RealTime IT News

Microsoft Developer Unloads On The Vista Process

UPDATED: Perhaps it's convenient timing, or maybe he felt a bit braver now that Bill Gates is heading off to be a 21st century John D. Rockefeller.

Whatever the reason, a Microsoft employee really unloaded on his employer, and not in an anonymous blog, but on the company's own public developers site.

The posting, entitled The World As Best As I Remember It, comes from programmer Philip Su, a Windows programmer for the past five years before moving to the Tablet PC product division.

Su lays blame at the feet of Microsoft management for its confusing and multiple layers of bureaucracy, noting "…the largest software project in mankind’s history now threatens to also be the longest."

Ask any developer in Windows why Vista is so late and they will say the code is way too complicated and that the pace of coding has been tremendously slowed down by an overbearing process, he wrote.

It takes a dual processor computer a full day to do a full build of Vista, which really slows down the testing process. Vista has two thousand developers working on a product with 50 million lines of code over the last five years. That translates to around 1,000 lines per developer per year, whereas the average developer writes around 6,200 lines of code per year (Su did not cite his source).

Part of the reason Vista developers are less productive, he said, is they've been sidetracked with other jobs, such as fixes to Windows XP, the 64-bit Windows Server 2003 port, and so on. But the main reason for this slowness is "a bygone culture of belittlement and aggression. Windows can be a scary place to tell the truth," Su wrote.

"When a vice president in Windows asks you whether your team will ship on time, they might well have asked you whether they look fat in their new Armani suit." He describes a Dilbert-like environment where people simply lied to give the answer that was wanted rather than the truth.

Another problem Su sited was poor decision-making, but he also added that steps were being taken to fix that problem. There were 11 layers of management between Gates, chief software architect until last week, and any developer on a team. One meeting had six vice presidents and 10 general managers and everyone had a different way of operating, so there was no consistency through the project.

"Give me a cathedral, give me a bazaar -- really, either would be great. Just not this middle world in which some decisions are made freely while others are made by edict, with no apparent logic separating each from the other but the seeming curiosity of someone in charge," wrote Su.

Microsoft emailed the following comment on Su's blog entry:

"There are more than 3,000 employee bloggers at Microsoft and we value the great customer dialogue that these blogs create. The viewpoint in this post is one of many -– there's also a great deal of optimism across the company and the community for the progress we're making on Windows Vista, and the benefits it will bring to our customers. We're excited about the great feedback and huge demand we're seeing for Beta 2, and we're working very hard to improve the product."

One analyst took some positives from Su's post.

"The interesting thing here is that this is so open. That's probably a good sign," Michael Silver, research director for Gartner Group, told internetnews.com.

"Open discussion is good. There are a lot of people at Microsoft that are frustrated by such public troubles as the Vista slip and they're looking for change. Frank discussion can help that happen. I'm sure Microsoft would like it to be less public, but being seen as stifling this sort of discussion would be worse."