INFO: What it takes to release an Operating System

I ran into someone yesterday that said:

"Sounds like Windows Vista’s finally releasing.  It took you guys long enough."

While I realize that this might sound a little defensive or overly sensitive, I don’t think many people can fully appreciate everything that goes into developing & supporting an Enterprise-ready desktop operating system.  I often hear "other" folks claim that their operating system is "better" because you can tweak this that or the other… or I heard that someone’s operating system is somehow "more intuitive".  The fact of the matter is, developing an operating system that meets consumer’s needs is one thing.  Developing an OS for developers is another. 

But developing one for corporate customers, as well as developers & consumers is QUITE ENTIRELY a different thing.  Do you think centralized USB-port lock down or volume-level encryption is a critical concern for consumers?  How about Kerberos authentication leveraging generic "industry standard" low cost smart card technology?  All while providing super-well documented APIs & IDE environments with rich services to make developers & architects more productive?  All while making sure that F.E.A.R. and Gears of War – two high performing 1st person games – run flawlessly on the new OS?

Here’s just an "off the cuff" list that I’ve typed up.  I’m missing literally hundreds of areas but this is just what I can think of off the top of my head in 30 seconds.

  • First party books & references  (MS Press)
  • Third-party books & references (Macmillan Publishing, SAMS Publishing, Wrox Publishing, Addinson Wesley, etc.)
  • Distribution (Retail, System Builder, Volume License, Developer)
  • Compatibility – Hardware, Software, Devices & Peripherals, past OS & Development libraries, APIs, 3rd party libraries, connectivity, etc.
  • Release Management for Downloading software for millions of Enterprise Customers (and scaling for the task!)
  • Product Support for consumers, developers, enterprise IT
  • Logo testing for software & hardware
  • ISV/IHV Development & Support
  • Upgrade/Migration Support
  • Localization (Translation into multiple langauges)
  • Training courses & certification programs
  • Whitepapers
  • Case studies/Customer evidence
  • Press tours – Wall Street Journal, Gartner Group, Paul Thurott’s Web site, Windows Magazine, CNet, G4TV, USA Today, etc.
  • Launch plans – 40+ cities worldwide, hundreds of thousands of attendees
  • Eval software & materials
  • Partner/System Builder training & consulting
  • Marketing collateral – Datasheets, Whitepapers, Powerpoints, Quick Reference, Pricing
  • Advertising – Radio, Billboard, TV, Magazines, Newspapers, Online
  • Application Testing
  • OS Documentation – Developer docs, Consumer docs, Deployment/Management/Security docs & other Enterprise whitepapers or books
  • Security evaluation (Government-required)
  • Legal certification
  • Software Development Kit
  • Retail preparedness & training
  • Web/Online presence & content
  • Microsoft Update integration
  • Worldwide field sales training

And these are just the categories that I can think of off the top of my head in the last 30 seconds. 

Now imagine multiplying everything above by several dimensions.  For example, having tor accurately translate everything – books, whitepapers, the OS itself and it’s menus, online help, the web site, documentation, etc. – into many, many different languages. 

How many?  This is a list of the languages that we will be supporting with Windows Vista:

  1. English (N)
  2. German (N)
  3. French (N)
  4. Japanese
  5. Spanish (N)
  6. Italian (N)
  7. Dutch (N)
  8. Brazilian
  9. Chinese Simplified
  10. Korean (KN)
  11. Russian (N)
  12. Chinese Traditional (Taiwan)
  13. Chinese Traditional (Hong Kong)
  14. Swedish (N)
  15. Danish (N)
  16. Finnish (N)
  17. Norwegian (N)
  18. Arabic
  19. Hebrew
  20. Polish (N)
  21. Portuguese (N)
  22. Turkish
  23. Greek (N)
  24. Czech (N)
  25. Hungarian (N)
  26. Slovenian (N)
  27. Slovak (N)
  28. Thai
  29. Croatian
  30. Romanian (N)
  31. Bulgarian (N)
  32. Serbian Latin
  33. Estonian
  34. Ukrainian
  35. Lithuanian (N)
  36. Latvian (N)

Does it make your head spin?  It should.  I don’t believe any other OS comes even remotely close to the level of language support that Windows does, and we’re not even talking about covering consumers, developers, enterprise customers, etc.  My point is that this is truly a tremendous job and when an OS like Windows Vista gets released, there are far more than programmers involved.

It’s all these things that make Windows the leading operating system in the world.

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