Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Truth About Vista

Over the past month or so I have had multiple reporters for the trade rags contact me about Vista/Win 7 and other Microsoft products. The angle on their stories has been to basically get me to provide quotes stating that Microsoft has screwed up with Vista and they are giving up and making another run at an OS with Win 7. I haven’t been willing to do that because quite frankly, I find Vista works pretty well for us. I am typing this blog post on my Vista notebook which has been running very nicely since beta. I wrote a few thoughts for the media and I wanted to share my opinions with you. I hope you find them useful and thought provoking. I am confident they will never make the press because they are opposite of what they have been digging for. So this blog allows me to share them in spite of their determination to keep it quiet. Here is what I shared:

I am a staunch Microsoft supporter and honestly have not found Vista to be an issue. We have been running it in our organization since beta, and have moved a number of our clients to that platform successfully. I would never say it was a perfect OS. But having been able to see firsthand some of the challenges in writing software, I am a lot more sympathetic to some of the issues that customers create. Quite honestly, I am amazed things work as well as they do when I work with third party vendors who are still writing code that is designed for OS’ that are two or three generations old. Microsoft takes the heat for it, but it is not their issue. Third party vendors need to write to the specs and stay current. We should be able to expect that as they didn’t give us their software for free.

HTS was able to take two of our clients to Redmond early in the Vista cycle and spend a week testing their software in labs on the Microsoft campus. Every time there was an issue with a piece of software, when we dug into it and talked with the application provider, it came to light that they had not followed the rules for design and coding or had failed to update things to work with the new OS. Is that Microsoft’s problem? They take the blame but they can’t really fix these issues at all. It is the third party vendors that have created a majority of the problems we have experienced. In many cases, we have moved customers to an application that is Vista ready and things work fine. Most problems are not Vista problems.

Do things work better with a service pack release – probably, maybe or sometimes. That again is often related to the fact that end users are running on old equipment or in non supported environments and expect Microsoft to make things work. We see it in our client base all the time. “What do you mean this seven year old printer isn’t supported anymore?” How come I can’t use this or that is a common question. The reality is that the marketplace changes and no one can write code that supports all these products and environments indefinitely. People have to be willing to stay current with their products and applications or be willing to accept the fact they are making a choice – that they may not be supported, or heaven forbid not work. I don’t see that as Microsoft’s problem – although they get blamed.

As for preparing us for releases, that too seems to be a choice. We have been running Win 7 internally for some time now and doing our testing, learning and due diligence to get ready. It is available and can be downloaded and tested with plenty of lead time prior to its pending release. That is not really again a Microsoft issue, it is a lack of discipline and planning by VAR’s who don’t do their homework or corporations that choose to just sit back and play the blame game rather than the work it takes to run a strong IT shop. Contrary to popular desire, stuff just doesn’t work without some effort (thankfully for us as VAR’s) and it does require planning and budget to stay current and competitive with technology. We pride ourselves in engaging with Microsoft early and often and it has been a great asset to us and our customer base. My team is well versed in their products way before release because we have tested and most times implemented them in controlled test environments for real world customers prior to product launch. That is a choice we make and by making it we don’t run into the kinds of experiences many just want to point fingers and blame Microsoft for.

Success is a two way street. They build good products, they provide a lot of opportunities to get engaged and learn, but at the end of the day it is the choice of a VAR or customer as to what they do with it. If people don’t prepare, do their homework, have a plan and execute it in a disciplined fashion – well they get what they deserve – chaos, frustration and unhappiness. But for those who do – who follow the guidance and planning, put in the effort to learn and understand, verify that third parties have done what they need to – those customers end up with little to no disruption and a very solid environment. We had it with XP, we have it with Vista, and we will have it with Win 7. The end result is not nearly as dependent on the product – it is very important but they don’t ship stuff that won’t work – it is dependent on how that product gets deployed. Microsoft doesn’t control that – they just are blessed with all the blame customers and VAR’s want to place when they don’t do things right and it blows up in their face.

Some of you will read this and think I have been bought off by Microsoft. That is not accurate or true. Microsoft is a partner to us at HTS, and a very important one at that, but these things I share are not specific to Microsoft. You can change the vendor name and products and it applies across the board. The problem is not normally the vendor, it is the VAR or end user who fail to perform. Vendors get blamed, they have to try and make it work in spite of us, but when we look in the mirror the finger most often is pointing at us. Before you go off on a vendor next time, ask yourself if you did your homework, learned the technology, read the manual, got your team certified, followed the guidance, tested, planned and deployed according to plan. If you can say yes to those things, then you may have a sympathetic ear from me. But in most cases, that is not what happens. To that I say you are on your own.


Aaron Booker said...

I couldn't agree more. I'm a Mac user since 1987 (cross platform guy now) - and Microsoft has done many, many things right with Vista. Folks forget that Apple completely dropped support for older programs with OS X but Microsoft has tried to keep compatibility - but that only works with cooperation from the industry... They take a lot of undeserved heat, in my opinion...


Stuart R. Crawford said...

Arlin, thank you for speaking the reality out there. I had a rash of comments about my OpenOffice experience and to be quite honest many of the people commenting I am sure where those that will never see value from anything coming out of Redmond. Thank you for your honesty my friend.

Stuart Crawford