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.
"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.
"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.
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.