To Microsoft's plush Soho offices once again, this time to break cookie with John Gray. This urbane American is the project manager for Windows XP the man who glued together all the bits and made sure they worked. As yours truly also has some history in getting operating systems into the hands of a grateful nation, the conversation soon veers into the domain of how on earth you test something that has to work with hundreds of thousands of different hardware and software combinations. The answer? Very slowly and with lots of eyeballs, and taking far more effort than expended in writing the stuff in the first place.
Gray confirms a number of suspicions: as far as desktop OS development goes, XP will be it for a while now. The major problem area is in user accounts if you install or use application software as a user without administrator privileges, it probably won't work. So you have to be logged in as admin for most of the time, thus neatly short-circuiting many of the new security provisions. Windows 98 was very stable, providing you didn't do very much with it.
I asked him what he'd have done differently if he'd had more time and resources. That floored the man: after a long pause he just shook his head. I've never, ever met an engineering type who didn't feel constrained by lack of both. What on earth do they feed them in Redmond?