Thursday, August 10, 2006

Paul get's it right.. and wrong

By now most of you have read
Paul Thurrott's treatment
of Job's keynote at WWDC.  As usual, Paul makes excellent points and
treats his subject matter with respect and fairness.  His main point is
that Apple copies features just like Microsoft does and he’s right about
that.  He also points out that continuing to wonder what Microsoft was
doing (I admit that I’ve done that) during the 5 years of Vista wasteland
is silly and perhaps even ignorant.  Of course Microsoft has been quite
busy during those years shipping other versions of Windows.  I mean, come
on, do we really think that if Microsoft was only focused on a single
client-focused version of Windows that they could not have shipped it
sooner.  Right on, Paul.

But, Paul misses the point as
well.  Well, to be honest, I’m not sure missed it as much as he didn’t
make the point.   The main thing that Apple is doing much better than
Microsoft right now is driving innovation in an iterative way.  Being a
software developer for the last 15 years, it’s obvious to me that
disappearing from my customer base for years and building something that I
think my users will like is extremely risky.  You see, customers and users
have a peculiar way of being.. well… peculiar.

How many releases of OS X have
been made in the past 5 years?  Five?  Paul makes the comment that
none of these releases were “major”.  That’s probably
true but there seemed to be several changes in each release that was not “trivial”. 
And the upside to a greater number of releases is that you get to hear what
users are saying as you go.  They may hate a certain new tool that was introduced. 
Better to know now than after a team spends another two years on that

Is there anyone out there that
really believes that Microsoft could not have delivered minor releases of XP
(not CTPs) that included updates to the tools and the kernel?  Paul makes
the comment that Outlook Express has existed for over a decade.  True. 
It is also true that it has sucked for over a decade.  Why not release
truly useful updates to Outlook Express in an XP interim release?  Why not
ship the DVD maker tool we are seeing in Vista in an XP interim release? 
Why can’t the new Windows calendar app be included in an interim release?

The point is that the main
features of Vista could have been released in multiple, smaller releases during
the past 5 years.  Sure, there are major kernel changes that take a lot longer
to incubate and those lead to major releases.  There has to be some reason
to bump the major version number.

Ballmer has promised that we
would never again have to wait so long for a Windows update.  That’s
good but I believe that unless Microsoft adopts the agile way of developing
software throughout the organization and moves to smaller OS releases that can
be released more quickly and with more predictability, Apple’s OS X will
continue to be the envy of the Windows world.


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