Does Jim Allchin think Windows XP sucks?

Mac fanboys have been all over the revelation of Jim Allchin's email to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer where Allchin, decrying the state of Microsoft's operating system development efforts, implies that Microsoft's products were inferior to those of Apple.

Well, today Allchin tries to reverse field.

"I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft."

That was the very unexpected declaration made by Windows chief Jim Allchin in a January 2004 e-mail to Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates, as quoted by Groklaw and picked up by Computerworld and others. The previously undisclosed e-mail was introduced as evidence last week in Microsoft's antitrust trial in Iowa.

Now, in a blog post responding to the coverage, Allchin cautions against taking the statement out of context and writes that he "was being purposefully dramatic" to make a case for a major overhaul of the Windows development process. In the 2004 e-mail, Allchin wrote that he saw "lots of random features and some great vision," but he warned that the Windows teams had lost their way.

Allchin goes on to reassure the reader that things are fine now. "[W]e needed to change and change quickly. We did: We changed dramatically the development process that was being used and we reset the Windows Vista development project in mid-2004, essentially starting over." The result? Obviously the world's best operating system (Joey's experiences notwithstanding).

Here's what bugs me about this bit of backtracking, though: at some point, Jim was probably saying something similar about Windows XP—best OS ever made. Yet two years later we read him saying that he'd buy a Mac, rather than a PC with Windows XP, if it wasn't for Microsoft signing his paychecks.

Allchin's trying to convince us that his Mac comments were made for dramatic effect to highlight his dissatisfaction with Microsoft's strategic vision and development practice. I don't doubt that, but it must also be true that those comments were a fair reflection of his opinion of the products Microsoft was shipping at the time.

It's enough to make the non-Microsoft employees among us think twice about Vista.

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