As the man in charge of getting the next version of the Windows operating system, called Vista, out the door, Allchin's schedule is understandably tight. But he agreed to field questions that were submitted by CNET News.com readers.
Interestingly, even though XP will be 5 years old by the time Vista ships (currently scheduled for the end of this year) the questions posted by many readers indicated that they need to be convinced that Vista will be a necessary upgrade.
CNET News.com's Ina Fried asked our readers' questions. Here are those questions and Allchin's answers:
Q: Leon Malinofsky, a lawyer from Northhampton, Mass., asks: For home users that aren't into high-definition entertainment, why do they need Vista? What's the killer feature for the average home PC user?
Allchin: I think that safety and security is the overriding feature that most people will want to have Windows Vista for--even if they're not into home entertainment or in any of the specialty areas. They're just going to feel more safe and secure by using it for a variety of features, whether it be in terms of the anti-malware protection or the anti-phishing protection or in the fact that we can put IE (Internet Explorer) in a sandbox and protect people from accidentally getting bad information or bad code on their systems.
Microsoft Vista coming your way
Microsoft's Jim Allchin speaks about Vista.
A vista of Vista
CNET News.com's Ina Fried asks Microsoft's Jim Allchin questions from readers.
Vista for developers
Microsoft's Neil Charney demonstrates some ways application developers could use the new Vista platform for graphics and data presentation.
Steward Hardt, a software consultant from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., asks how you respond to comments that many of the new features in Vista are already in other operating systems, like Mac OS X? With Mac OS X coming out more often, isn't Microsoft just always playing catch up?
Allchin: There are a number of differences between the Apple approach and the Microsoft approach. First and foremost is we view ourselves as a platform working with many partners. And by that I mean that the breadth of applications that we have on Windows is just unsurpassed. I just don't anticipate that changing, where if you have a particular specialty and you want an application, then an application is going to be available on Windows.
In the business space I think what we're offering with Windows Vista surpassed anything that's available with other operating systems, especially in the mobile space. I don't think Apple has a system that is as comprehensive addressing the control that IT professionals want.
Even in the home space, I think our gaming capability is far superior. And then, just in terms of our pushing ahead, in terms of innovation, the Media Center work we've done and integrating TV--I think that's tremendous innovation. I think the work we've done with Tablet and handwriting recognition--I don't think Apple has any products in that space. So I think Apple is a very good company (with) great products. I think we're making some incredible products and we're bringing a lot to the masses for them to feel that they're getting a lot for their money.
Dwayne Alton asks: Will Microsoft provide a family pack, or some other way to encourage multiple-PC homes to upgrade to Vista?
Allchin: I think that's a great idea and one that I'm supportive of and one that I think there's going to be discussion about for business development. I understand exactly where he's coming from on that.
David Shaw in Italy asks about Vista in the enterprise. His cubicle isn't getting a high-definition TV any time soon. What's going to make Vista a compelling upgrade for business users like him, for many of whom security is a top concern?
Allchin: I mentioned security earlier. There are so many features in terms of security and safety in Windows Vista that I think it will end up saving him time and--certainly--worry. But let's assume that we get past that. What other capabilities? How is it going to make his day more productive? I'll just talk about some of those features. The first is that there could be new applications that might have great appeal and might give him additional information that he couldn't have gotten before using the new Windows FX API.
Also, if he's a mobile user, the capabilities in terms of (tranferring) information very quickly, taking your laptop from work to home. Today, if you run Windows XP, it's quite difficult. You may be on a domain at work and you take (the laptop) home: can you even find your printer? It doesn't even show up. Or then you take it to Starbucks and you say, "Hmm, how will I have my firewall port set? Hmm, I'm worried." So we address those types of issues.
We're including a set of nice experiences directly in the product with things like Windows Collaboration. You can create ad-hoc meetings between users, whether it be at Starbucks or in a conference room. You can do wireless projection. You get more instantaneous on and off and on and on and on.
Several readers, including Rammutla Ndlove from South Africa, asked about the requirements for Vista. Will today's PCs really be enough to run all of Vista's new graphics? If someone is thinking about getting a PC now, can they be assured they will get a good Vista machine no matter what they buy? Or should they wait for PCs with a "designed for Windows Vista logo?"
Allchin: We gave general requirements earlier, and this is going to take me a little bit longer to explain. The general requirements we say are 512 megs of memory or up. And I can't remember the actual processor level. And that we would run in scale the functions of the operating system based on the power that was there. My general view is the more memory, the better. I would say that's independent of Windows Vista. XP runs better that way and Vista will continue run better. Processor performance isn't as much as an issue on any of these systems.
Today's product that you're buying, in general, has sufficient processing power. We are pushing the graphics on these systems, and we haven't finalized exactly how low a system will be able to have the Glass effect on. Hopefully within a few months, we'll be able to say exactly how low. But if you have gaming systems today, those types of gaming systems will certainly run all of the Vista system on it. The concept: We're going to try to scale the features to the system that's there. So if you're buying the system today and you have a reasonable amount of memory, then Vista will run on it. If you add more, you'll just get more capabilities.
Trace Netter wonders about the future of Windows development. You've announced plans to retire at year's end. Eric Rudder is now working directly for Bill Gates and the new head of Windows is someone with an obviously good record but from the sales and marketing side. Who will steer the ship on the technical side?
Allchin: There are several things: We've had Ray Ozzie join the company and Ray offers a great insight across the entire company. His focus today is moving us into the services space, but he offers help through all the teams. It turns out there is quite a number of very brilliant technologists in the company. And this is an opportunity for them to take the next step up and I think you'll be seeing more from them as time goes on. Certainly, Kevin Johnson, my co-president, is a phenomenal leader and someone who has an incredible track record in being able to pull together all the right people to set direction.
Vaibhav Shah, a software engineer in India asks whether you see Vista as your "perfect farewell gift." And to broaden it, what are you planning on next?
Allchin: Well, let me answer the first one. I'm a perfectionist and none of these products are near perfection and it's very hard if you really want to build great software. If you want to ship it, you have stop at a certain point and ship it. And so you can't quite ever reach perfection. It's always asymptotic. So, I'm very proud of what we did in Windows XP and very proud of SP 2. I'm proud of Windows Server 2003 and the 64-bit. I'm going to be very proud of Windows Vista when it's done.
As to what I'm going to do later, I have no idea. I have no idea.