Windows Vista Developer Talks About Quality

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-11-10 Print this article Print

Some two months ago Jim Allchin, the man who leads Windows development, decided he needed to appoint someone to ensure that Vista's quality met the company's internal quality goals and who could help the team communicate that effectively, both internally

As Windows Vista entered its final few months of engineering, Jim Allchin, the man who leads Windows product development at Microsoft, decided he needed to appoint someone who could not only ensure that Vista met the companys internal quality goals, but also help the team communicate that effectively both internally and externally. That person was Michael Wallent, the general manager of the Windows client platform team, who spoke publicly with eWEEK about his role for the first time.
"As we got into end game here with Vista, all of us moved around, and I started working closely with Jim Allchin some two months ago, looking at whether we were at the right place with Vista quality and whether we were nearly done," he said in an exclusive interview.
Wallent has been at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft for more than 10 years on the engineering side, working on the Internet Explorer team before he started working on the new graphics platform, known as Avalon, or Windows Presentation Foundation, for Vista. The team was also responsible for the printing and imaging, XPS and accessibility in Vista. His appointment came after Vista was delayed several times and its feature set was cut back to meet Microsofts production schedule and quality benchmarks. To read more about how quality issues were responsible for Vistas shipping delays, click here. "We have thousands of very detailed internal metrics around quality that all the engineering teams use on a daily basis, so one of my goals was to talk about this in a way that made sense to those people not closely involved in the products engineering and to gauge actual progress," Wallent said. One of the challenges he faced was all of the different notions people had about what quality actually was. Wallent boiled down the quality issue to just three things: the amount of time spent on Vista to make the release the highest possible quality; the core quality of the system, which includes reliability, performance and security; and the ecosystem quality, which includes the hardware, devices and third-party software. To do this, Wallent looked at the Vista schedule in comparison to what the development teams had done historically, even though "it is always really challenging to compare Windows releases to one another," he said. "With Windows 2000, we released the client and server together; with Windows XP we did the client only, but it was a shorter release as there was less fundamental change in the product," Wallent said. Click here to read more about how Vista finally went gold. "When we looked at the Vista milestones, from Beta 2 to launch, they were quite similar in terms of the timing we took in XP. For example, the time between Beta 2 and RC1 in XP was 97 days [and] with Vista it was 99 days; the time between RC1 and RC2 was 28 days in XP and 42 days for Vista," he said. But an important difference between the two products is that the time between RTM and launch will be 82 days for Vista compared with 64 days with XP. "This is an important time for the ecosystem to get in place to support Vista well, from an application and driver point of view," Wallent said. A large percentage of the driver ecosystem is now also delivered through Windows Update, and Microsoft continues to work closely with its software, hardware and driver partners to do that. What is the real compatibility picture for Windows Vista? Click here to read more. Vista will also ship with more than 16,000 drivers in the box compared with the 10,000 that were shipped with XP, and just 2,000 were made available on Windows Update for XP versus nearly 14,000 for Vista, he said. Next Page: A question of time.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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