Memory Lane, Part I . . .

While we’ve been talking about Vista drivers, some have asked, “Is this really anything new?”

That’s a fair enough question, so I went searching around to see what the situation was shortly after some other OS releases.

Today, we’ll talk about part of the problem, drivers.


Were there driver problems with XP? Uhhh, yeah. XP initially shipped with 12,000 drivers (Vista shipped with with 14,000).

Was that enough? Well, this article was written in January, 2002. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane (bolded print our emphases):

“Roughly half of several hundred users responding to an informal survey reported positive upgrade experiences. The other half fared worse, and many eventually removed the OS from their PCs. . . .”

“Since Windows 2000 debuted two years ago, many manufacturers have made the switch to the new driver model, increasing the chances that your peripherals will work with XP. Some continue to lag behind or have decided–much to their customers’ dismay–not to invest the considerable resources needed to write drivers for older and discontinued devices (see the table for those that cropped up in our survey results). In some cases, even Windows 2000 drivers won’t work in Windows XP because of changes in the operating system’s architecture.

(The article linked above put it more bluntly: “In fact, not supporting a new operating system is a tactic used by some manufacturers in order to get you to upgrade your current product. Microsoft released an avalanche of technical details, driver guidelines, and beta software to manufacturers a full year before Windows XP shipped in order to give them as much as lead time as possible. In a random survey of legacy (pre-2001) printer and scanner drivers available for XP, we noticed a definite support trend that favored the higher end (and higher profit) devices and left entry level models (or those commonly given away with Win95/98 PC’s) unsupported. It’s really not that hard to write a driver (or update software to work with Windows XP) but some manufacturers just refuse to do it. You should always check the status of your existing hardware before upgrading to XP”).

Back to the PCWorld article:

“To bridge the compatibility gap, Microsoft has supplied makeshift drivers in Windows XP that provide basic functionality for printers, scanners, and other peripherals but lack support for the advanced features the devices may have, such as double-sided or high-resolution print modes, or faxing and scanning in multifunction units. Upgraders learn of the degraded functionality only after the XP installation is complete.

“Brent Lawrence, an assistant church pastor in Skokie, Illinois, found that the driver included in Windows XP for his NEC 1260 laser printer (which he purchased less than three years ago) supported only 300-dpi output. Before upgrading his system to Windows XP, Lawrence had been able to print at 600 dpi under Windows 98. When he pursued NEC for a driver update, the company informed him that as a result of “limited resources” it would not be producing a fully functional Windows XP driver for the printer. Lawrence blames both Microsoft and NEC. “If [Microsoft] had time to include a driver that supported [the printer] partially, why not take a little extra time to squeeze out the full resolution? As for NEC, it has lost any of my future business,” he says. . . .

“But rather than switching hardware, Microsoft Windows XP product manager Mark Croft says, XP users should complain loudly to manufacturers. This strategy has a proven track record: Hewlett-Packard initially balked at producing Windows 2000 drivers, but finally did so in response to numerous and bitter customer complaints.”

“The more grassroots pressure [vendors] get, the more likely that they’ll turn around on this,” Croft says.

Doesn’t this all sound very familiar to you?

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about OEMs offering choice in OSs, and suggest what to do about the déjà vu.


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