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Microsoft Internal Emails Show Dismay With Vista 662

bfwebster writes "Microsoft is currently facing a class-action suit over its designation of allegedly under-powered hardware as being 'Vista Capable.' The discovery process of that lawsuit has now compelled Microsoft to produce some internal emails discussing those issues. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has published extracts of some of those emails, along with a link to a a PDF file containing a more extensive email exchange. The emails reflect a lot of frustration among senior Microsoft personnel about Vista's performance problems and hardware incompatibilities. They also appear to indicate that Microsoft lowered the hardware requirements for 'Vista Capable' in order to include certain lower-end Intel chipsets, apparently as a favor to Intel: 'In the end, we lowered the requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with 915 graphics embedded.' Read the whole PDF; it is informative, interesting, and at times (unintentionally) funny."
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Microsoft Internal Emails Show Dismay With Vista

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  • Best quote... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Wandering Wombat ( 531833 ) <> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:20PM (#22590598) Homepage Journal
    "I'm just grateful I kept XP on this machine."
  • by milsoRgen ( 1016505 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:26PM (#22590662) Homepage
    First of all I think the 'Vista Capable' suit is ridiculous. Microsoft deserves to win that one, because I am well aware of what was on the shelf on the low to mid range during that time frame. And those machines should of been fine, I had Vista RTM up and running on my P3 1Ghz w/ GeForce 6600. And it ran with Aero, and was certainly 'capable' in classic.

    However I can understand Microsoft's dismay at it's performance, for relatively little gain you are incurring tremendous performance hit's across the board. File transfer and gaming come to mind most quickly however. But during it's development cycle I got the impression they really had no idea what they wanted out of Vista, dropping key features over the years. And seemingly concentrating to hard on a 'shiny' UI, that although slick in some respects still feels like a mangled XP GUI, with simply a reworked folder system. And a much lauded search to run feature that should of simply been in XP SP3 to hold users over while something, smaller, better, faster, stronger was being developed.

    But in the interests of full disclosure, I have Vista running in a VM... A couple more trips to and I might finally install it, DirectX 10 is still exciting to me.
  • Is it just me? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:30PM (#22590706) Homepage Journal
    OK, I'm officially a Paranoid Conspiracy Theorist(tm).

    I read the title as "Disney", not "Dismay".
  • by lantastik ( 877247 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:47PM (#22590956)
    I don't mind Vista, I have been using it for a while at home since I do a lot of gaming. My machine is completely capable though. The hardware vendors did a very shitty job of preparing their drivers for Windows Vista and some to this day are plagued by horrible drivers. For the same reasons I would imagine that they have horrible driver support on Linux.

    Fault lies with Microsoft in this case because they bowed to the pressures of the OEMs, namely Intel. That was a horrible move on their part and will lend a lot of credence to the recent class action lawsuit. I still place a lot of blame on the hardware vendors and their terrible drivers.
  • by d23tek ( 1208848 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:51PM (#22591020) Homepage
    Microsoft's REAL error was actually retaining these email messages instead of following their "do-not-save-e-mail directive" and "30-Day E-Mail Destruction Rule", like they did to thwart previous lawsuits [].
  • Quite revealing... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:53PM (#22591044) Homepage
    Has anyone else noticed that Steve Ballmer barely ever uses punctuation?
  • by texas neuron ( 710330 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:56PM (#22591102) Homepage
    First for possible bias - I have a business with 6 machines running XP exclusively (2 Fujitsu, 4 Dell) and 2 Macs running Tiger (soon to be Leopard) and XP. Second, I am a physician and in general I hate lawsuits.

    If you read the emails, they allowed labeling that had Designed for Windows Vista Basic Logo, Designed for Windows Vista Premium Logo, and then then a Vista Capable logo. Microsoft thought the requirements for the Vista Capable logo is that users "will have a good experience, at least equivalent to Windows XP, when upgraded to Windows Vista."

    I think Microsoft will lose on 2 fronts - their technical requirements apparently are having machines that run Windows Vista to perform worst then Windows XP when they indicate their Vista Capable logo should be equivalent. Second, since they were the ones telling the OEMs what the labels were and the requirements for them, then they needed to communicate this to the end user by having a sanctioned straight forward information sheet available at each sales point.

    What surprises me most about the emails is how they apparently caved in to Intel when they were aware that they were sacrificing the "Vista Experience" for their future buyers. It is no wonder only 1/3rd or so Window Vista License holders are actually running windows Vista (estimate based on combining netapplications market share for Mac OS X and Windows Vista combined with Steve Job's statement of total Mac OS X installed base and Bill Gates statement of 100,000,000 licenses sold.)

  • by BUL2294 ( 1081735 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:01PM (#22591172)
    From the article--an e-mail from Steven Sinofsky to Ballmer...

    People who rely on using all the features of their hardware (like Jon's Nikon scanner) will not see availability for some time, if ever, depending on the mfg. The built-in drivers never have all the features but do work. For example, I could print with [my] Brother printer and use it as a stand-alone fax. But network setup, scanning, print to fax must come from Brother.
    There it is, in plain English. This is what's killing Vista, and Microsoft already saw it a year ago! Ignoring Vista's perceived issues with DRM (which can be circumvented), speed issues & app compatibility (which can be improved with a service pack), and UAC (which has been improved with SP1), many people don't want to throw out even one item of hardware so they could use Vista. And they're right not to do so...

    Microsoft got cheap. Instead of paying reluctant vendors to write Vista drivers for older hardware (supposedly this happened for Win95), they ended up turning Vista into a bitter pill. Case in point, I have an HP Photosmart 7350 printer that I bought in 2002. This printer is great because it was one of the last printers to not have HP's customer-friendly "your printer cartridge is too old so I won't print" mechanism. For a few months after Vista's release, HP kept saying that the printer was incompatible with Vista. Suddenly, the printer is compatible with the "HP Deskjet 5550" driver included with Vista. Huh? Of course, HP says that some features are unavailable, but doesn't say which ones...

    Even Vista fanbois have to agree that hardware incompatibility/driver issues are the biggest problem with Vista. Microsoft's Vista Upgrade adviser, while offering great disclosure, doesn't help promote Vista. So that leaves people like me stuck between having perfectly useful hardware with no fully-functioning Vista driver (or no driver at all), and moving to Vista... So I'm sticking with XP.
  • by jo42 ( 227475 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:13PM (#22591400) Homepage
    You Microsoft [expletives deleted].

    Try running Vista Business on a 2.4 GHz P4 with 512MB RAM and a 40GB hard drive.

    Now run XP on the exact same hardware. XP runs better and faster.

    You people failed. You fraked up. You screwed up. Idjits.

    We, the computing public absolutely do NOT want Vista. We want our XP back.
  • by gh ( 68417 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:17PM (#22591460)
    One line said it all:

    "We really botched this."

    You tie that together with his memo from 2004:

    "I am not sure how the company lost sight of what matters to our customers (both business and home) the most, but in my view we lost our way. I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems [our] customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that doesn't translate into great products.

    I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft. ... Apple did not lose their way."

    Anybody know if he's since switched to using a Mac? :)
  • by secPM_MS ( 1081961 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:19PM (#22591492)
    I would judge the responsiveness on the GX620 to be a bit slower than when running XP, but not so significant as to impact my productivity. The other machines I have at work run Server 2K8, which I prefer. I do not run the desktop experience pack, so none of the neat GUI is available.

    We are seeing about half of the MSRC issues, and a number of them have lower criticality. In addition, I know what was done in the way of service hardening, the addition of ASLR (which complements the NX work done in XP SP2), the enhancements in exception handling, and the massive fuzzing of parsers for Vista. Unlike XP, it is quite feasible to run Vista as a normal user. I run my kids as normal users on the home systems - they do not have install privledges.

    My perspective is more of an enterprise one. Many enterprises adopt alternating releases. I would expect the organizations running W2K to move to Vista and 2K8. The case if more demanding for the move from XP to Vista. It can be made, but it is less compelling.

  • by Amiasian ( 157604 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:24PM (#22591580)
    Is it usual for CEOs to have the grammar of twelve-year-olds? Reading through the PDF, most of the Microsoft employees have respectable spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. And then I read Steve Ballmer's e-mails. Here's a verbatim excerpt:

    "You are right that people did not trust us have you checkd windows update I assume you found no drivers there either?? thanks"

    Most of what he writes is of similar quality.
  • by Ripit ( 1001534 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:34PM (#22591736)
    FTFA, Steven Sinofsky's first bulleted point in an email to Steve Ballmer:

    No one really believed we would ever ship so they didn't start the work until very late in 2006. This led to the lack of availability. For example my home multi-function printer did not have drivers until 2/2 and even pulled their 1/30 drivers and re-released them (Brother).

    I'm not sure if "they" meant MS employees writing drivers, or hardware vendors writing drivers. Either way, it seems MS has a credibility problem.

    Also, the unsaid meaning of some of the emails is: recognizing that they failed to set a high enough priority to having the device drivers ready when Vista shipped.

    It's not surprising that MS corporate brass had these discussions. You'd expect them to. What is surprising is that they failed at something so fundamental to the business of selling OSes.
  • by cecom ( 698048 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:01PM (#22592182) Homepage Journal
    You make good points. In my opinion the improved security fully justifies using Vista for a new home PC. I am trying to be objective - I use Linux myself professionally, but I am very glad to have Vista instead of XP on my wife's laptop.

    However if you consider a 3GHz CPU with 1 GB RAM to be "an old box", then you have some serious perception problems ... :-) An "old box" would be an Athlon 2000 with 512MB PC133 RAM and PATA66. XP runs just fine, thank you.

    At the same time I have Vista Home Premium (dual booting with Debian) on a relatively powerful quad-core PC with 3GB RAM, 512MB NVIDIA 8XXX card, SATA, etc (the works), and while it is not slow, it is not snappy either ! I expect most things to be instantaneous on such hardware and they aren't. Sometimes I get the the waiting cursor even for trivial tasks like opening the control panel, with no other apps running ! (well, except Steam, the anti-virus and the other craplets that come with a pre-installed PC :-) That is a disgrace.

  • by justthinkit ( 954982 ) <> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:38PM (#22592578) Homepage Journal
    This is so far out of whack, it's time for whack-a-troll.

    (1) You point out that "novice users" (and that would be the vast majority of computer users), are not going to run Photoshop. Yet you mention that 512MB ain't enough to run it. Why did you even mention it then?

    (2) You say "or you like to play mp3s while working", implying that this would overload a 512MB XP machine. I have mplayer.exe running with a movie paused -- 17MB of RAM used. 17MB more is going to break the XP camel's back?

    (3) "or a number of other situation". You mean like running AutoCAD, a continuous system benchmark, and playing WoW...while downloading pr0n? Man, I see novices doing that all the time.

    (4) "but I will be [sic] that they *will* have a large number of applications open at once". Well, in my experience novices tend to have a grand total of one program open at once, and if you try to leave a second one open they will close it, sometimes even when you have carefully minimized it. Many developers are this way as well -- wanting to squeeze an extra 50msec out of that recompile. Oh, and that one program is almost for sure 99% most likely you-can-bet maximized.

    Real world situation #1: upgrading the dreaded mother-in-law computer to XP involving a machine with 64MB of RAM. Yup, one-eighth of what you are whining about. EVERYTHING I re-installed worked. MS O2k, CompuServe 2000, graphics editors, alternate browser, etc. Yes, everything ran slowly. Yes, it was slow to boot up (but not as slow as 512MB Vista machines). And when told how cheap RAM was, the m-i-l rushed out and bought 256MB.

    Real world situation #2: my wife upgrading her computer while I was away. It went from 98 to XP Pro, with 320MB of RAM. The thing ran hundreds of games and everything else. Nobody ever thought it was slow. I used it myself for some things for a time. It was only replaced a year ago, and died of dust overload, if anything.

    Somewhere a chair-thrower is rubbing his hands together and saying "Vista is right on target! []"
  • by A coward on a mouse ( 238331 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:51PM (#22592720)
    What does being American have to do with this? Are you saying that Royal Philips Electronics operates differently because they're Dutch? How about Lenovo? Are they a bunch of dope-smoking hippies trying to change the world and going broke while they do it? I'm sure Gazprom wouldn't dream of screwing someone for a bit of cash, no, no, they *really* care.
  • by unixfan ( 571579 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @05:02PM (#22592870) Homepage
    Agreed. One of the biggest mistake people do when deciding that something is more secure is to do things the way it is supposed to work. A good example is how packet filtering firewalls allowed any traffic in if they just said "I'm a response to a request you sent". When they designed the firewall technology they clearly did not expect people to do non standard things like that.

    After getting seriously hacked they came out with stateful inspection which keeps track of requests going out so they can reasonably tell if an inbound packet is a reply and not a hack.

    The point being that crackers, thieves and other criminals cannot be counted on to do things the "right way". By lying, cheating and doing things in a totally unexpected way they find ways around the barriers we put up.

    Like digging a tunnel under the wall to get in. You're supposed to try to _walk_ in.

    This is where most people fall short when they evaluate how secure something is. They test it the way they are supposed to. Never imagining someone doing it backwards and upside down. So limiting functionality that should never have been turned on by default, with windows there obviously are a lot of things you can do to make it more secure. Giving off a nice warm feeling of how much more secure it is. Then missing obvious buffer overflows and new holes created by the new buggy code.

    Windows people usually never realize that Unices have a design philosophy that makes it much easier to lock down. (The concept of one small and simple program that does one thing really well. Then just chain them to get added functionality.) I constantly run into windows techs who think their computer is safe because they unchecked check boxes and so on. (It is no coincidence that OpenBSD can tout the statistics they have. The sound design philosophy on Unix allowed them to accomplish what billion dollar operations cannot.)

    Did these cats ever research what hackers/crackers have done and how they got in? Nope. It just feels right to them, so it must be more secure.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @05:16PM (#22593024) Homepage Journal
    I had a horrible, horrible time with Vista performance, but I use my computer as a development machine. I'm continually bringing up software systems like Oracle and starting and stopping virtual machines. The thing is, I dual booted Linux and never had any problems at all with comparable workloads in Linux. Finally, I figured out that my problem was that the Windows page file was fragmented; it had several thousand fragments, even though the partition it was on was over 50% free.

    I was the victim of a number of peculiar things about Windows. First of course is the incomprehensible practice of putting the paging files on user file systems. Then there is the tendency of NTFS to get fragmented, which has greater impact on laptop disks. But I think the corker is that Vista is greedy for memory -- not that needs that memory, but if it thinks you have plenty to spare it grabs as much as it can early on, probably for superfetch or something like it. I figured this out because launching vmware for the first time after a boot seemed to "crash" the system, only it turned out that the system came back in about ten minutes; five if you had readyboost.

    It turned out what was going on was that launching vmware doubled the amount of virtual memory the system had allocated, and Vista apparently can't deallocate the memory it had hogged fast enough, resulting in massive swapping. I can only speculate, but I'd guess that under these conditions ntfs allocates the new pagefile segments whereever it can, which of course makes impact of swapping even worse. Later, you can shutdown vmware and restart it with no problem; evidently Vista figures out that you might need that physical memory.

    Ultimately, I was able to restore decent performance by defragmenting the system from a rescue disk, and fixing the pagefile so that it was adequately large but could not grow. And now that I know what was going on, I can avoid the problem. However, by now I'd got used to running all my development tasks in virtual machines under Linux, which have the advantage they can be quickly backed up to an external drive. Yes, all the code in source control, but it is a bit nitpicky to get a development system set up just the way I like it. Next time I have a hardware problem on my laptop I'll be able to plug an external drive into a different machine and be ready to go immediately.

    In any case, if it was superfetch, this shows the dangers of clever but superficial fixes to underlying problems. I use lots of different, big applications and files. Superfetch at best does very little for me, although it may be great for the user who uses his computer for web browsing and office suites.
  • by canuck57 ( 662392 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @05:17PM (#22593044)

    I found it amusing that Ballmer writes like a barely-literate teenage girl would before all that sms-speak came about. I wonder if the only books he reads have pictures in them.

    Many executives are functionally illiterate. Probably why many are mean too. But all have secretaries and most let them read and respond to their emails. Scary that they have such discretions too. But a sad fact none the less and it is not abnormal in the executive offices.

  • by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @05:25PM (#22593118)
    Heh. I was a Microsoft employee (not on the Windows team, thank goodness) at the time Vista shipped for enterprise customers and hit RTM for general availability (I left before it was actually released), and I can tell you for sure that a lot of Microsoft employees use Mac and/or Linux at home. I was a first-level manager, and there was only one member of my team of eight who did not have at least one Mac/*BSD/Linux machine at home, and we all thought he was a square peg for that :)
  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @05:40PM (#22593306)
    Linux isn't automatically more secure.
    Isn't it? So where are the equivalents to SELinux or AppArmor in Vista?

    He said 'automatically'. SELinux and AppArmor aren't automatically installed. And in my experience they usually aren't.

    Many Windows apps requires users to run as Administrator (for example Quickbooks and a camcorder tool I recently came across). On the Linux side, users can run as regular users and not know the root password (or have root access via sudo). Yes, I know that those are not part of Windows, but what does it matter, if the Windows ecosystem requires (or makes it very difficult to not) run as Adminstrator?

    The windows ecosystem has to change. Period.

    Venders aren't going to change their software without force.

    Consumers aren't going to demand secure software unless it being insecure gets in their way (it wasn't before, but now it is).

    IT shops SHOULD have been demanding secure software (and to their credit a lot of business software that runs in Terminal Services, Citrix, etc) is just fine in Vista because it was written properly to run in user space. (VERY FEW terminal server admins give everyone who logs in administrative privs. The appliations MUST run in user space, etc).

    Unfortunately the demand for secure user space friendly software was largely limited to enterprise end-user apps accessed via terminal services. IT was was far to lenient with other stuff, and even business computers are often stuffed with software that needs admin priviledges for no good reason.

    So faced with mounting problems with viruses and malware, and everyone demanding Windows get secure, microsoft secured windows. Good for them. May now the 3rd party vendors will finally fall into line... but its going to take some time.

    So for my part, if somone is contemplating a new PC, and they want to go windows. I recommend Vista over XP provided it can be made to work. I want vendors to adjust to the new ecosystem, the last thing we need is to 'save XP' and perpetuate the old one.
  • Apps load fine now. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @05:54PM (#22593522) Homepage
    It was the lack of memory that was slowing it down. We know because that's all we changed and it runs great now. Opening a new safari window used to take several seconds. Now it's nearly instant.

    Mobile harddrives are not that much slower than desktop drives.

    "You'll probably still be saying it when it's the only machine still working when all the PCs you've bought since are failing in a couple of years time."

    I build all my PCs from parts and they last as long as want them. I don't buy a new MB/CPU/Memory unless there's compatibility issues involved with getting a faster processor. I don't buy a new computer because the MB/CPU or memory failed.

    When the 1.66GHz processor in the Mini doesn't cut it anymore we have no options. You have to buy a whole new Mac. You can't just spend $200 on a new MB/CPU and possibly some memory.

    And like I said, since Apple tried to rip us off on memory I don't trust them anymore. I'd hate to buy a Mac and have to buy their parts. We got lucky this time.
  • by Hucko ( 998827 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @06:34PM (#22593998)

    Vista is big, but so to are the major consumer distros.

    The major consumer distro's sizes are comparable to the size of Vista in the same way a Doberman is comparable to a rhinoceros.

    Bloke, the Vista install has a footprint of around 10 gigs, I have yet to see any distro exceed 4Gb (more commonly around 2 - 3). And they include everything a desktop needs as well as most of what is needed for a basic server setup. (OS X I have not experienced... yet... though I hear it is around 6Gb ) Maybe some specialised server setups approach the size of Vista, but they come with the usable software installed.

    When you wish to do some thing in Vista, you reach for an install disk (okay maybe you search the internet; either way there barely any usable software with a ~10 Gb installation).

    As far as security goes, I've come to the conlcusion that the minute you manage to convince anyone (regardless of tech, procedure or feature) they are secure, at that moment they become vulnerable. Paranoia is the only approximation of security.

  • Re:At least... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @06:38PM (#22594064) Journal

    Would you ever scrap thousands of hours for which you paid people to work on your product?

    Hell yes. They teach you that in MBA 101, and the term is "throwing good money after bad". You do **not** spend more money on a project that will not net any returns, you cancel the accounting codes and flog the furniture (sell -- I meant sell the furniture).

    Famous quote from W.Gates - "If we don't obsolete our own software, someone else will." I don't think they quite meant obsoleting it in advance, but there you go, apologies for the gerund.

  • by skeptictank ( 841287 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @07:40PM (#22594852)
    Good Summary, here is a little more detail that is of interest.

    The words "not ever" and "if ever" get used several times by Steven Sinofsky when he is writing about drivers for Vista. Intel is still a generation away from having an embedded graphics chip set that can deal with Aero and they knew it when they got MS to change the requirements on the capable logo. 915 is a non-starter and 945 doesn't run it well enough that you would want to try. It's pretty obvious that Intel is gonna be joining MS in court to face the class-action, as they both conspired to sell under-powered boxes as "Vista Capable".

    In the future I think MS is gonna have problems getting OEMs to go along with changes to driver models, seeing how they screwed HP over.

  • by theheadlessrabbit ( 1022587 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:59PM (#22596448) Homepage Journal
    512 of RAM on WinXP is great.

    My old system that I used for the past 5 years had 320 megs of ram, and ran at 500mzh.

    I never ran into problems using that system for running photoshop 7 (with 100mb+ files), cubase 3, audiomulch (with 10 or more VSTs running) Adobe Audition 2, Premier.

    sure, i had to wait a few seconds to apply a filter, but thats no big deal. Rendering files was painfully slow, but i could do that at night while i slept.

    I never had any problems actually being productive with such an underpowered system.

    what specs does vista require to reach the same level of productivity?
  • Re:At least... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mysticgoat ( 582871 ) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:12PM (#22596564) Homepage Journal
    The phrase

    Dos Ain't Done 'Til Lotus Don't Run
    is apocryphal, but the strategy that it describes was practiced by Microsoft in the late days of DOS, when Word was second fiddle to WordPerfect and Excel was an also-ran, trailing Lotus' 1-2-3 and Borland's Quattro.

    Back in the day, those of us who were using various Business Basics to write custom code relied heavily on a thick reference book called Undocumented DOS, which described the hidden interface to DOS internals that were being used by Microsoft applications, but were not supposed to be used by third party developers because, well, because they weren't officially documented. They were, however, generally faster or in some other way better than the documented routines. The feeling was that if Word and Excel used these, they had to be pretty damn stable.

    Microsoft continued this practice with the Windows 3.x APIs. I was doing other things by the end of that era, so I have no personal knowledge of anything after Windows For Workgroups.


    Dos Ain't Done 'Til Lotus Don't Run
    may never have been actually chanted in the halls of Redmond, it is a very good at suggesting the oh so clever mixture of development and marketing strategy that Microsoft has built its edifice on.

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.