The New Microsoft Way? Thursday, March 11, 2004 6:00 PM Today in an email response to being forwarded a News.Com Link to a story about Yukon and Whidbey being delayed, I started to think about what that really meant. I sense a new trend in Microsoft's approach to things and in the end, even with delays, I wonder if it will result in a faster adoption rate of their new products.
Here's my theory, and I stress MY THEORY, I have nothing official to really it on.
In the "Old Microsoft" way, a new product would be designed and eventually distributed to a small private group of beta testers. By that point in the development cycle, they really could only try to fix things, and would have a hard time to go back to change or add any features. A short while later, the product would be released and start to be really put through the paces. For many organizations the RTM would be their first look at the product and some would be willing to move to it once a service pack fixed any issues they found. The timeframe from announcement to beta to release may seem quicker, but I think there is a large timeframe between product development / announcement to market acceptance.
In the "New Microsoft" way, if we take Whidbey as an example, they share it with a small private test group at a very, very early stage. Then while the product is still somewhere in Alpha they release it to a larger test group, in this case the 6000+ developers at PDC in Oct 2003 (and recently a number of additional developers at DevDays) and ask them to put it through the paces asking for feedback. One thing to point out is they are not just asking what is a bug, but rather what do you like, don't like, would like in this release. This is still an Alpha version! They have been receiving an enormous amount of feedback about bugs and features that they would not get until it was almost publicly released the old way. People are already testing and working with Whidbey, and it's far from done!
Beta 1 is hopefully going to have some huge improvements, many driven from early feedback when it was possible to change things. By the time it's released to market, it should be solid, developers will know and understand it, and they can start using it immediately.
Robert Scoble's response to this issue that ship dates are often pushed back because "the quality isn't good enough". Do we really want to force something that is not ready? Do we want to start hearing "that feature or bug is a great suggestion, but we'll have to get to it later because of the ship date"? Are we angry about the ship date because we can't use it in our production apps, or because we can't have the completed version of a new toy? I think at this point in the game it's important in the big picture that these major projects including Whidbey, Longhorn, and Yukon be done right.
I think the New Microsoft way provides a more transparent process will provide a much better product in the end, and will get it in the hands of users sooner, allowing earlier testing which will build a higher level of confidence to use the release version sooner, which I think in the end will result in a better product with better acceptance.
That's my two bits worth anyway!
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