Microsoft Corp.s Windows client development team is working hard to get Windows Vista out by the late 2006 holiday season. Jim Allchin, the co-president of Microsofts Platform Products and Services Division, sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli and David Coursey, an Editor-at-Large for Ziff Davis Internet, to discuss the timetable for the rest of the year.
He also touched on topics like the succession plan when he retires at the end of this year and the development work under way for Vienna, the Windows release that follows Vista and likely to debut around 2010.
This is the last operating system you will be responsible for at Microsoft before you retire. What would you like to see it achieve?
I would like to see customers end up over time, not initially, believing that it was a very safe and secure system for them to use and that it made their lives more productive. I say over a period of time as I think it is hard to judge immediately. You will have a level of instantaneous gratification where users like the photo features or music or the way things work.
How will the Vista world be different from the XP world on the security front?
I am going to assume that you mean Windows XP SP2. I think this is a significant step up from that in terms of security, meaning this is the first system that we have gone through the Trusted Computing initiative from beginning to end, and I expect the quality in terms of the code to be much higher, which means there should be fewer vulnerabilities.
With that said, I also include safety in this: safety in terms of providing the features that somebody might want to use to protect their children in terms of Web sites that can be visited, the games that they can play and feel safe browsing around the Internet.
You are putting a lot of resources into security for Windows Vista, but how about for those customers already on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 and who want SP3 for XP and SP2 for Windows Server 2003. When will those service packs come out?
I havent heard anyone ask for the second service pack for Windows Server 2003. I might not be in touch, but I havent heard much about that. In terms of XP, we will do a third service pack, but I feel that given what we have been doing with Windows Update—keeping people up-to-date on security fixes and through Windows Update Services for corporations—that we are doing right by our customers here.
We are applying a lot of resources in terms of completing Windows Vista, thats absolutely true, but we also have a completely separate sustaining engineering team working on improving Windows XP. So I think we have reached a reasonable balance of what were trying to do.
The Windows and Office team have both been talking about how the use of Windows Vista and Office 12 will provide a better experience. Can you give me some specific examples of that?
They have put indexing into Office 12 so that you will be able to index from down-level systems. But when you are running on Windows Vista there will only be one index and they will share the index that is on there.
Frankly, this is the first time to my knowledge that Office has ever used the Windows file open dialogue. It has been the number one request from office developers building custom solutions on top of Office. They want to be able to use the Windows file open dialogue as this will give a consistent look. There are also things like the Sideshow—being able to have a gadget in a device that works—as another example.
Changing of the
Can you tell me more about the roles that you and Kevin Johnson currently play as co-presidents of Microsofts Platform Products and Services Division?
Well, were operating jointly. We spent a lot of time together at first, and we keep each other informed of exactly what were doing. We are in the middle of a transition, obviously, and Kevin is taking responsibility for more of the business functions that are going on. So, setting up the revenue for fiscal year 2007 and the planning of expenses. He owns all of that and is spending the majority of his time also, from a product group level, with the Windows Live and MSN teams. He is also responsible for setting up organizational changes for the future.
Where Im spending my time is first and foremost on Windows Vista, second on overall technology, pushing ahead on a set of core technologies that we need beyond what Windows Vista is and then also on the overall strategy for things, like anything in the legal space, as I unfortunately have such a deep background in that area. But you should understand that we are operating as a complete pair right now and over time he will pick up even more.
Is this a deliberate move away from having a technical person in charge [Allchin] to a more business, sales and marketing focused leader [Johnson]?
Well, my opinion is that Kevin is just a great leader and that is why I was so excited to be able to work with him. As we move ahead, many of the challenges we face will be tricky business model tradeoffs, and leading large organizations down particular paths, and Kevin is such a great guy at doing that. So Im thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him and I think he will be an outstanding leader for this organization.
Is the plan to have Johnson assume a more technological role down the line?
I think that with the current path we will surround him with technologists, very strong. I dont know how you think about Bob Muglia [Microsofts senior vice president of Server and Tools], but I think of him as this awesome guy who can bridge the business and technical and any other worlds. I think of Kevin in that same light.
Weighing Technology vs
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Although we could have made several choices for a replacement for me, I had strong views on what type of leader would be necessary and I think as time goes on that Kevin can make those tradeoffs.
He listens, he does deep analysis and he can actually make the tradeoffs because he will get the pros and the cons and then make a decision, and then people will also feel good about it.
Do you see Brian Valentines role changing as a result of your retirement?
Everybody is focused on getting Windows Vista done right now, or on getting the next Windows Live feature out. We are talking about how the future organization should look, but it is too premature to hazard a guess. [Valentine is the senior vice president for Microsofts Windows Core Operating System Division].
But doesnt Valentine have that broad and deep technical knowledge of Windows that would be useful to Johnson in the role he assumes once you retire?
Yes, but to be clear, that deep technological knowledge can be used in a lot of places. One of the things we have the opportunity to do now is step back and look across the whole future that we are trying to create and say where can we apply that talent best. Its too early to say, and all these people can be used in so many different ways. But we are, right now, focused on trying to ship this product.
Have those big picture features that did not make Vista been shifted to the version of Windows beyond Vista, now code-named Vienna?
Vienna is far enough out that I do not think about it in terms of core features, but I think about it in terms of themes and that we are working on a set of core technologies, whether or not they make Vienna, that we want to get to.
There are areas where Im spending time with the core development team in terms of componentization, extensibility and the application model and those sorts of things. But that is for the future, not for Windows Vista.
Are any of the Windows Vista development team moving across to Vienna now that the product is feature complete?
There is a minor, small set of people who have been working on some advanced technologies, but it is a very small number and we have so many issues that we are trying to work through here [with Vista].
As I mentioned, device performance, application compatibility and device drivers. I mean we are just at the point where everybody is all-hands-on-deck. But we do have some people looking at the things of the future and doing some code, but they have been doing that for some time.
Do you think that when Windows Vienna ships, it will be just a 64-bit version, rather than 32-bit and 64-bit versions as is the case with Vista?
I certainly hope so. You know the decisions we have already made around that on the server side. We are not going to have unsigned drivers and that is just the beginning for us to make the system that much more locked down. Not knowing where something is coming from is a real problem.