The Windows Vista Compatibility Center

It's been a couple of months since we released the Windows Vista Compatibility Center, and while I meant to discuss it at the time, it's still worth a little chat.

I talk quite a bit about the tools to test for application compatibility, sharing debugging tips, and shedding some light onto the secrets of shimming up misbehaving apps. The fact remains, however, that although you can fix a huge number of things (and hopefully I can help you figure out how), the fact that you can fix things up may not be relevant. If you need the vendor to support it, the fact that it's shimmed means, almost by definition, that it doesn't truly work on Windows Vista without a little help. And the fact that it doesn't truly work almost always means that it's unsupported. And the fact that it's unsupported almost always means that some people simply won't run that version.

Now, the original idea we had for Windows Vista was to introduce a new level of certification. One that was so easy, and so inexpensive, that everyone would want to collaborate to indicate compatibility. We called it the Works With Windows Vista logo. You don't have to pass any tests, and you don't have to enlist the help of a 3rd party tester to verify those tests. It's so easy, who wouldn't do it?

And, as it turned out, most everybody wouldn't do it. The original plan was to wire things up to ACT to pass this logo information through, automate the application matches, and help accelerate the process of determining support. As you have probably figured out, that didn't work out so well.

So, we had to scramble to create a Plan B. If developers weren't coming to us, but the enterprise still needed help, fine. We'd come to them. We hired some folks to start scouring ISV web sites to find support statements, and we published links on a site we stood up called It kind of looked cobbled together, because it was, but it was better to have something.

While we filled that up, we were working on a more eloquent looking solution - something we called the Windows Vista Compatibility Center. This is the new site.

Are we done helping you with this data yet? Absolutely not! First of all, you may have noticed that ACT is still looking at the sparse certification data, and not this new source of information. So, clearly we have to wire that up. We also need to better support automating the matching for people who don't want to submit what apps they have (which ACT does to fetch the compat data for those apps), so we need to figure out how to make the data available offline. And wouldn't it be interesting to have this as a web service to feed other tools?

So, while there's clearly more work to come to make this easier and to work better with our partners and the software ecosystem, I thought it was worthwhile to reflect on where we are, how we got here, and where we're going.

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