The 60 Percent Solution

So first a writer in Australia says that “Up to 60% of the code in the new consumer version of Microsoft new Vista operating system is set to be rewritten,” and the blogosphere goes crazy. Then Scoble wigs out and says:

  1. It’s not true;
  2. It’s absurd to the point of being non-credible; and
  3. If you link to the original article, Scoble won’t link to you.

Let’s start at the last point: here’s the original article. For a guy whose great theme is PR as “conversation,” the threat is unseemly at best, hypocritical at worst. Because, to move on to point #2, the assertion is not absurd on its face. Amazing, incredible, disastrous: yes. Prima facie absurd? No. The development of Vista has been extremely rocky and huge projects with troubled histories often end up in a quagmire. Even if the proposition that Vista is in a horrid quagmire is an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary sourcing, given the lack of technical precision in mainstream tech publications, the assertion could be an overly dramatic statement of the not-absurd premise that up to 60% of the subsystems unique to the consumer version need refactoring. If that were the case, it would mean a delay in schedule for Vista, but at this point, it’s not like that is unthinkable.

  Perhaps it is unthinkable internally at Microsoft and that’s part of the reason that Microsoft is so angry ? “We’ve finally turned the corner on this, and they say we’re still in trouble! Bastards!” But Scoble seems to think that journalists should know that the story couldn’t be possible true. While journalists know tons of beta-level non-public stuff, for major announcements, we typically only get a few days notice. On real surprises, especially bad news, we will often only get news that news is coming ? when Microsoft calls you to schedule an interview with a VP, you know something’s bad. On the other hand, those of us who’ve been around a long time, know tons of people who work inside of Microsoft or who used to work at Microsoft and, one way or the other, end up knowing lots of secret stuff. Microsoft has internal politics and strong personalities and a surprising amount of invisible or below-the-radar projects.

  Now, to point #1: Is there any truth to it? Given Microsoft’s vociferous denials and the enormous schedule risk of a major refactoring of anything in Vista at this point, I doubt it. But I’ll still keep my ears open.