Microsoft emails reveal Vista driver fiasco
By Matthew Sparkes
Posted on 28 Feb 2008 at 12:05
Microsoft executives believed there were serious problems with Vista's driver support when the OS launched, according to internal emails unearthed during a court case.
Microsoft board member, Jon Shirley, sent an email to Steve Ballmer explaining that he had upgraded his own computer to Vista, but that he was now having problems with getting MSN applications to work.
Device support was also sparse, with many peripherals being totally or partially unsupported on the launch date. Much of this was due to manufacturers failing to develop device drivers on time, Microsoft suggests.
"No one really believed we would ever ship so they didn't start the work until very late in 2006," said Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky, in an email to Steve Ballmer quoted by Seattle Post Intelligencer. "This led to the lack of availability."
"The Vista Ready logo program required drivers available on 1/30 [30 January]. I think we had had reasonable coverage, but quality was uneven as I experienced," he explained.
"For example, I could print with [my] Brother printer and use it as a stand-alone fax. But network setup, scanning, print to fax must come from Brother."
Sinofksy concludes by saying Microsoft needs to do a better job on driver support. "All of this is why we need much more clarity and focus at events like WinHEC [Windows Hardware Engineering Conference]. We need to be clearer with industry and we need to decide what we will do and do that well and 100% and not just do a little of everything which leaves the IHV [Independent Hardware Vendors] in a confused state."
Ballmer's one-word reply to the email was "righto", according to the court documents.
Microsoft is currently fighting a lawsuit over allegations of confusing descriptions relating to minimum PC requirements. Many PCs were described as "Vista Capable" when the operating system was first launched, even though they could only run Vista Home Basic.
Further emails have emerged during this case which show that Microsoft lowered the graphics requirements of the Vista Capable campaign, so that Intel could continue to sell motherboards with 915 embedded graphics. Another executive, Mike Nash, wrote in a subsequent email that he "personally got burned by the Intel 915 chipset issue."
He went on to explain that he chose a Vista Capable laptop, but was disappointed to find that it wouldn't run certain applications or Vista's Glass interface. "I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine," he wrote.
"Throughout this process, Microsoft employees raised concerns and addressed issues with the intent to make this program better for our business partners and valuable for consumers. That's the sort of exchange we want to encourage. And in the end, we believe we succeeded in achieving both objectives," Microsoft spokesperson Jack Evans tells the Seattle Post Intelligencer.
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