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Writing to Microsoft

After a long battle last night with my Windows Vista PC I got up this morning and saw that Computerworld is reporting that one in six new laptops sold in the US is a Mac.  It touched a nerve, so much so that I sat down and penned this piece of email to senior managers at Microsoft.

UPDATE: Within minutes of mailing this, I got a speedy reply from Jeff.  Fabulous!  Within 45 minutes I had mail back from Steven Sinofsky as well, explaining the steps they were taking to address these issues.  Application compatibility and the video subsystem are two areas they're focused on at the moment, he told me. 


From: Alec Saunders
Sent: August-29-07 9:54 AM
To: Steve Ballmer; Jeff Raikes; Steve Sinofsky

Subject: regarding Windows Vista

Steve, Jeff and Steve…

I am writing you both because I know you from my days at Microsoft from 1992 to 2001.  And to put what I’m about to say in context, I have been a Windows PC user since Windows version 1.02, and my home is stuffed full of PC’s, networks and servers… all running Windows – XP, Vista, Home Server.  I worked on the launches of MS-DOS 6, MS-DOS 6.2, Windows 3.1, WFW, NT 3.1, NT 3.51, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows CE, Windows 98 SE, and Windows ME before leaving the company.  I’m a self-professed geek and will willing put up with a lot of pain in order to have the latest technology as well. 

Now that you have the context for who I am, I want to tell you that I am seriously losing faith.  My experience with Windows Vista has been a rank disaster.  At this point, I believe it to be worse than Windows 98, which many consider to be the worst quality Windows product that Microsoft ever released.  Specifically:

1. Driver quality is low.  The ATI graphics card I have installed in my PC regularly causes a spontaneous reboot.  My HP scanner doesn’t have a supported driver anymore. 

2. Partner software quality is even worse.  For example, over the weekend I installed Sony’s software for the HDR-SR1 (their new high definition camcorder) and lived through a series of spontaneous reboots.  On one PC I was able to do a system restore.  On another, uninstall worked.  However, at this point I am simply unable to retrieve or view video files from that Camera, as they are all recorded in the new AVCHD format.

3. The OS quality is also low.  Subsystems sometimes stop working for no reason.  The PC I have printers attached to simply decides not to print, periodically.  Then the print spooler on all of the other Vista PC’s attached to it simply stops and has to be manually restarted.

4. Microsoft software hasn’t been fully tested on Vista either.  I use Foldershare, quite a bit, which works intermittently.  My Windows Live OneCare software sometimes works and sometimes not… on some PC’s and not others.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say it’s no surprise to me that one of the top stories on Techmeme this morning is that one in six new laptops are Macbooks, and not Windows.  I myself have seriously looked at abandoning my investment in Windows. My Macintosh owner friends encourage me to do so, and don’t seem to have the same kind of trials with PC’s that I do.  They appear to be able to just open them, use them, and put them away.  Parents I know are opting to buy their children Mac’s, apparently because it relieves them of the need to be IS manager for the home. 

The driver, Microsoft software and OS quality issues are Microsoft’s alone. However, the partner quality issue is an evangelism and certification issue.  It seems, from where I sit, that the evangelism effort that the Windows 95 launch team undertook was not matched by the Windows Vista launch team. 

This issue impacts me daily.  I spend at least an hour a day fixing PC problems, whether on my tablet PC in my office, or at home.  I can’t continue this way, and if I can’t I would imagine a lot of other customers can’t either.



{ 19 comments… add one }

  • Peter Childs August 29, 2007, 10:56 am

    I recently bought an HP notebook and am giving it and Vista a fair trial – but to hedge my bets I also ensured that I chose a model that supports XP.

    I also copied all the XP drivers for the computer I bought and secured a legal copy of XP should I need to change OS's.

    What suprised me was how many discussions their were on converting from Vista to XP on the HP forums (copied those as well) – and how many valid reasons there were – from niche applications that are not supported to network admins that weren't ready.

    What really urks me is that business users can still choose XP (mainly for application support and internal Admin reasons) but home users are stuck – though many of us are like you, running home networks that rivial some businesses.

    Having a stable OS that you know how to administer is worth a lot to a significant number of home users.

    I hope I don't have to do the OS swap – but if I do it's going to make me think a lot about where I go went XP support is eventually dropped.

  • Gary Kim August 29, 2007, 12:52 pm

    I agree completely. I bought two Vista machines in the last three weeks and have returned one, keeping one XP machine up and running to avoid all the software incompatibilities I've encountered, including with BlackBerry, which is about as mission critical as one can get!

  • Alec August 29, 2007, 5:15 pm

    I agree with all the comments, and especially yours John. This is a franchise issue. I'll be posting a follow up tomorrow, as well.

  • Roland Tanglao August 29, 2007, 5:19 pm

    time to buy a mac and see if you can live without windows on 1 machine methinks!

  • John McKinley August 29, 2007, 8:51 pm

    I had a good friend rejoin MSFT recently, and I remember his initial blog posts and optimism about Vista. As only one friend can do to another, i tweaked him and said he was already drinking the Koolaid on the Vista front, and, as a dual mode household, that my own experiences differed pretty dramatically (though not as bad as yours). One example I highlighted was the fact that I have a 4+ year old iBook that we use on a daily basis, and that my only real “SA” activity was an OS X upgrade ONCE in its lifespan. I contrasted that to the fact that I couldn’t even fathom what life would be like on a 4 year old laptop at this point (never had one last that long as a primary machine) and how many re-installs of windows I subject each Win-based machine in our house to and how much time I have spent annually on other systems maintenance tasks. That was in an XP world (which looks better every day). Vista has just exasperated that support discrepancy. I would agree 100% on the unforgivable sin of OS quality – I know the pressure to get it finally out the door, but you still need to set the bar to a reasonable level.

    I could never imagine a MAC-only existence 2 or 3 years ago, but with the shift to Intel chips, the explosion of rich client options (AJAX, AIR, Silverlight, et al), and the incredible penetration of MACs in startups in the Valley (l;eading to great Firefox and better Safari support for their solution), it feels less and less of a sparse matrix for solutions than it did before. I know I can make the hard cutover, if forced. I hope I don’t have to…

    I would say I am really glad to see the quick response from senior folk at MSFT to your email – this is a franchise issue. Here’s hoping SP1 moves the dial materially (and that the partner-dependent issues get similar focus).

  • Thomas Purves August 30, 2007, 6:46 am

    What about the sheer gaudy ugliness of Vista? what are they going to do about that.

    If anything is tempting me to switch to mac, it's UI induced nausea.

    I also made the error of installing vista64. Unbelievably slow especially running applications like itunes…

  • Alec August 30, 2007, 7:48 am

    Personal taste I guess 😉 I like Vista's UI on my 22 inch widescreen monitor. Looks nice. But yes, speed issues are there, for sure.

  • jules August 30, 2007, 9:55 am

    Owww – now you’ve got me thinking about the new iMac again!
    My current daily-use laptop has about 6 months of life left until it gets to retire and spend it’s days as a back-up laptop.
    I was going to get a new Vista-enabled PC…. now i am afraid.

    Fantastic letter!


  • Mum August 31, 2007, 12:01 pm

    …….and computers save you time!!

  • Alec August 31, 2007, 1:35 pm

    that’s the promise, anyway!

  • aao September 26, 2007, 9:58 am

    Same as Alec I am a Ms junkie. I still remember what VBX is, and how to write one:). Until 3 years ago I was MS only, than I started to write programs on Linux. I am still convinced that Windows(before Vista) is still superior, but I am starting to have doubts. Last month I got Macintosh at work and after seeing Code View I have to admit it is reaching the level of maturity of VS 5-6, which is real threat to MS.

    It is not just vista. Here is the list of buggy or in some cases non-functioning upgrades MS did in last couple of years :
    1. Visual Studio 2005
    2. Windows(MSN) Messenger 8.x
    3. Virtual Server 2005
    4. SQL Server 2005 (mostly utilities)

    I can continue the list , but the point here every 2005+ upgrade form Microsoft has disturbing similarity : it is slower(much , much slower) than the previous version, setup is either non-functioning(MSN messenger) or incredibly difficult (SQL Server, Virtual Server). The new releases also incredibly CPU/Memory hungry and in addition to that use 2-x as much user handles and threads(which in my s-d world usually sign of sloppy programmer). In addition to that all of the products crash on regular bases.

  • Raider November 19, 2007, 11:23 am

    I would like to have in vista: editing explorer to have: one step UP button, cut copy and paste buttons ( it must be editable), i want LIST VIEW on all my folders and files ( i realy can live only with list views in explorer) it just must be for all ma hard drive "tha LIST VIEW ONLY", I want hardware sound to listen music in real quality like in XP – x-fi flyies on XP – on vista i have bad bad noise that was BIG step Back in time (Vista – low sound quality for office workers with really small speakers only) that i thin if it was fixed in Vista i think i could buy Vista… without anything of what i writed in here i wont USE Vista… do u HEAR ME MiCROSOFT ????? i wont use VIsta NEVER !!!!

  • Mr Rawlinson November 21, 2007, 9:04 pm

    Here's my similar request sent to Microsoft Help & Support line.. May it get thru to higher uppers.. Hmmm we shall see.

    To Vista Product Managers, and Microsoft Senior Executives.

    Nov 21 2007

    I own & operate about 10 Windows PC's and am a 30 year Computing & PC Professional.

    I am writing to say how disappointed I am with the Product Quality & Reliability of Vista. I own 4 Tablets the came with Vista Home Premium bought on May 2007. One of them I upgraded to Ultimate as I've long used advanced features such as Drive Mapping with Offline File access. I can find issues with most every part of Vista that was supposed to be innovative & productivity saving. A prime example is the Search Feature. This feature does not work on my Offline Mapped Folders where all my work data & files exist. In Vista I have no way to search my files and data with the product as it stands now.

    I acknowledge it is a huge challenge to develop, introduce, support & ensure compatibility and mobility of customers who need encouragement to move to new Microsoft Platforms. There is long term benefit for everyone when customers are smoothly migrated to new product platforms.

    However I find so many problems with my Vista platform, I hesitate to commence reporting them all. As a tiny businessman I can only say I have zero financial resources to commit to document & communicate these problems. In some cases I have filed bugs with my Hardware Supplier HP whom should take half the responsibility with some aspects of problematic peripherals. (Sadly to date I've had no confirmation from them of the problems reported). What is more worrisome is that the MS Knowledge base alone does not seem to contain records of the bugs I, and many other customers have. The finding struck me deeper when PC dealers echoed the same sentiments that I have discovered. Ditto with SP1 which is rumored to fix corporate system level issues with Vista but not customer problems. It's October release notes suggested it would fix none of the problems I experience.

    As a courtesy to myself and the many customers who are suffering with Vista's poor product quality, I wonder if Microsoft would not consider upgrading all our licenses to Ultimate so that we have a clean option to go back to XP as this license provides such choice. At the same time such would clean the feature slate of what Microsoft should be expected to put 100% support effort behind.

    I for one paid for one such upgrade to Ultimate from Home Premium. But the pain of living thru Vista's bugs, and related Third Party software compatibility issues (ie Adobe CS2) as a whole makes me very reluctant to invest another penny in software of such low quality.

    My suggestion to Microsoft is consider what I suggest or to alter the license of Vista to allow downgrading to XP as is provided under Vista's ultimate product and to completely open your support services to logging and documenting problems your customers are experiencing. Even in cases when problems can't be confirmed.

    In my opinion Microsoft has taken a similar hit with Vista as it did with Windows ME in terms of furthering it's reputation of not putting sufficient resources into product quality, problem resolution & customer satisfaction.

    I prefer Microsoft OS's but at this point I recommend to no one to consider purchasing Hardware with Vista installed. Go figure that Walmart at this point in time is doing strong business in its low cost Linux PC offering.

    I hope Microsoft will consider aggressive alteration of it's Vista marketing & support plans to win back the trust of so many faithful customers now thrown in doubt by Microsoft's rush to deliver something by Christmas 2006. Of any software company anywhere, Microsoft is a company that can save its skin should it recognize injustices caused to customers.

    Radical problems with Vista demand radical responses. One should expect such from Microsoft, a revered world leader in Software products & product quality.

    I await proof & commitment from you that Vista's quality will parallel my learning investment in it.

  • Robert December 4, 2007, 10:39 pm

    I have done the same after a taste of the new vista JUNK…….. They are trying to get you to buy all there products over and over and over . I am a tech offshore i have switched to mac and not looking back. I can get lots of the same from the mac and not have to worry about the incompatibilty problems of devices. ( and no virius problems like the windows machines).


  • stephen December 19, 2007, 11:01 am

    Own a small computer business, and recently purchased a SONY Vaio VGN-AR520E (vista), since I have always liked SONY and the notebooks that my clients have purchased during the past four years are all running well, really well with XP. So well in fact that those Old VAIO's with ½ the memory, Pentium 4 ht, tiny hard drives and crappy video cards by today's standards, compared with my VGN-AR520E, run TWO to THREE times as fast and are much more responsive.

    Have been relentlessly calling SONY support, and their customer relations team, they are blindsided and sticking with the "Virus" vista. Am requesting a refund according to the LICENSING TERMS IN THE VAIO SETUP SCREEN and they are not co-operating, so it is time to file suit, claim with ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW YORK. Have been promised XP drivers and an XP recovery disk for this model from SONY Tech support for months now, enough is enough.

    SONY, you made my shit list. No more endorsements for SONY.

  • kevin January 15, 2008, 9:44 pm

    I want a new laptop with windows xp. the only choice I have now is to get a mac.

  • Wade January 26, 2009, 4:58 am

    Microsoft has shown repeatedly over the years that they are not concerned with quality on any of there products . they have repeatedly releated poorly tested junk into the market because they have not competition. They will continue to do this until someone decides to beat them. all a company has to do is provide well tested high quality software into the market and people will eat it up. Even if it is an MAC.

    I hope Microsoft gets there rear's kicked.

  • martha July 4, 2014, 8:10 pm

    Hi Alec, Reading your letter from back in 2007, it is unbelivable that Windows come worse at ever version I bought now a new Sony Vaio and Windows 8.1 is a BIG JOKE. They tried to make a computer to be half way a traditional laptop and half way a tablete. At the end we consumers have a silly machine not a computer nor a tablete. They just did not get it. The public for Laptops wants a machine for very diferente reasons that the public for tablets. This new version underestimates both publics. The in the "work" side of the computer they eliminated importante and useful things like the start button, the latest documents oppened and just today I experienced the END of my simple calculator that I used on the screen to make simple tasks and could open many calculators at a time without having a doccument in the back ground. Now they put this highly complicated, with thousands options to replace the god old one and It just do not do the job to calculate something while your document is open in teh back ground. The Windows Office package is pathetic! It makes you lose so much time with simple tasks, just because they manage to give you SO MANY UNNECESSARY options that you simple get lost. The touch screen tool just does not work (does not even come close to na IPad touchscreen). The "Tablet" part of the computer is SO Silly! The Apps are shallow and the real thing just it is not there. SIMPLE AND FRIENDLY DOES IT. That is something that Steven Jobs new like no other in the business and MICROSOFT NEVER GOT IT. I am very sorry to have bought this "cutting Edge" Microsoft thechnology instead of na Apple computer.

  • Jayden September 27, 2015, 2:01 pm

    I play minecraft pc my account is missing it forgot my account
    Plz help

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