A Challenge for Exterminators

From the New York Times:

On a whiteboard in a windowless Microsoft conference room here, an elegant curve drawn by a software-testing engineer captures both five years of frustration and more recent progress.

The principle behind the curve — that 80 percent of the consequences come from 20 percent of the causes — is rooted in a 19th-century observation about the distribution of wealth. But it also illustrates the challenge for the builders of the next generation of Windows and Office, the world’s largest-selling software packages.

As they scramble to get the programs to users by the end of the year, the equation is a simple one: making software reliable for most personal computer users is relatively easy; it is another matter, in a PC universe with tens of thousands of peripherals and software applications, to defeat the remaining bugs that cause significant problems for some users.

The effort to overhaul the Windows operating system, originally code-named Longhorn and since renamed Vista, was meant to offer a transformation to a new software foundation. But several ambitious initiatives failed to materialize in time, and the project started over from scratch three years ago. The result is more an evolutionary shift, focusing on visual modernization and ease of use.

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