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How the US military chivvied up Microsoft

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Divine intervention, or simply a divine coincidence? Long suffering Tablet PC users weary of unscheduled reboots didn't mind too much last week. Over a year after it came to light, and months after we highlighted the issue, Microsoft finally issued a patch for the memory leak that caused the problem. One pundit called it "the most anticipated patch in Tablet PC OS history".

Microsoft had spent February "working overtime", reporters were told at the time, but the promised fix still hadn't appeared when we returned to the topic on June. So what prompted this sudden burst of inactivity?

Well, one vertical niche that likes the Tablet idea very much is the US military, and the US Air Force was one of the first customers. Modded tablets were being used early in the Afghanistan air campaign, and had experienced "no blue screens", ComputerWorld reported three years ago. Those machines were running Windows 2000, and Tablet XP launched five months later.

"A big military customer saw the fuss and complained," suggests Peter Rysavy, in a nice summary of the saga.

"Bangalore were flown in to fix the problem in two hours flat after a year of lots of empty Starbucks containers and denying the problem to the public," he adds, metaphorically speaking.

But he's also correct, we can confirm.

According to a comment left on Jonathan Hardwicke's blog - he's the brave soul at Microsoft Research who first acknowledged the issue, and pushed to get it fixed - the Tablet developers were itching to fix the problem, but had to fight the notorious Redmond bureaucracy. "The process of getting QFEs evaluated by Dev, Test, Management; then approved by Executive Management, war, etc is a long one," writes a tester who worked on the patch.

Nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of a terrible accident.

Could regular fly pasts speed up the development process? ®

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