April 23, 2007

It’s easier from outside the box…

Filed under: — admin @ 11:16 pm

I’ve seen a number of complaints from users of our software and other software along the lines of:
“Vista has been in Beta since last year! Why don’t you have an update for compatibility?!? Don’t you care about your users?!? I’m going to switch to different software because of this!!!”
While it’s true that Vista has been in Beta for quite some time, it has not been a fixed target since then. Between the Beta period and the RTM, I watched as our products worked great, crashed on startup, worked great, crashed on exit, worked great, failed to draw properly, and then, late in the game, had installer issues.
Having been a professional programmer with MSDN builds for Win2k, WinXP, and Windows Vista, I can say that Vista was easily the hardest to prepare for. It was constantly a moving target. Major features like Aero Glass didn’t make it into the available builds until very late in the game. Only then did we discover that things like initialization message order had changed when running under the DWM.
These aren’t the kind of things that 3rd party developers can readily prepare for. Even Microsoft’s own in-house Visual Studio team wasn’t ready for it. When the RTM build was dropped on us, Visual Studio 2005 installs would warn us that the application was not compatible with Vista.
Do we care?
Of course we care. Users are important to most developers. With software as heavily focused on being usable as ours, it seems almost silly for our users to believe that we would want to leave them looking for answers, or, at least, not care enough to fix things. It’s tough to not be able to run the nice new shiny user interface of Vista when Mac users have had illegible semi-transparent menus for years. That frustration gets let out on us, as Windows platform developers, because Microsoft shipped what was, essentially, a beta build.
Users who look for different software to switch to are generally finding that other vendors have run into the very same problems as us. In six months, Vista will be solid, all of our software will work around what Microsoft broke, and the world will await more breaking changes.
It’s worth noting that Apple has also broken the world with updates to OS X. What makes Vista so special is that Microsoft is generally far better about this…

Powered by WordPress