Ah, the blame game. Users want their stuff to work, and they want it now. (Well, can you blame them?) When it doesn’t, as in the case of some hardware and software on Windows Vista, the blame often gets transferred to third-party developers and not the operating system developer (ahem, Microsoft). Sure, Microsoft gets blamed for other issues with Vista, but when a driver or app isn’t compatible, it must be the third party’s fault.

I’m not interested in assigning blame. And OS compatibility delays are par for the course, on any platform — especially with serious audio and music work, which demands glitch-free, real-time performance. I’m just curious to know what the real situation is on the ground.

This isn’t about any one platform, either. Similar situation: when Apple made the jump to Intel — a very, very good thing — they implied that the Intel port would involve “ticking a box” for Intel compatibility. That’s simply not true; Apple’s own development teams spent many months porting their own apps to Intel. When music developers couldn’t ship fast enough to suit customers, guess who got blamed? Apple? Of course not. Now, I’m not saying the user is wrong; you have every right to be frustrated when stuff doesn’t work, updates ship late, and developers wind up charging you sometimes hefty fees for Intel-compatible upgrades. But Apple could have set realistic expectations with its customers at the outset. (In the end, Apple did bear some of the brunt of the backlash, despite their best intentions, so why not try being more upfront?)

Back to Vista, I recently heard noted tech blogger Paul Thurrott discuss Adobe Audition compatibility issues with Vista on his podcast. He blamed Adobe. Never mind that he was unfamiliar with the incompatibility, never used Audition, and — while he knows much more about Vista itself than I do — knows next to nothing about the pro audio underpinnings of the OS, or, indeed, audio. His reaction was to suspect Adobe before Microsoft. I will say, I think that’s honest. But Microsoft’s whole push with Vista, as with every other version of Windows, is third-party or “partner” support. That means Microsoft is uniquely responsible for making that support work — not alone, but they are responsible.

So, here’s my question, since we have developers out there: how is Vista actually working for you? I heard that one of the issues initially was just getting a stable build of Vista running on hardware that supported it, so some developers had trouble just testing the thing. A few more months after Vista has been in the wild, though, just avoiding Vista in favor of XP on new machines is a big challenge. So … well, how’s it going?

One of our readers recently got this response from M-Audio. From comments:

“Hi, I am sorry to say that I currently don’t have a date for the release of a Vista driver for the Black Box, though I have been told to expect it to be available in weeks rather than months. We have taken a while to release drivers for Vista, this is because we want to release drivers that actually works to the standards our customers have come to expect from M-Audio and I have been told they will not be released until they are “right”

I hear that reader’s frustration, but I actually would rather wait and get something late that’s higher quality, personally. Different developers have different timetables, resources, and code bases, so you can bet that even if they’re willing there are cases where those variables can cause major delays. Now, if you have found some vendors ship more reliably than others, I certainly can’t argue with basing purchase decisions on that. (I still prefer XP for audio for the short term future, though, so it’s a little hard for me to get too excited — and I know from your comments that I’m not alone, not remotely.)

But I’m curious: could Microsoft do more to make Vista easier to develop for, easier to support, and better for audio? Rather than make something up, I’d like to hear from the source. If anyone wants to share that answer anonymously, I’m happy to protect your identity — and I think everyone could benefit from your answer.

  • Defyer

    Hi Peter,

    I've been using Vista for about 4 months. I got it with the Toshiba laptop I bought. The OS didn't please me at first and during the first two weeks, I was thinking of going back to XP. The reason I didn't do it was because I didn't have drivers for my graphics card on XP (being optimized for DX10).

    Anyway, I kept Vista. I'm a long-time user of FL Studio, Ableton Live and, most of the time, Propellerheads Reason. FL 6 and Reason 3 worked out-the-box. Ableton Live 6 had an issue involving the Aero theme (which was corrected in a later release).

    The thing that really made me mad was the fact that my audio card (Audigy 2 ZS Notebook) didn't work on Vista and the beta drivers caused some serious crashes. I managed to work without my pro soundcard. Seeing that Creative still hadn't released the drivers for Vista yet, I bought an E-MU 0202 USB which I currently use.

    My MIDI Interfaces (M-Audio Evolution UC-33e, Yamaha PSR-295, Fatar SL-990XP) worked with no problems (the UC-33e and the Fatar didn't require any special drivers. As easy as Plug & Play).

    Now, to answer your question, I consider the effort should come from both Microsoft and the third-party developers. I think Microsoft should consider making a more memory-friendly OS to make room for future multi-track DAWs, while the third-party developers should try to optimize their applications.

    Sincerely,

  • http://www.analogindustries.com Chris Randall

    I'll tell you what: when a small company like Aurora Audio can make nice, firm Vista drivers, and M-Audio and Creative can't, despite the fact that Aurora's products are far more sophisticated, I think that I'm gonna have to call "bullshit."

    Laziness and/or lack of leadership, plain and simple. There's a point up to which you can blame Microsoft for any and all problems. However, when we're four months in to public release, and it's not like M-Audio is one guy sitting in his basement or anything, it's time to draw the line.

  • poopoo

    Goes to show that incremental OS updates are a good thing.

    Writing Vista drivers is most likely awful, but that wouldn't make it any different from XP or any other windows version. The code signing stuff is probably an added hassle. However I think the hardware companies are probably to blame.

    My guess is this is a human resource issue at the hardware companies side. The guys who wrote the XP drivers left years ago. Someone else replaced them and only understands enough of the code to tweak it a little. Vista comes along and suddenly they need someone who understands the XP drive code. Right about this time every other hardware company realizes they need good driver developers too.

  • Digby

    Personally I would never buy a new OS in its' first year after release.

    I just bought a new PC and I made sure it had XP. If you say to the vendors you won't buy if its' not got XP it seems to persuade them!

  • http://www.stacken.kth.se/~kaj/en Rasmus Kaj

    How come you all assume you can require vendors to release stuff for Vista? If they decide that vista sucks and they can deliver a better product on another platform, they are of course free to do so.

    On the other hand, you are of course free to buy their products or not. I for one would much rather have vendors support FreeBSD (or Linux) than Vista. But I'm aware that I can't demand that they do so.

    Isn't the "premium content" features of Vista going to be a big problem for anyone trying to work with hi-end audio (or video) on that platform?