By Brier Dudley
Seattle Times technology reporter
January 30, 2006
Talk about a swan song.
Retiring Windows boss Jim Allchin is putting final touches on software
that could finally help people start feeling safe and secure using a
PC, if all goes according to plan.
Allchin gave an overview last week of Windows Vista, the new version
of Microsoft's flagship software that Allchin's team is set to deliver
before he retires at the end of 2006. He said it's on track to go on
sale by the holidays.
Other highlights include a built-in search system for finding and
sorting through files on a PC; translucent graphics with a control
panel down the right side of the desktop; and a new media player and
Vista is Microsoft's first new PC operating system since the company
overhauled its development process to emphasize security. Among
Vista's security features is a protected mode that, in effect, puts an
umbrella around the browser, insulating the PC from users' online
activity, Allchin said.
Microsoft also changed its practice of releasing several near-final
"beta" test versions. Instead it's issuing "community-technology
preview" or CTP versions, including one for big companies over the
next month. In an interview with The Seattle Times, Allchin also
discussed competition with Apple Computer, the future of the PC market
and his dreams for Vista. Here's an edited transcript:
Q: We've heard of big course changes during Vista's development. Is it
A: We made all the deliveries that we said we would when we decided
that we were going to re-engineer our processes for building the
Q: So it's still going on sale this year?
A: We still feel very good about making broad availability in this
calendar year. This new approach to releasing the software =97 where in
the past we had these large betas and now we're moving to this new
program of more frequent drops =97 it's working out very, very well. We
were able to reach feature-complete much earlier than what we
anticipated and actually this quarter's CTP will have all the features
that we're planning for the product in it.
The bottom line is that this new program is letting us develop the
product faster. We're getting more feedback on it and it's working out
pretty well so far.
Q: So it's not late?
A: We're on track, as I mentioned, for this holiday year. I will also
make a cautionary notice that I will not ship this product if it
doesn't achieve the quality that's demanded by our customers. So
although everything looks great right now, quality will be the
deciding factor. I feel pretty good right now and we'll see how it
goes the rest of the year.
Q: Is "holiday 2006"' a bit later than expected?
A: No, that's what we've always said. That's what I said last April;
that has been the plan since 2004.
Q: Are there any features you regret leaving out?
A: Well, that's a hard thing. There's nothing that comes to mind right
now. At this point, literally, I just want to complete what we've got
in there because it's so rich in terms of features.
Q: Will you make a version of Vista for Apple computers, now that
they're using Intel processors?
A: We have no plans to move Vista to the Macintosh hardware.
Q: There's a bit of feature overlap with your new operating system and
Apple's. What is the competitive situation going to be like now that
you're on the same hardware platform?
A: I actually am not sure that sharing the same hardware platform's
going to make that much difference, personally. People may disagree on
that perspective. ... We're a massive company. By that, I mean that
Apple really has no presence in business, and we think Vista's going
to have a huge presence in business. We think we're going to help the
corporate IT stack save money.
We think we're going to help information workers. And we think in the
home space, we have significant advancements that we're very proud of,
in terms of how we integrate with TV and how we do gaming.
And most important, we're super proud of the fact that we're a
partnership-level company where we're working with ISVs [independent
software vendors] and IHVs [independent hardware vendors] and we're
not trying to do it all ourselves. There's a fundamental difference of
And so the fact that they moved to Intel, I'm not sure that makes a
lot of difference. We will, I'm sure, be judged by many people
comparing us to Linux and to the Macintosh and who knows what else.
That's what life is, and I hope we've done a good job and I hope
customers like what we've done.
Q: In developing countries, you now offer a lower-cost "Starter"
edition of Windows. What are Vista plans for the developing world?
A: We haven't announced the [product lineup], but you should expect us
to continue on the same path that we're on. You should consider that
we like what's happening in terms of the Starter world and we just
think that we will continue on that same path.
Q: What's going to happen to the PC market in the next two or three
years, after Vista is released?
A: I continue to see a healthy PC market, very healthy. The machines
will continue to morph; you'll see smaller machines that have more
I continue to see good growth in the mobile space; I expect to see PCs
being the core driver in the home. And I mean that for entertainment
along with the work-at-home space.
I expect to see more machines networked in the home, which is going to
mean more sales, so I see a robust and very healthy industry.
If I had a personal dream, it's that the hardware industry in the PC
space spends more time innovating in terms of the capabilities of the
system, and that there's a wide variety to choose from, from low-end
priced systems to very cool, sexy high-end machines for the people who
have the budget to afford it and who have the desire for the extra
Q: How much will the experience of using Vista depend on subscribing
to services - will users have to sign up for Windows Live (a Web
service Microsoft is introducing)?
A: Windows Live is totally separate from Windows Vista.
Q: With all the security advances in Vista, will people not worry any
more about computer security? Will that concern fade away over the
next couple of years?
A: This is my dream, so I'll have to see if my dream comes true.
To some degree, when we did Windows 2000 and Windows XP, we worked on
trying to take away the reliability stigma that PCs had.
By that I mean I don't think people even think about their machines
having to be rebooted, not like they used to be in the old days.
It used to be very common to reboot your Windows 9x machine. I think
we did a very good job there.
I hope we can do the same thing on safety and security with Windows
Vista. ... We are going to do a huge change with Windows Vista on
this, but it truly is something that isn't going to go away for a very
long time. We are going to make it much less of an issue, but it's
still going to have to be something that people are aware of
Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or bdudley @ seattletimes.com
Copyright =A9 2006 The Seattle Times Company
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