James "Jim" Edward Allchin (born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1951) is a former executive at Microsoft, where he was responsible for many of the platform components from Microsoft including Microsoft Windows, Windows Server, server products such as SQL Server, and developer technologies. He may be most known for building Microsoft's server business. After sixteen years at Microsoft, Allchin retired in early 2007 - on the day that Microsoft officially released the Windows Vista operating system to consumers. He is also known for his leading role in the architecture and development of the directory services technology Banyan VINES. He has won numerous awards through the years such as Technical Excellence Person of Year in 2001. Allchin is now a professional musician.


Early years

Allchin was born to a poor family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1951. While he was still an infant, the family moved to Keysville, Florida, where his parents worked on a farm. Later Allchin and his older brother Keith also worked on the farm to help the family's finances.

While fixing equipment on the farm, Allchin developed an interest in engineering. He briefly studied electrical engineering at the University of Florida but dropped out to play in a number of bands. However he returned to the university and graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science in 1973.

He then joined Texas Instruments, where he helped build a new operating system. He then followed a former lecturer, Dick Kiger, to Wyoming, where he helped start a company that provided computer services nationwide, before moving on to another company in Dallas, Texas.

Allchin returned to his studies, gaining an M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1980. While studying towards a Ph.D. in Computer Science at Georgia Institute of Technology in the early eighties, he was the architect of the Clouds distributed object-oriented operating system; his thesis was entitled "An Architecture for Reliable Decentralized Systems"

In 1983, Allchin was recruited to Banyan by founder Dave Mahoney, eventually rising through the company to the position of Senior Vice President andm Chief Technology Officer. During his seven years at Banyan, he was the principal architect of the VINES distributed operating system, including the StreetTalk directory protocol.

For a year, Bill Gates tried to recruit a reluctant Allchin to join Microsoft, finally persuading him in 1990 by telling him that whatever he created would reach a wider customer base through Microsoft than through anyone else.

Allchin is known as a prolific computer programmer/engineer. There are stories about Allchin debugging systems remotely by having the person on the phone toggle in hexadecimal via the front panel switches of early computers to correct problems.


Initially Microsoft put Allchin in charge of revamping the Local Area Network Manager, using his networking expertise. In fact, he did away with the project entirely. "This is never going to work. You have to shut it down. Shut it down. Take the whole thing down." Allchin emphasized the need to start fresh.

Allchin's first high-profile project at Microsoft was the Cairo operating system that was originally intended to replace Windows NT. At the NT Developer Conference in July 1992, Allchin gave a presentation about the future Microsoft operating system. One of the main goals for Cairo was that users would be able to locate files based on their content, not only their name. Users would also have access to files stored on other machines on a network as easily as they had access to files on their own hard drives. Cairo was originally scheduled to ship in total in 1994 but was delayed repeatedly and then instead pieces of the technology were shipped in successive operating system releases.

The Cairo and Windows NT groups were combined and Allchin created a new client and server organization focused on business and IT users. Allchin replaced Dave Cutler as the lead on Windows NT development from version 3.5 onwards. This led to conflict with another Vice President, Brad Silverberg, who was in charge of the development of Windows 95, the operating system that was aimed at the personal computer market as opposed to Windows NT's business computer market.

In 1999, Microsoft re-organized its corporate structure. The Consumer Division that maintained versions of Windows for home users and the Business & Enterprise Division that maintained Windows NT were combined into a single operating system division, the Platform Group. Allchin became Group Vice President of the new combined group meaning he was now responsible for managing the development of both versions of Windows. Finally with the release of Windows XP in 2001, both business and client versions of the operating system were based on the same code base. During this time the Server business grew hugely.

On September 20, 2005 Microsoft announced that Allchin would become co-president, with Kevin Johnson, of a new Platform Products and Services Group that combines the old Platform Group, Server and Tools Group and the MSN Group. Microsoft also announced that Allchin would be retiring after Windows Vista ships, leaving Kevin Johnson as president.

Bill Gates summarized Allchin:

"He's a brilliant technologist, visionary, and a strong leader."
Allchin was a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Microsoft—the small group responsible for developing Microsoft's core direction along with Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates. He was known to be blunt, technical, and straightforward.


Running the most profitable product areas within Microsoft caused Allchin to be included in many negotiations and disputes along with his business and technical leadership responsibilities.

During the United States v. Microsoft antitrust trial, emails sent by Allchin to other Microsoft executives were entered as evidence by the government lawyers to back up their claim that the integration of Internet Explorer and Windows had more to do with their competition with Netscape Communications Corporation than innovation.

During the Caldera v. Microsoft case, emails from Allchin to Bill Gates were introduced as evidence. One email from September 1991, included Allchin telling Gates that, "We need to slaughter Novell before they get stronger."

In August 1998, Allchin asked an engineer named Vinod Valloppillil to analyze the open source movement and the Linux operating system. Valloppillil wrote two memos that were intended for Senior Vice-President Paul Maritz (at the time, the most senior executive after Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer). Both memos leaked and became known as the Halloween documents.

On September 29, 1998, Allchin was deposed to respond to the testimony of Professor Edward Felten. He later testified in court from February 1 to February 4, 1999. Some of his testimony centered on whether Internet Explorer could be removed as stated by Felten or not. While ultimately Allchin proved his written testimony was correct in court, a video-taped demonstration created by Microsoft Attorneys supposedly illustrating Allchin's points was shown to have been misleading. David Boies believed it was an honest Microsoft Attorney mistake, but avoidable nevertheless.

In May 2002, Allchin testified before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly during the settlement hearing between Microsoft and the nine states and the District of Columbia, resulting from the United States v. Microsoft antitrust trial. Allchin was called to testify on two issues, however it was the first that gained the most publicity. In relation to the issue of sharing technical API and protocol information used throughout Microsoft products, which the states were seeking, Allchin testimony discussed how releasing certain information could increase the security risk to consumers.

It is no exaggeration to say that the national security is also implicated by the efforts of hackers to break into computing networks. Computers, including many running Windows operating systems, are used throughout the United States Department of Defense and by the armed forces of the United States in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

According to exhibits filed in 2006 by the plaintiff in the case Comes v. Microsoft, Allchin wrote a memo in January 2004 to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer that was critical of Microsoft and Longhorn, saying that they had lost their way and comparing them to Apple whom he believed had not.

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. ...

Allchin was also found to be critical of Microsoft relaxing its requirements for PCs to carry the 'Vista Capable' badge. The seal, designed to inform customers of a PC's ability to run the Windows Vista operating system, was not initially intended for computers running Intel's 915 chipset. This was overturned however, after Intel voiced their dissatisfaction with the decision. In an email to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, Allchin wrote:

I believe we are going to be misleading customers with the Capable program. OEMs will say a machine is Capable and customers will believe that it will run all the core Vista features.

Post Microsoft

Since leaving Microsoft, Allchin now performs music and charities.


  • Allchin, James Edward (1982). A suite of algorithms for maintaining replicated data using weak correctness conditions. Georgia Institute of Technology. ISBN B0006YHLIY.
  • Allchin, James Edward (1982). Object-based synchronization and recovery. Georgia Institute of Technology. ISBN B0006YLEL4.
  • Allchin, James Edward (1983). Support for objects and actions in CLOUDS: Status Report. Georgia Institute of Technology. ISBN B0006YHLI4.
  • Allchin, James Edward (1983). An architecture for reliable decentralized systems. Georgia Institute of Technology. ISBN B0006YIFDY.
  • Allchin, James Edward (1983). Facilities for supporting atomicity in operating systems. Georgia Institute of Technology. ISBN B0006YHLQG.
  • Allchin, James Edward (1983). How to shadow a shadow. Georgia Institute of Technology. ISBN B00071W5PA.

External links

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