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Windows Vista Beta: Features vs Content

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  • User profile image
    longzheng

    I recently got the chance to chat with Paul Donnelly, the Microsoft Windows Vista beta program manager, to ask about the development process for Windows Vista and branching. It looks like I was wrong about a lot of things, but through his explanations, I was able to get a better understanding of how everything worked. So here is the updated RC1 branching diagram.

    Vista RC1 Branching

    Basically, the changes I’ve made to the diagram are:

    • New “features” were only added before Beta 2. No new “features” has been added after Beta 2.
    • Only “content” has been added post-Beta 2.

    Features vs Content

    So whats the difference between “features” and “content”? Paul explains, a feature is a set of code to do a specific function. Aero is a feature, the log-on screen is a feature. Content on the other hand, provide additional resources for a feature, which might contribute to the end-user experience. An example of this is the system sounds. Obviously without a doubt, new Vista system sounds are coming, but not as a feature. The feature for system sounds is the ability to play specified sound files on predefined events. The sound files themselves are content, which is audible to the user. Wallpapers and help files would also be classified as content. And since a new boot screen may not involve modifying code, that might be considered content too!

    Aero Glass

    I also took the opportunity to ask Paul whether modifying Aero Glass would be possible at this time. Not only did he say it was possible, but he went as far as saying He says it is possible, and I quote, “A new theme is again, just content. Since the theming code would just apply it.” A new theme is possible at this point Changes to the existing Aero Glass is possible, a new Aero (tier) is not. But I’m confident nothing more than only a refined Aero Glass is coming, since there are only months left before Vista has to be shipped.

    Important: Paul wants to make sure everyone is clear on this issue. NO new Aero is coming. NO vector Glass. NO new theme. These were ONLY stated as examples.

    Feature lock-down

    Paul also reconfirmed strongly since Beta 2, Vista was “feature-locked”. That is, no additional features may be added to Windows Vista at this time in development. However exceptions apply.

    No new features can be added, but features can be changed. Changing the log-on screen feature after it’s already been in the build is very possible. I didn’t clarify how much you could change a feature before it is considered a ‘new feature’, but I presume you could quite a bit of remodeling.

    Then I asked about the possibilities of adding a clock to the log-on screen. Paul states two possible alternatives, depending on how the feature was documented. If the clock feature was internally enumerated in it’s own feature specification, then adding that feature after Beta 2 would be impossible. However, if the specifications for the log-on screen includes a clock as part of its features, then adding the clock would be considered a “work item”, a yet-to-be implemented part of a feature. For example, if the clock was in the original pre-Beta 2 specifications for the log-on screen, then is definitely possible for it to show up in the future.

    Important: Paul also wants to make sure everyone is clear on the clock idea. He cannot confirm whether or not a clock will/will not be added to the final release. It was ONLY stated as an example.

    But without access to the internal specifications, we can never know for sure what is planned for the final Windows Vista release. There could even be significant chunks of features still missing from current builds.

    Summary

    In conclusion, it was a very short but informative conversation. So here’s what I learned in summary:

    • New wallpapers, system sounds, help files are not features.
    • An updated Aero Glass is possible, although not probable. A new theme is even possible too (from a development standpoint), but is definitely not planned.
    • Vista is definitely “feature-locked”. No new features can be added.
    • “Features” may be incomplete. New “features parts” could be coming.


    From my blog http://www.istartedsomething.com/20060901/windows-vista-beta-features-vs-content/

    I also did an interview with Oliver Scholz, the program manager for speech user experience. Check that out here: http://www.istartedsomething.com/20060901/interview-oliver-scholz/

  • User profile image
    jamie

    great post - very informative...if a tad disappointing..

    oh well i STILL think it will change as i have read (and i forget where sorry) Jim Allchin going on about companies stealing windows look and feel before release - and apple stealing its thunder with wiz bang releases no one knew about.

    It might have been in "breaking Windows" book or "Microsoft Rebooted"...or "Bad Boy Ballmer"- but i remember him saying / or arguing that no one is going to see anything "real" until the last minute.

    so... ive still got hope Smiley

  • User profile image
    Larry​Osterman

    jamie wrote:
    great post - very informative...if a tad disappointing..

    oh well i STILL think it will change as i have read (and i forget where sorry) Jim Allchin going on about companies stealing windows look and feel before release - and apple stealing its thunder with wiz bang releases no one knew about.

    It might have been in "breaking Windows" book or "Microsoft Rebooted"...or "Bad Boy Ballmer"- but i remember him saying / or arguing that no one is going to see anything "real" until the last minute.

    so... ive still got hope


    It's my understanding that branding elements (like the sounds) have yet to be dropped in, but other elements are essentially complete (there is some fit&finish work to be done, obviously).

    But I've been surprised before.

    Btw, EVERY feature in Vista was 100% complete by Beta2.  There were NO work items that remained.

    Having said that, many UI features received major overhauls post-beta2 (including the multimedia UI, that's how I know).  A UI overhaul wasn't considered a new feature - all the functionality in the new UI was already there, it's just been repackaged.

    Other features were changed post-beta2.  For instance, the audio stack had a number of changes introduced post beta2.  All of these changes were introduced either as a direct result of customer feedback or as a result of an imperfect understanding of the ways in which the audio stack is used (you'd be surprised Smiley).

  • User profile image
    Bobinho

    jamie wrote:
    so... ive still got hope


    Jamie. It is the hope that kills you.Big Smile

    Nevertheless, I am with you. I still hope to see something better. I hope MS will pull a radically new UI out of the hat. Nothing would please me more.

    But they won't. Because Microsoft overpromises and underdelivers. To expect more is to brook disappointment.

    In other words we get the Exposé wannabee Flip3D (which confers no benefit of any kind to anybody) but we don't get WinFS.



  • User profile image
    Chadk

    Good post! Very informative! Cool

  • User profile image
    kurtbrockett

    Nice post.  I was wondering which program you used to create the branching diagram.  I work in roadmaps and branching diagrams for my company a lot and I liked the clear look of your diagram.

  • User profile image
    longzheng

    kurtbrockett wrote:
    Nice post.  I was wondering which program you used to create the branching diagram.  I work in roadmaps and branching diagrams for my company a lot and I liked the clear look of your diagram.

    Adobe Illustrator and hell of a lot of time. Tongue Out

  • User profile image
    dentaku

    Adobe Illstrator to the rescue Big Smile
    It's the most useful tool I've ever had.

  • User profile image
    LaBomba

    Since they've had all these setbacks, when they do FINALLY release Vista, it would make sense to do something unique on final launch and surprise people.

    Cause a buzz, stir it up.

    It can get much worse than the press has already been leading up...time to turn the tide.

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