Entertainment Quantified

Apr 28, 2009 - Software

Where Is Microsoft?

Three and a half years ago I wrote a blog post on my other blog asking the question, “Where was Microsoft?” This post was talking about the video iPod and asking why Microsoft hasn’t come out with a decent competing product. Since then the Zune was introduced and it has won my affection so well I own three of them, plus I pay for my Zune Pass subscription three months at a time.

So what am I writing about here? I’m worried that they have hit the end of the road. Last October at the Professional Developer’s Conference in Los Angeles, Ray Ozzie announced that Office Online would be previewing this spring. The exact phrase used at the time was “early 2009.” We are quickly approaching the middle of 2009, and in Microsoft speak we are approaching the end of their fiscal year. Yet we haven’t really heard anything about those 2010 products. In fact, about the only official word I’ve heard is a web site I wrote for Exchange 2010. (Side note: I did not write that Silverlight hero on that page. I know better than to have 7 different media elements running at the same time.)

Exchange 2010 is really cool, and it truly introduces Ray Ozzie’s vision of Software plus Services (S+S). Since Ray announced this direction though we haven’t heard much else of anything. Ray Ozzie wasn’t even mentioned at this year’s Mix conference in Las Vegas. It’s almost as if he is locked in a room somewhere working on Groove and nothing else.

Think about this: Office 2007 was such a revolutionary change and a wonderfully usable product that the VP in charge of it got moved over to the Windows group to try and fix Windows Vista. Windows 7 is already being hailed as the greatest product of the year. As a beta tester for the past 10 years I can say that my voice hasn’t ever been so muffled in history for an operating system. But perhaps this is why Windows 7 is turning out to be a great product. The build that I got at PDC last October was stable enough to be used as a day-to-day machine. I couldn’t say that about Vista during Vista’s first Release Candidate.

Some people are hailing the fact that the system requirements for Windows 7 haven’t changed since Windows Vista, but really Windows Vista’s system requirements were that of a high end PC when Vista was released. I heard a story once about how Windows developers were given older PC’s to develop on so that the operating system they produced would be really fast on a typical machine when the OS came out. I think that was in regards to the advancements that Windows made from version 3.0 and 3.1. During the Vista beta I asked if this was still the case. The answer I got was that the developers were using really high end machines because it would be those machines that would be mid-level machines when the OS came out. This was due to the longer development cycle and that every 18 months… blah… blah… blah… Maybe if they’d listened a little more to the beta testers complaining that none of their hardware worked they wouldn’t have had such a terrible release. Now mind you, I love Windows Vista. Imagine what the haters say about it.

Jump to now. We have Office 2007 which works great. We have Windows 7 that will release I predict within the next couple of months (the Release Candidate was leaked last Friday). So what’s left for the client? We haven’t heard any word on what is coming in Office 2010 that will justify the $300/PC upgrade price, and since there isn’t even a CTP for it yet (much less an official beta) I doubt we’ll see it within this calendar year. Windows Home Server seems to be resting on its laurels releasing a Power Pack here and there. The Zune team is wrapped in more secrecy than Apple’s iPod team (except when some Zune HD pictures are leaked). Xbox 360 seems to be ticking away doing pretty well. Finally the Windows Media Center team seems to be the quietest, but that’s for another blog post.

I think Vista was rushed to market so that people that had bought the (then) new Software Assurance agreement would get an OS upgrade within their 3 year agreement. Since Office 2007 was released almost three years ago I see Microsoft rushing an upgrade to Office to market before its fully baked. This would be bad for Office. Hell, some genius may even say, “let’s call it Office 2007 R2!”

Obviously I’ve skipped a lot of products here, but those may have to be topics for future posts.