Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) wields incredible power in the computer industry.
Still, when it comes to the image of its flagship operating systems, it is greatly at the mercy of third-party software developers.
When users sit down to use Windows, the code written by Microsoft sometimes doesn't matter as much as the bugs left behind in poorly written applications and drivers. If a crash does happen, the average user is more likely to blame "that crummy Windows" than to figure out it's a bug with a device driver.
We rarely get to hear Microsoft's side of the story on this; it doesn't want to publicly berate partners about software quality.
Occasionally, though, some unvarnished truth gets through. For example, the folks at Ars Technica have been digging around in the Microsoft e-mails released as part of the "Vista Capable" lawsuit.
Those e-mails had some revealing information about the causes of Vista woes.
According to the Microsoft e-mails, Nvidia's drivers alone caused 28.8% of the crashes seen in Vista during the report period.
(The report says only that it covers 2007, but it likely does not cover the entire year.) Microsoft drivers come in second at 17.9%, ATI is third with 9.3%, and Intel takes fourth place with 8.8%.
Webroot Software, makers of an anti-spyware application, was next with 2.9%. All the other drivers, from hundreds of companies listed on the report, plus "Unknown", make up the other 32.3% of the crashes.