Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

My Take on the Vista Capable Fiasco

I haven’t said anything about this yet, because I’ve been watching things unfold. I don’t necessarily want to say anything that has an affect on the outcome one way or another, and I didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t. But after the e-mails that were released last week, some of the rumors were confirmed, and some things I had heard rumblings about started to make sense.

Let me start off by saying that I think it is total BS that any Windows executive had anything to do with the nitty-gritty on whether one particular feature made it into Vista vs. another. It should not have been Will Poole’s call by any means that the WDDM requirement was dropped. I’m also very glad that Jim Allchin had nothing to do with it. He stayed true to the product no matter what.

Midmorning on the 30th, Mike Ybarra, a product manager, sent a message marked "urgent due to customer satisfaction escalation" to then-Windows boss Jim Allchin and Will Poole, then in charge of the Windows Client Business.

Poole was the one who ultimately made the decision to drop the WDDM requirement.

In an August 2005 meeting, "you both committed to HP that we would not move off the WDDM requirement and HP made significant product roadmap changes to support graphics for the full experience," Ybarra wrote, adding that an HP executive committed to investing in graphics "if MS would give him 100% assurance that we would not budge for Intel."

By noon, anger from HP was reaching Microsoft, which had planned to communicate its changes the next day. Poole wrote to Ybarra and Allchin at 12:16 p.m.: "Intel leaked this despite my explicit agreement with [an Intel senior vice president] that we would communicate together."

The WDDM change, apparently too late to reverse, seemed to take Allchin by surprise. "I knew nothing about this," he wrote. "Will, you need to explain. I don't even understand what this means. ... "

And now I know why Sinofsky has delegated more authority down to the feature teams when it comes to what features will be shipping with Windows 7. It might have been just as much about saving his own butt as anything else, but it was a smart decision.

I had the opportunity earlier this year to ask some HP employees (including an executive) about why HP was shipping laptops that were so imbalanced on the Windows Experience Index. No sooner had those words left my mouth than I felt like I had just swore in front of my mother for the first time. I was met with stonefaced silence, then anger. The executive didn’t even answer my question, leaving a colleague to explain to me that “Microsoft gamed the WinSAT rating for Intel.” I was shocked. For the next 5 minutes, he explained what happened, and I was dumbfounded. I knew that the WinSAT team spent a lot of time trying to get the experience and algorithms right, so the decision had to have come from higher up.

But now I know why there was so much animosity about the whole thing. This is yet another reason why OEMs had no confidence in Microsoft’s ability to deliver with Vista, because requirements were changing all the time. HP had every right to be pissed about it, Microsoft had no right to move the goalposts.

I hope Will Poole is held personally responsible for this. His damage to the Windows brand is without measure.



  • Well, Will Poole is no longer with Microsoft anymore, having left Microsoft in Sept. 2008 to "pursue other interests."

    Looks like it was just in time, right before the sh!t hit the fan. Coincidence? One can decide for oneself. :)

    Incidentally, Jim Allchin also retired the day after Vista shipped in early 2007. Another coincidence?

    November 19, 2008 10:04 AM
  • Mark said:

    Great post, I know the Vista team had a tough job after the Longhorn reset, but no wonder HP is pissed!

    Well, Will Poole is no longer with Microsoft anymore, having left Microsoft in Sept. 2008 to "pursue other interests."

    At least they didn't say he wanted to spend more time with his family.

    December 15, 2008 11:51 PM
  • Ars Technica has a wonderfully insightful piece about the Vista Capable lawsuit , and the ramifications

    January 5, 2009 10:53 PM