Random thoughts on being late

Don’t know if you’ve heard but Microsoft had to delay the launch of Vista until 2007

Apparantly this caused a lot of fuss, and even some rather dodgy reports of a 60% rewrite of the codebase, predictions of the demise of Microsoft, an opportunity for Apple and/or Linux, and so on.

Scoble had an interesting series of posts where he got increasing irate at some of the bad journalism and then collected all the tellings off he got.

To me the whole thing is a quite bizarre storm in a teacup – is it really so shocking that a Microsoft operating system schedule slipped? Given that in their entire history they’ve never shipped and OS according to the original ship date. I’m not just trying to pick on MS here – it’s an extremely common thing for software projects to miss their ship date, especially extremely large projects that have to have an earthquake like effect – even Ubuntu have had to slip Dapper by six weeks – although it just goes to show what a great job the Ubuntu team have done releasing 3 previous versions every 6 months on the dot (and the whole 6 month release cycle starts to look quite clever).

I did find the mini-microsoft response interesting, especially all the kvetching from Microsoft employees (or bored geeks trying to cause trouble?). This has got to be the most worrying aspect for Microsoft, not the peed-off OEMS, vulture like media pundits, or effect on the stock price. If the staff have such low morale, and so many bureaucratic hoops to dance through to get their code checked in, is it any wonder that the beast is shipping late? And what does that bode for the quality and especially the security of the system?

The other amazing aspect is that this is all this fuss for an operating system. This is just the stuff that allows you to run the applications you want (or need) to use. The comparison to Ubuntu above is a little disingenuous, because Ubuntu is more than just an operating system, it includes a whole range of additional software.

To be fair, the big 200lb weight that Microsoft have round their neck is that they feel they have to keep backwards compatability. The article by Joel Spolsky on how Microsoft lost the API war seems so prescient, for example he said in June 2004

Even if Longhorn ships when it’s supposed to, in 2006, which I don’t believe for a minute, it will take a couple of years before enough people have it that it’s even worth considering as a development platform.

(and in the article he explains the obsession with backwards compatability)

The weird thing is that when Vista does come out (and I wouldn’t bet against another delay) despite what anyone might say, whether it’s good or not so good, whether it requires only the fastest new hardware or will run just fine on a bottom of the range Dell, it’ll probably be a huge success – the juggernaut is just that big. Every OEM will want to ship it (to make up for the lost Xmas sales), and many large enterprises will start to roll it out, so the CIO can justify the large Software Assurance licence they bought.

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