn, even I'm having trouble remembering. Cursed sahort term memory!!!! <grin>) . . .
          • re: Memory doesn't serve!

            No_Axe has been posting here for at least 5 years. originally he
            posted as Don Rupert. why do I remember this? probably
            because of his many yes, I've been here longer
            and also under a different user name.

            the one I have to laugh at when he first posted here was your
            own John Carroll. he used to get upset a bit and even called me
            a geek but that's okay I forgave him. :-)

   to love them!!

            gnu/ choice to the neX(11)t generation.
            Arm A. Geddon
          • one minor tweak

            for the record....
            MJ joined the "Ziff Davis Internet" group in 2001, which was created as part of Ziff Davis Media. There, she created and kicked butt with her coverage.
            She flourished creatively during the down economic times, after having left CNet during the acquisition/integration of ZDNet.

            Kudos, she is a huge talent.
            George Bailey
    • Why is ZDNet censoring messages about being "off-topic"?

      I've posted two messages to this thread, and both have been silently turned into "un-messages". Neither message did anything more controversial than point out that the talkback had been side-tracked into talking about the messenger rather than the message.

      ZD-net, this kind of arbitrary censorship is unacceptable.
      • Unacceptable to who??

        to you?? You are in ZDNet's back yard and this being a free country, they can censor whatever they want in their back yard.

        Sometimes folks just have their own rules! I know it's hard to believe but YOU CAN just let it go. :)
  • KnowledgeBase Article URL is Bad

    This article is exactly what I need today. However, the URL involving the KnowledgBase Article is missing. Can someone post the correct URL? Thanks in advance.

    I think the only solution for those who are willing to learn from history, is to implement Vista through some form of virtualizaton. VMware runs fine on Service Pack 2 and has hooks already for Vista. By cloning the Vista product the security and quality issues are more easially managed and you can move a copy of the clone to a server where all the Vista Applications can be run by any PC with network access to the server just as if it were a Web Service.

    A follow on article regarding the movement of the head of Boeing Commercial Aircraft to become president of Ford, is needed. Ford, owing to Ballmer's dad, has long been a technology showcase for new Microsoft products. Boeing of course testified against Microsoft in the last US antitrust case. Has Ford under its new president made a sea change away from Vista. They certainly appear to have with the incorporation of Apple Ipod instead of the Microsoft challenger into automobile design.

    BTW, the solution to service pack 2 problems and Microsoft SQL Server is to use Java DataBase Connectivity. (JDBC) However not all JDBC drivers work with all reporting tools. Chrystal Reports - How did Microsoft let that slip away?

    Frank L. Mighetto CCP
  • Spoonful of Sugar

    Another column about Windows from within the Windows
    landscape. More fake street cred gained with this "daring challenge
    to the megacorp". Another tacit call for forbearance in the face of
    cascading failures. Another matron to help us take our medicine.

    Unblinking eye indeed.
    Harry Bardal
    • Adverticles

      It was inevitable that the burgeoning power of the internet and the trend towards 'blogging' would be pressed into corporate service. Most of the "articles" on ZDnet are not about reviewing and highlighting the features of a forthcoming product- the tidal wave of thinly disguised promotions is a wholesale installation into the collective userbase psyche, of a media version of the product. This media version of Vista runs on the virtual platform of 'the media' and keeps attention firmly away from the true scale of sheer frustration felt by everyday users wrestling with the real thing on a daily basis. That box that used to be called a 'Personal Computer' has been degraded into a combined toll booth and electronic point of sale. Vista isn't even here yet, won't be for at least four months, yet already the ZDnet articles are employing a fascinating future tense, of a world where Vista is a reality, and everyone who is anyone, is already a Vista user. All those owners of this virtual Vista are anxious for guidance, they need to know how they can maintain the smooth running of their very own, desktop mounted turnstile to the information age.

      Vista users, wherever you are- why not give Linux a try? It's the difference between having to pay a chauffer to take you where he wants, and driving your own car.