I define Microsoft’s Windows “consistency advantage” as the fact that regardless of what hardware you use, you know you can modify it from the very same wizard. For example, regardless of which Ethernet Card you use, you modify the TCP/IP configuration from the same page. This is very good because if each eternet card is to provide its own way of specifying TCP/IP settings, joe user will be lost in configuring it. Just see how difficult is it to get users to setup their printer correctly.
Recently, however, I see more than two occassions where I think there is a crack in the “consistency”. In every case, something went wrong, the user cannot handle it and the issue got escalated to me.
The first is the case of WiFi card. One three occasions, with three different brand (Dell, Sony and a Polish computer), there was a problem getting the WiFi card to select the WiFI network the user wants. It appears there are two, incompatible ways to do it. The first is through Windows’ standard WiFI network selection dialog. The second is through the WiFI card providers’ own network selection dialog. That confuses thing seriously. It appears that this is so common that Window’s standard WiFI network selection dialog has a mode that will “disable itself” from handling network selection. The problem here is if Windows disable its own network selection service, it does not tell you where to find the alternative selection service. Moreover, you can get two icons on the system tray: One from Windows and one from your WiFI card providers. You need to navigate between the two and workout who has control of the WiFI card. Easier said than done.
The second has to do with display. Again there were a few occasions this happens. First, two of my user (using Sony and Dell) accidentally rotated the screen display by 90 degrees. In this case, we had to hunt down the “Display” dialog box and get into the display card manufacturer’s own dialog windows to unrotate it. The good news for this two cases is I had not expected Windows Display dialog to provide access to this function so I was half-expecting to find a manufacturer installed configuration window. Second, with two different computers (again a Sony and Dell, but different computers), there are two ways to specify how you want to use multiple display: The windows’ way and the manufacturer’s way. The manufacturer disabled window’s way of doing things and required you to use its own way of doing things.
Do this means we are now seeing the fragmentation of Windows way of handling hardware? I hope not. It really makes life difficult if every manufacturer decides its own way of handling things.