Vista's Compatibility Challenge - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
10:50 PM

Vista's Compatibility Challenge

Adobe, IBM, and Symantec are among the software vendors still struggling with the complexities of making their apps work with Microsoft's new operating system.

When Steve Ballmer unveiled the consumer version of Windows Vista in January, he boasted that the highly touted operating system was compatible out of the gate with hundreds of applications from major independent software vendors. What the Microsoft CEO didn't mention is that products from Adobe Systems, IBM, Symantec, and a number of other high-profile developers didn't make the list of Vista-friendly applications that Microsoft says are either fully certified for Windows Vista or will at least run relatively trouble-free on the new OS.

There's still a lot of certifying to do

There's still a lot of certifying to do
Despite the omissions, Microsoft officials maintain that the number of apps certified for Vista is about what would be expected for a product that has been on the market for nearly three months.

"Our ecosystem includes hundreds of thousands of applications," says Dave Wascha, Microsoft's director of Windows client partner marketing. "We're way ahead of where we were with Windows XP at the same time."

Microsoft started reaching out to ISVs whose applications would need to run on Vista as far back as 2003, when it kicked off the first of what would be hundreds of strategic design reviews, Wascha says. Throughout the development process, Microsoft worked with software engineers from hundreds of key application makers. It also did its own automated testing of Windows Vista for compatibility with 1,200 to 1,400 major consumer and business apps, performing as many as 35,000 tests per week in the run-up to the launch. "The end result is a couple of million automated tests over the development lifetime," Wascha says.

The stats are impressive, but they also raise the question: With such an extensive compatibility program in place, why are some key programs still not fully certified for Vista?


Updating applications for Vista is much more complex than revising them for the move from Windows NT and ME to XP in 2001. The biggest challenge, according to ISVs and Microsoft, is getting them to work with Vista's advanced security features, such as the User Account Control. It's designed to prevent desktop users from making changes to their system images without approval from an IT administrator. The feature operates at the kernel level and can affect the way third-party apps, including antivirus software, work.

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Upgrading applications for Vista has been more difficult for antivirus software maker Symantec than updating apps for XP, says a company spokesman, adding that Symantec continues to work with Microsoft to obtain Windows Vista certification.

But it's not just security software vendors that are late with fully compatible Vista apps. Key products from Adobe and IBM, among others, also lack certification. Officials at those companies say it's a matter of bad timing.

Vista's debut preceded new versions of Adobe's Photoshop, InDesign, and Dreamweaver digital publishing products by just several weeks, notes Caleb Belohlavek, director of Adobe's Creative Suite group. As a result, Adobe has decided "to focus on making our next set of products the best products for Vista," says Belohlavek. The products are part of Adobe's Creative Suite 3, which shipped in mid-April.

Adobe's decision isn't sitting well with some users of the current versions of its products, who will have to spend hundreds of dollars to upgrade to CS3 if they want apps that are fully Vista compatible.

Adobe's Creative Suite 2 products can run on Windows Vista but may have some performance problems. Photoshop CS2 may require users to register the software each time it's launched on a Vista PC. Dreamweaver 8, Adobe has said, will crash on some Vista computers when users browse for files. InDesign customers may get a false error message indicating they don't have enough available disk space to run the product.

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