Monday, November 7, 2005

VS Service Packs, Big City Critics, and Shareholder Check-Up

VS: A recent comment points us to a blog entry that wraps the VS 2005 crash / hang problems up in a pretty package:

Scott Wiltamuth (Visual C# PUM): Servicing plans for VS 2003 and VS 2005 . Snippet:

We have plans for two service pack releases for the first part of 2006:

·         VS 2003 SP1 is scheduled for April 2006.  We have done much of the work for this release already, and are anxious to get it to you.

·         VS 2005 SP1 is scheduled for the first half of 2006.  We will be more specific about the date in a few months, once we have more customer data.

Eric Maino followed up the post-Whidbey MQ, though, with the post MQ... did I hear service pack? that clarifies that MQ is not about producing a quality-focused service pack but rather turning into a more agile group and tuning internal processes. I do hope any time spent on quality in the code base can be fed into fixing major issues that customers might run into.

It's interesting that the two VS 2005 posts here received some of the most negative feedback in a while. Too alarmist? Molehill to mountain? Well, I've received plenty of black-eyes dealing with regressions in Whidbey over the past year, so I'm always half-cocked now when it comes to finding customers dealing with their own issues in the RTM quality, especially over reported issues angering our customers who pay good money.

(Oh, and Darryl: I don't mind helping to provide some good source material and links and all, but how about a link back or a mention or throwing some kind attribution bone?)

Rolling Thunder: So, with VS and SQL Server out the door... let's look for more positive things to talk about... hey, that stock price keeps going up! Any day it goes up at least $0.01 is a good day, and as of late, since the Live announcement, it's been on the up trend. Go, Pipeline, Go! I was always happy to play with but I got to say I was very surprised to see it thrust upon the world as It was like yanking that talented high-school thespian off-stage and throwing them into the lead on Broadway (no offense to folks). The Big City critics were not kind.

Joe Wilcox again bemoaned the Microsoft attitude of "launching" products way, way, way before they are ready for primetime (Is Live DOA?). I, too, believe the time of launching just an idea is past us and when we have a big shindig, it has to be because we're launching something that's polished and ready to take on the world.

Not to bring up Apple and Steve Jobs and all that, but... when Mr. Jobs announces the new consumer hardware, it's not a prototype. It's something you can go to the store and buy later that day. It's done. Well, okay, it might scratch a little. But it's not some distant thunder.

I also mentioned how I thought Microsoft's growth in the space was a way to go after the Alpha Geeks. I still do, but what I forgot is that you have to take a moment to ponder what the Alpha Geeks are currently geeking over. I remembered Mac OS X. I forgot about Firefox. Yes, if you're going after the Alpha Geek mavens, you'd better understand your persona a little bit better and make sure your work can even render in their world. Playing nice in a Firefox web-based world is important. It's important in that the Alpha Geeks are the 4.5 contributors of the technical world. There are things they can do and people they can influence in a way no one else can, and if your coolness doesn't ever render on their screen, they're elsewhere.

Ship it! There's been talk of shipping often cropping up, looking at ship cycles of 18 or 24 months, for the major products. I've seen it as having been spoken by Mr. Ballmer but I haven't seen a direct quote yet. I (obviously, as of late) don't want to ship for the sake of shipping, but getting on a closer cycle like this is a good thing. And a forcing function that kicks out contributors and No-Birds who can't keep up.

Shareholders, how are we doing? So shareholders (Microsofties and non-Microsofties), take a moment, if you would, to consider what you expect out of this company over the next year and how on-track we are to deliver on your expectations. What's going well? What not so well? What are your expectations of Microsoft post shipping VS, SQL Server, Office, and Windows?

The coming year holds the greatest potential in a long time for Microsoft given that, to paraphrase Steve Ballmer, we're shipping just about every product we have. The stock has all the potential in the world to rise out of the horizontal slump it has been in. But will it stay there up there and keep growing? Will this be a thrilling ride to the top and then back down into the mid- or lower-twenties?

Personally, I think we can hold our ground and continue improving if we:

  • Focus on what it takes to streamline the development process of getting fantastic features out there and shipped.
  • Take on common sense, agile strategies to reduce wasted energy (and to identify redundant staff).
  • Sell to the consumer. The everyday Joe and Jane. What does Microsoft even mean to them? Sure, kiss the IT decision maker if you must, but start wooing the consumer with software products and services that delight them and that make their lives easier and that makes them appreciate Microsoft as a great company.
  • Decouple the product groups as much as possible. Coordinate, but do not depend upon. Trust, but verify. Integrated innovation is what landed us with this stuffed pipe.
  • Other improvements you'd like to be assured of?

(Work duties call and the only time I'll be spending here during the next week is deleting naughty comments. See you next week.)

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