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Summary:

When I was young, I woke up two days before Christmas very early in the morning. I heard some ruckus in the garage, and I went to investigate. To my surprise, my father was struggling with my Christmas presents in the car. Two days before Santa […]

When I was young, I woke up two days before Christmas very early in the morning. I heard some ruckus in the garage, and I went to investigate. To my surprise, my father was struggling with my Christmas presents in the car. Two days before Santa was supposed to come, I learned the cold truth. Santa drove a 77 Buick and worked for Maaco. That didn’t take away from the appreciation I had for my struggling father. It taught me that Christmas wasn’t about some random fat man magically getting into our house to deliver all the must have toys. Christmas was, in part, about getting all of that stuff to the kids without ruining the surprise.

Face it, Microsoft’s management fumbled the entire Vista project. If Microsoft comes out of the project learning anything it should be to stay mum about unreleased features. Perhaps there is some bias here, being TAB and all, but even Paul Thurrott thinks so.

Think about the dynamic here between Apple’s policy on unreleased products and Microsoft’s policy. Apple employees refuse to talk about it under all circumstances. When the product is released, the whole world says “Wow, that’s amazing. Who saw that coming?” It’s been my observation that Apple Public betas are more a tool for Apple when a paradigm shift is about to take place than simply testing new software.

Then there is Microsoft, who in many ways remains open about projects they are working on. Perhaps this is in response to the open source movement, customer demand, or something else. They spilled the beans on all the things they wanted Vista to do. Then, slowly, gained the reputation that VIsta is more of a new skin for Windows XP and some rudimentary metadata support. Here is the public beta, which has recieved the worst feedback of any beta to date. On the flip side, I do like Office 12 Beta 2, current stability problems aside.

It doesn’t make sense Microsoft. Vista Betas would probably be less of a laughing stock if the customers didn’t know that over half of the technologies were chopped out and the product is delayed over 3 years. People expect bugs in a beta, there is nothing wrong with that. I’ve tested Microsoft betas for my whole career, and this is the first that has completely not worked.

By Todd Baur
  1. In all honesty, I’m glad that Microsoft actually talks about the products that they’re working on. It gives the community a chance to really have an open channel of conversation between development and launch. However, I only wish they’d learn how to under promise and over deliver.

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  2. Here’s another vote for Vista beta 2 being ‘a laughing stock’. Man it’s a horrendous mess!

    I think it’s more fun to be kept in the dark, speculate about what might be included. BMW doesn’t give you sneak peaks at their new designs or features until the car is released, you might HEAR about them but you are never sure until you’re test driving the thing / reading a review. When Apple releases something new half the people say “told ya so! I knew they’d include !”, the other half stays quiet. When Microsoft releases something new EVERYONE says “uhh, what happened to and and how come it’s just as slow and buggy as before? and how come it’s still so ugly? and how come the sys reqs are up another 25% from last month?”…

    I prefer the secrecy, the anticipation and the surprise.

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  3. ugh i put stuff in triangle brackets…

    “i knew they’d include (new cool feature)”

    “what happened to (feature x) and (feature y)…”

    :

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  4. Actually that is Microsoft always handled releases by hyping evverything. Apple on the contrary keeps everything secretive. is it right or wrong? It depends where you stand. Apple always surprises us because we rarely know what they will pull out of their hats. However, Microsoft constantly let us down.

    You think this is new to Vista? Think as far back as Windows 95, and even beyond. W95 was six months late. It got worse with W98. Ultimately, W2000 was a year almost and a half late and was supposed to be NT5.

    Microsoft does what the frog who tries to look like the bull does. It looks big but once you have it in your hands you wonder what the commotion was all about. Frankly taking away WinFS was the biggest mistake they did. Yet, they had no choice. In typical MS way, they announced a project that wasn’t feasible in that timeline so they axed it.

    One thing is sure though and both politicians and big corporations got it right, most people have short term memory and often will accept a lot as they are being played on their emotions, that’s their achiles weakness.

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  5. I think the real reason that MS is so open about their roadmap is that they HAVE to be: enterprise customers don’t like surprises.

    If you’re working in the IT department of a company with, say, 50,000 employees (and I have), you’re going to have to map out your upgrades for the next five years at least: hardware, software, licenses, the works. I worked for a company that was just beginning to upgrade all of its desktops to Win2000 in late 2003, years after XP had been released. Why? because that’s how long it takes to do IT upgrades in a large corporate environment.

    Apple’s secrecy simply will not wash in the corporate world. The risk is too great. That’s one reason why Apple is now letting in some enterprise customers in on its roadmap:

    http://zdnet.com.au/news/software/soa/Apple_acknowledges_user_frustrations_over_roadmap/0,2000061733,39260347,00.htm

    Most IT customers would rather have a Vista launch date that keeps slipping in public than an awesome Apple product that blindsides them out of nowhere.

    Apple’s getting better at this, no doubt, especially in the OS arena. But hardware and (even other Apple software) planning is still total guesswork.

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  6. Microsoft needs to keep IT and developers in the picture, making “secrecy” impossible for their larger customers. What they need to do is abandon their current code base, make a unix flavor their own, and host legacy software in emulation. This backwards compatibility issue has got them out on a very weak limb by now.

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  7. Fortunately for Apple large scale (50,000 employees) enterprise isnt their focus. They’d rather cater to the creative pros which is exactly what they do since the create pros are often impressed by apples… well… creativity. :)

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  8. “You think this is new to Vista? Think as far back as Windows 95, and even beyond.”

    Microsoft announced Windows in 1983, before Apple unveiled the Mac.

    Bill Gates sold BASIC before he wrote it.

    Microsoft has always used product announcements to freeze the market. They used FUD to kill the competition. Why buy a Mac? Windows is going to be much better.

    In an industry rife with Vaporware, Apple was one of the few that dealt in product.

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  9. REB you totaly nailed it.
    YES oh yes definetly. drop the code, build it again from scrap or from unix.
    It worked wonders for apple, they should learn something from them.

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  10. Did you just come from watching Pirates of the Silicon Valley or something Myles?

    That’s the weakest argument I’ve ever heard in my life. To start up the flame war, since your bating… All that proves is how much of a crook Gates really is by selling Basic before he oh, wait a second… He BOUGHT basic from someone else, THEN put his name on it… I see. Inovation at work, right Myles? You sounded more like Ballmer, the big, stupid idiot that just went along with the whole thing.

    Idiot.

    MS hasn’t been able to inovate anything since they decided to steal the Apple interface during the transition from 3.1 to 95. THAT took a lot of thought.

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