Will a ‘Bug’ Derail Windows 7 Launch?

Microsoft is putting out fires over questions regarding a purported “showstopper” bug in Windows 7 that naysayers claim could push back the scheduled October 22 launch date for the new system.

The discussion on the Web got so heated that the newly-named President of the Windows Division, Steven Sinofsky jumped into the fray with a blog post that unequivocally stated this is no showstopper — a term meaning everything else comes to a halt until the bug is fixed.

“While we appreciate the drama of ‘critical bug’ and then the pickup of ‘showstopper’ that I’ve seen, we might take a step back and realize that this might not have that defcon level,” Sinofsky said in a post on the Chris123NT blog. “Bugs that are so severe as to require immediate patches and attention would have to have no workarounds and would generally be such that a large set of people would run across them in the normal course of using their PC.”

A Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of Sinofsky’s blog post.

Reports of the bug first surfaced Monday on a number of tech sites and user forums. It involves a command prompt utility called “chkdsk,” which checks the integrity of hard disk contents. Reports stated that during execution, chkdsk would grab too much memory and crash Windows 7.

Early reports pegged the problem as a showstopper that was bound to cause a delay in Windows 7’s launch. However, later reports as well as Sinfosky’s blog post led many tech enthusiasts to draw the conclusion that, barring some other bug actually being deemed a showstopper, Windows 7 will go forward as planned.

One reason it’s not seen as a showstopper is that Microsoft’s own internal testers have not been able to duplicate the crashes. “In this case, we haven’t reproduced the crash and we’re not seeing any crashes with chkdsk on the stack reported in any measurable number that we could find. We had one beta report on the memory usage, but that was resolved by design since we actually did design it to use more memory,” Sinofsky added.

Sinofsky’s intervention must be good news for subscribers to the company’s MSDN and TechNet online technical services, since they are scheduled to be able to begin downloading the final version of Windows 7 as of Thursday, August 6.

Certification of the final code took place on July 22, when it was released to manufacturing, otherwise known as RTM. From that date onwards, the final code has been locked down and distributed to certain customers, to PC manufacturers, and to retail outlets.

That does not mean that a bug that shows up after RTM couldn’t trigger a halt to the process, although it would be massively expensive to do, so it would not be unusual if everyone — Microsoft, partners, and customers — walks on eggshells between now and the holiday sales season.

“We are certainly going to continue to look for, monitor, and address issues as they arise if required. So far this is not one of those issues,” he said.

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