Windows Vista App Compat: Sometimes You Can't Blame Microsoft

When the phone rings right at dinnertime, you just assume it’s a telemarketer claiming you’ve won a fabulous free trip to Vegas. Chances are pretty good that the caller really is a telemarketer. But every once in a while it’s not. It’s like that when an application doesn’t work with Windows Vista or when a driver isn’t available. You get that roll-your-eyes-and-groan feeling, and sigh, "Microsoft." But sometimes it’s not Microsoft.

If you’re a customer of Intuit’s QuickBooks software, for example, you might know about the controversy around the fact that QuickBooks 2006 won’t run on Vista. If you want to upgrade to Vista, and run QuickBooks, you need to buy QuickBooks 2007. Of course, the automatic response is to blame Microsoft for Vista’s lack of application compatibility. But in this case, it’s not Microsoft's fault. Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks, decided not to participate in Microsoft’s "Works with Windows Vista" or "Certified for Windows Vista" program. In fact, QuickBooks 2006 isn’t even certified for Windows XP. It’s not like Intuit didn’t have time to participate in the certification programs. The XP certification goes back to 2001, and most applications that work on XP also work on Vista.

The complexity of complying with Vista’s stricter security requirements is one reason software makers cite for the lack of backward-compatibility for QuickBooks and other software. (For more information, see "The Online HelpDesk for Computerized Accounting: QuickBooks and Vista" at http://www.cpa911.com/read_article.asp?ID=179.) I feel for the software makers. Seriously. But is it right to blame Microsoft for hardening Vista? I think not. Microsoft has taken all sorts of heat about security vulnerability in past OS versions.

The same blame-it-on-Microsoft reasoning is being applied with regard to drivers. I recently received a letter from a reader who wrote: "nVidia doesn't plan to develop nForce 2 Drivers for Vista. Handling customers like that isn't acceptable. This is the way Wintel and nVidia are trying to sell their new components." Now, how can someone blame Microsoft (or "Wintel") if a chipmaker decides not to create drivers? (As an aside: Did you know that bad third-party drivers are responsible for a huge number of those blue screens of death that have given Windows a reputation for poor reliability? It’s often not bad Microsoft code but bad drivers that crash Windows.) The point here is best summarized by something a friend and industry expert recently wrote to me: "There's no excuse for software companies to be 'Not ready for Vista.' The darn thing is years overdue. How much time do you need? Why should Microsoft bend for people who spent years ignoring the rules and then want more years because all those years of bad coding take a long time to find and fix?"

Vista Admin Tools Update

Speaking of reasons for not upgrading to Vista, I want to report back on Microsoft’s responses to your comments about the lack of admin tools for Vista. One reader said, "A couple of us within the IT team installed Vista Ultimate (from TechNet) to find that the IT tools that we regularly use did not work. It was basic stuff like the Users and Computers, \[Microsoft Management Console\] MMC, and most of the tools from the adminpak.msi."

In response, Jason Leznek, a senior product manager on the Windows Client team, wrote: "ADMINPAK.MSI, which shipped out of band for Windows XP management of Windows Server 2003 features (such as the Users and Computers snap-in for Active Directory management, as the reader mentioned), will work with Windows Vista. There are some minor installation issues that are documented with workarounds in the Knowledge Base article at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/930056/en-us. One can download the tools from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=C16AE515-C8F4-47EF-A1E4-A8DCBACFF8E3&displaylang=en." Jason added, "The reader is incorrect in that MMC does in fact ship with Windows Vista. I believe he/she is referring to the server management tools, which are MMC snap-ins and do not ship in-box. I refer to the installation above."

Another reader commented, "Right now there is no ability to deploy Vista over XP into the corporate environment via a fully automated, in-situ, unattended upgrade with any reasonable expectation that things will continue to work as they did before." Manu Namboodiri, a senior product manager in the Windows Client group, replied that, "with \[the Microsoft Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment 2007\] BDD 2007 and \[Systems Management Server 2003\] SMS 2003, we can offer a powerful capability right now for Windows Vista as well as XP. We do have unattended capability along with a comprehensive task sequencer."

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