No Windows feature is ever 100% popular

Raymond Chen’s post today is specifically about why screen resolution isn’t a per-user setting, and in  the course of the post he goes through a fairly exhaustive discussion of the many issues that have to be accommodated when designing a Windows feature. I especially liked this part at the end, which will henceforth be my standard response whenever I hear someone say, “Microsoft is so stupid…” when complaining about a feature:

I’m not saying that these problems can’t be solved. They probably can, given enough thought, but not all of the solutions will please everybody all the time, because no matter what you do, somebody will tell you that you’re an idiot. And think of all the time and effort necessary to design how the feature should work, nail all the boundary conditions ("What happens if your per-user setting conflicts with an administrative policy?"), then code it up, write automated tests for it, run it through usability exercises ("Does the behavior match what users intuitively expect?" The answers may surprise you.) write up the documentation and help text, and continue maintaining the code, tests, and documentation for the feature’s anticipated lifetime (which in this case is probably forever). Could all those resources have been spent on something that would have a greater total benefit to the customer base? (The answer to that is always "Yes"—everybody and her sister-in-law can find a way to finish the sentence, "I can’t believe they wasted all that time on this stupid feature instead of fixing…")


4 thoughts on “No Windows feature is ever 100% popular

  1. And that’s why Microsoft are automatically 100 points behind Apple, every time. They cater to a broader range of hardware, a broader range of users. In fitting them all in, there’s always something for the haters to get their teeth into.

  2. As a software developer, I understand completely where Mr. Chen is coming from. But Microsoft all too often forgets one all-important tenet in business: the customer is always right. I know you cannot please everyone when you have hundreds of millions of customers, but attitude is important. Microsoft frequently brushes aside the concerns of customers with excuses. That frustrates people.

  3. I have wondered why the resolution in XP couldn’t be set on a per-user basis. It’s not a deal killer for me, but it might be worth doing. Especially when one computer is shared between, say, children and grandparents.

    Ed, can you shed some light on Raymond’s following statement, which I find confusing, or perhaps a red herring:

    “…Only Windows Terminal Server is set up to support multiple simultaneous interactive sessions. … You can have ten different people logged on, each using a different video configuration. Some users might be running at lowly 640×480, others at 800×600 and still others at 1024×768.”

    If I understand correctly, that’s true only for users logged into a Windows Server. Users logging into Windows XP Professional remotely cannot log in at_all when someone else is logged in, either in-person or remotely. Nor can multiple users log into a station simultaneously: it’s one user at a time, in keeping with the EULA and enforced by the software.

    “That it’s not a global setting is not readily apparent most of the time since only Windows Terminal Server is set up to support multiple simultaneous interactive sessions.”

    Perhaps I’m being overly-sensitive, but Chen seems to imply that Dominic doesn’t understand a feature—an XP feature—then goes on to “enlighten” him about a feature specific to the server operating system.

    The fact that Terminal Server is built into XP confuses. That version of TS won’t serve more than one session simultaneously. Did I say that correctly?

  4. Interesting questions.

    The code base for Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 are basically identical, and Remote Desktop is just Terminal Server by another name with, as you note, license and accompanying technical restrictions. I suspect (but you would have to ask him to be sure) that Raymond is basically treating Windows as Windows, since code is very widely shared.

    One point worth noting is that under at least one circumstance the restriction on multiple remote logins is relaxed. I refer to Media Center Extenders, which actually use Remote Desktop logins and support up to 10 (I think) simultaneous sessions under Vista Ultimate.

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