Known by its codename “Longhorn”, Windows Vista finished development on November 8, 2006. However, development completion was not automatically followed by public release. Instead, the following three months saw the operating system released in stages to computer hardware and software manufacturers, business customers, and retail channels. Only at the end of January the following year was Windows Vista finally released worldwide for the use of the general public.
This latest release of a Microsoft Windows operating system version took the longest time to happen among all previous releases. It took Microsoft more than five years to finish Windows Vista after it had previously introduced Windows XP. While these two circumstances of Vista’s release led most critics to question Microsoft’s capability of coming up with better versions of its Windows operating system series, a better understanding of the nature of digital products and the intrinsic complexities that need to be considered in the development of such technology would reveal that all the delays were necessary steps that Microsoft had t take to ensure the Windows Vista’s successful public launch.
The Complexity of Digital Products
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Unlike physical products like cars or cans of beans, manufacturing digital products naturally takes a longer time to get finalized. Firstly, developmental factors to consider are exponentially more dynamic. A software manufacturing company has to consider the amount of material being released by the day over the internet regarding the performance of their old products as well as improvements made on the products of their competition. With the emergence of other operating systems like UNIX, Linux, and Macintosh’s Mac OS X Tiger which are increasingly becoming more popular among consumers, it becomes even more important for Windows developers to spend as long a time as it takes to gather as much enough data on what new features would be most innovative and least redundant so as to obtain a better market share.
Secondly, unlike in the case of car manufacturing wherein new models that look different but run on the same engines can command significant buyer preferences, a new version of a software that only “looks” different but is otherwise the same as its predecessor would be severely rejected by consumers. There has to be a significant difference between the features of previous software and that of its successor in order for the new product to be at least marketable. After the release of Windows XP, Vista’s predecessor, little room for improvement was left to Windows where appearances were concerned.
Therefore, Microsoft had to make drastic changes to XP’s successor if it hoped to be able to convince the public that Vista was worth buying. As a result, Windows Vista was released containing hundreds of new and reworked features. It contains a new concept of graphical user interface dubbed Windows Aero that is unlike any other that currently exists in the market. Its improved multimedia creation tools include a DVD maker that was completely redesigned from the preceding generally unpopular Windows Movie Maker.
The Windows Explorer's task panel was removed in favor for a "Favorite links" panel that was determined to be a potentially more useful feature. Even the address bar was replaced with a new breadcrumb navigation system that makes it much easier to jump from one previously viewed page to another (Windows Vista). All these changes are extremely unlike those seem in the transitions from Windows 95 to Windows XP, and they would not have been possible had Microsoft not taken their time.
Security ; Stability: O.S. Essentials
In the advent of the world’s growing dependence on ecommerce, it becomes a prime imperative to secure one’s computer from hostile access. Much like how physical security providers test new systems, so do operating system manufacturers test theirs in order to ensure that as much freedom from possible corruption or intrusion is provided. Consumers will not trust a new O.S. product if there is any significant reason to worry that using it would put the sensitive financial and personal information they store in their computers at risk. This is why manufacturers typically undergo several stages of testing that was seen in the case of Windows Vista. This process generally consists of three stages: 1.) internal, 2.) operational, and 3.) external (Grover 78).
Internal testing usually takes the longest to complete. It is also where the manufacturers locate most of the possible sources of instability such as program bugs, and script errors. However, testing an operating system’s security capabilities cannot be extensively done during the internal testing stage. This is because the manufacturers need to expose the software to the actual hostile environment of the World Wide Web.
Thus, the operational stage sees manufacturers periodically releasing the operating system to semi-controlled entities such as distributors or selected test groups in order to try how the system would fare at the hands of relatively typical users when facing the different viruses, worms, and hacking programs at large in the internet. It is also in the operation stage where manufacturers release the operating system to software and hardware manufacturers in order to gauge the new system’s compatibility with new devices and programs that would also be released in the market.
Finally, even after the release of the operating system, the external testing stage is where manufacturers set up means to gather as much feedback from consumers as possible in order to fix any problems that the first two stages might have overlooked. The chances of problems occurring at the third stage of testing should be highly unlikely but the stage is nonetheless implemented as a failsafe mechanism. Microsoft had followed all the necessary stages in new product development where operating systems are concerned. This explains also explains that long time it took for Vista to come out as well as the necessity of the delay of its release to the public.
Grover, John J. Product Development: A Managerial Perspective. Simmons ; Sons: New York, 2004
Windows Vista. 2007. Microsoft Website. July 20, 2007 ;http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/default.mspx;
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