REDMOND, Wash.–Sitting behind a one-way mirror, a white-haired man struggles to access a shared music library within Windows Vista.
“I’m lost,” he says. “I’m in trouble here.”
On the other side of the glass, several Microsoft executives try to talk him through the experience. Thousands of people have gone through similar tests inside Microsoft’s usability lab. But on this day, February 1, 2006, the person inside Building 28 isn’t just some random beta tester. It’s Windows boss Jim Allchin.
And at that time, Allchin had plenty to grouse about. Windows Vista had been in testing for many months. The company had already drastically reshaped the operating system to try to get Vista onto store shelves by the holidays, but by Microsoft’s own account there were still lots of bugs. While the latest versions of Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer that Allchin put through their paces had improved since his last trip to the labs, other parts of Vista were still driving him crazy.
Fast-forward nearly 12 months. Although Microsoft couldn’t get through 2006 without being forced to delay Vista once again, by the start of 2007–after five years in development and endless feedback from thousands of testers–the majority of Allchin’s gripes had finally been addressed.
The result: Vista is ready for the masses and set to hit store shelves on Tuesday. One day later, Allchin, as promised, will retire after 16 years with the software maker.
Microsoft, Windows Vista