≡ Menu

Is Windows Vista really Microsoft’s Copland?

Paul Thurrott has an interesting post on the Windows Vista Reset:

Much of the problems are related to corporate culture, and that won’t be fixed by Microsoft’s recent reorganization. Microsoft is far too big a company with far too many levels of executives, to move quickly and seize on new market trends. Windows Vista, as a result, is fighting the OS battles of the last decade, reacting rather than being proactive and innovative. Mac OS X users, for example, can point to many of Vista’s features and correctly note that they appeared first on Apple’s system, sometimes years ago. For Microsoft, a company that desperately wants to be seen as an innovator, this situation is untenable.

The ironic thing is that most of Microsoft’s system software customers don’t want the company to be a frontline innovator: they just want a system that’s reliable, works, and makes computers easier to use. Many of the early problems for Vista stemmed from its features being driven by engineers obsessed with the latest buzzwords rather than concentrating on the user – which, ironically enough, was one of the things that sank Apple’s Copland project.

On every feature that’s added in Vista, Microsoft needs to answer a question: "Does this feature add immediate benefits for either the end user or developers?" And, as a secondary question once you’ve decided that it does, "Can it be implemented in a way that either makes the system easier to use, or, at worst, no more difficult?" If the answer is no to either of these, then that feature cannot make the cut. This is what didn’t happen with Copland, and is one of the things that sank the project.

However, it appears that Microsoft has realised the potential for a Copland scenario. As Paul puts it:

All that said, Windows Vista is now on track. Current beta builds of the system show an OS that is far more similar to Windows XP, with fewer new features and a much less elegant interface, than originally planned. But it’s a solid-looking release, and some of the upcoming consumer-oriented features, which Microsoft will reveal between now and the Beta 2 release in early December, are sure to wow users. Has Microsoft gotten its groove back? Not at all, and there are still huge changes that need to be made. But righting the ship for Windows Vista was a good first step.

Fewer and better implemented is better, so it’s heartening to know that’s the path Microsoft is going on.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • smallduck

    What sank Copland was Apple’s culture at the time, the same culture that also lead to QuickDraw GX, OpenTalk and OpenDoc, which wasn’t about the latest buzzwords and not concentrating on the user. Apple problems, I believe, was that idealistic engineers came up with new and interesting solutions to real problem and needs, but there was a lack of competent, critical, technical management to riegn in those efforts, call bullsh** on any bad ideas and dictate going back to the drawing board. Meanwhile senior management were quick to back all the wild projects, even leading the charge, with the overall strategy being to try pulling the next great technology out of their asses. I’ve heard Apple at time described as “lacking grown-ups” or words to that effect.

    A lot of things in these abandoned Apple projects were great ideas that just needed to be regarded as prototypes or research projects, needing an additional iteration and set of outside influences to get right. For example Carbon HIToolbox changes since Copland looks like a 2.0 of what was in Copland, with a big revision to the development plan to make it a long well-managed change as opposed to an all or nothing gamble. OS X printing was helped by some of the mistakes made in QuickDraw GX printing, perhaps mostly to recognize some of the same mistakes being repeated, and to send it for an extra visit to the drawing board.

    (Scapegoat Amelio and his VPs might very well have been responsible for some of this culture change, they were certainly the ones who recognized the problems, started abandoned deadend projects, and chose NeXT partially as just an injection of competence)

    I suspect the culture at MS today to be quite different to that at Apple then. Perhaps its a problem of “too many grown-ups”, with senior management mandating strategies to ruthlessly keep their stranglehold on the market, but with no idea how to create, or foster creation of, great new things.

  • http://www.ambivi.com Wes McGee

    “What sank Copland was Apple’s culture at the time, the same culture that also lead to QuickDraw GX, OpenTalk and OpenDoc, which wasn’t about the latest buzzwords and not concentrating on the user. Apple problems, I believe, was that idealistic engineers came up with new and interesting solutions to real problem and needs, but there was a lack of competent, critical, technical management to riegn in those efforts, call bullsh** on any bad ideas and dictate going back to the drawing board. Meanwhile senior management were quick to back all the wild projects, even leading the charge, with the overall strategy being to try pulling the next great technology out of their asses. I’ve heard Apple at time described as “lacking grown-ups” or words to that effect.”

    Actually, from my reading of the articles (the original WSJ piece and the various redistributions of it), that sounds very much exactly like what went wrong at Microsoft.

    Sometimes, I think Microsoft does give too much free reign to its engineers to go off on wild tangents and forgets the fundimentals. Frankly, right now I can’t see what benefits I as the home user will get from Longhorn/Vista now than I get from XP. All I want is wireless networking as stable as it was on 2000 (ironically when the manufacturer had to impliment the support whole cloth — I’d blame it on conflicts with XP and the manufacturer’s software, but I’ve had it set for XP to manage the connection, and it still drops the connection with maddening frequency.).