During the time I've spent using Vista, I've always had the nagging suspicion that Microsoft was treating this new OS not as a product designed to give the best possible experience to users. Instead, it felt like the OS was designed to give the best possible experience to Microsoft's OEM partners, all the while maximizing the profits for everyone! Yesterday, a federal judge unsealed emails relating to the Vista-capable class-action lawsuit which confirmed my suspicions.
Let's hit some background first. From the beginnings of our discussions with Microsoft about Vista, we were told that the Aero experience was the default. In order to be labeled Vista-capable, machines must have a bare minimum of graphics power. Intel's integrated 945 chipsets barely met that minimum, but the 915 didn't. Much to everyone's surprise, at the end of 2005, Microsoft authorized use of the Vista-Capable logo on machines with the 915 chipset.
Now, as we've reviewed precisely one machine in the last two years that uses integrated graphics, this usually wouldn't concern Maximum PC. Poor performance with integrated graphics is the least of our worries. But the dialog between Mike Ybarra (a product manager) and Jim Allchin (the Microsoft Co-President in charge of Vista) is part of the complete PDF released by the judge, and it's very revealing. Here's Mike's email:
Jim, I am passionate about this and believe this decision is a mistake.
We are caving to Intel
We worked hard the last 18 months to drive the UI experience and we are giving this up. The OEMs are behind us here, we have the support we need to drive this experience on today's hardware.
We are really burning HP - who committed to work with us to drive the UI experience across platforms and have made significant investments. Other OEMs have made bets against this as well.
These three things just don't add up to me. We are allowing Intel to drive our consumer experience. The OEMs support our goals here and they've made graphics investments to drive the UI experience with consumers. I don't understand why we would cave on this when the potential to drive the full UI experience is right in front of us.
Allchin's response was succinct, "It might be a mistake. I wasn't involved and it is hard for me to step in now and reverse everything here again."
In case you missed what happened here, Microsoft bent their core system requirements for Vista, with less than a year to go before launch, because Intel wanted Vista to continue support its sub-standard integrated graphics solution. This is a huge decision, which was made without top-level buy-in from the person ultimately responsible for the success of Vista--Jim Allchin. If Microsoft was willing to bend on something this huge, I can only imagine what other anti-consumer changes they wrought at the behest of corporate partners.