Musings on backwards compatability for Windows

An interesting conversation with Joel Spolsky has been featured this week at IT Conversations. It’s from September 2004, but still relevant.

The idea that remained with me is the fact that in order for Microsoft to have backwards compatability for users whenever it came out with a new version of Windows, Microsoft had to include code that emulated the bugs in the original release. That way, software that was written to overcome those bugs could still work. Yikes! Now that’s a job I am glad I don’t have.

I also liked Joel’s comments about Microsoft’s lag in updating its file formats for Word and Excel, especially in light of the recent announcement that MS Office will, in the next version, implement an XML-based format. That long delay means that none of the new versions of Word or Excel introduced any features that made changes in the document that could be saved into the file. I wonder how much creativity and innovation had been stifled by this idea that the file format couldn’t change. At long last, the formats will change for the better in the next version.







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