Microsoft’s Vista OS and Intel chipset compatibility problems aren’t about technology as much as they’re about the number of IT developers using Windows products, the increasingly short upgrade cycles, and the political nature of the relationship between software and hardware, experts say.Late last week, it was revealed that PCs made by Hewlett-Packard, Gateway, China’s Lenovo and others couldn’t be upgraded to Vista Service Pack 1 if they were using certain Intel chipsets.
These chipsets power, among other things, display drivers from Intel and a software driver for Symantec’s Endpoint Protection 11.0 and Network Access Control products.
“For Microsoft with Vista and Intel and Symantec, [Microsoft] has to make an allowance for an enormous install base,” said Morgan Reed, a software developer and spokesman for the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) in Washington, D.C. “When you roll out Vista, you have to make sure your OS covers all of these ancillary processes and can support all of these third-party applications and hardware and vice versa and, more often than not, there’s going to be an agility problem with several pieces of hardware causing interoperability issues with other software, as well.”
The chipset and driver incompatibility issue dates back to last year and Vista’s launch, as court documents containing e-mails from a pending lawsuit involving Microsoft reveal.
In one particular e-mail, Microsoft General Manager John Kalkman intimated that Redmond had to lower Vista’s hardware compatibility parameters to give Intel time to catch up. In a February 2007 e-mail to Scott Di Valerio, then the software giant’s executive liaison to hardware concerns, Kalkman wrote:
“In the end, we lowered the requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with the 915 graphics embedded. This in turn did two things: 1. Decreased focus of OEMs planning and shipping higher end graphics for Vista-ready programs and 2. Reduced the focus by IHV’s to ready great Windows Hardware Quality Labs qualified graphics drivers. We can see this today with Intel’s inability to ship a compelling full featured 945 graphics driver for Windows Vista.”
While most of the issues outlined in that e-mail have been rectified, the nature of the relationship between new hardware and new software remains the same, the tendency for blame just as palpable, and the headache for third-party application companies and developers still throbbing.
“It’s really a bind for Microsoft,” Reed said. “It’s like, how much do you have to do to build a platform that’s immediately ready to go for all, that’s user-friendly for all right out of the box?”
Intel and Symantec: We’re Aware of the Issue