Engineering Windows 7

Welcome to our blog dedicated to the engineering of Microsoft Windows 7

Product Planning for Windows...where does your feedback really go?

Product Planning for Windows...where does your feedback really go?

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Ed. Note:  Allow me to introduce Mike Angiulo who leads the Windows PC Ecosystem and Planning team.  Mike’s team works closely with all of our hardware and software partners and leads the engineering team's product planning and research efforts for each new version of Windows.  --Steven 

In Windows we have a wide variety of mechanisms to learn about our customers and marketplace which all play roles in helping us decide what we build.  From the individual questions that our engineers will answer at WinHEC and PDC to the millions of records in our telemetry systems we have tools for answering almost every kind of question around what you want us to build in Windows and how well it’s all working.  Listening to all of these voices together and building a coherent plan for an entire operating system release is quite a challenge – it can feel like taking a pizza order for a billion of your closest friends!

 

It should come as no surprise that in order to have a learning organization we need to have an organization that is dedicated to learning.  This is led by our Product Planning team, a group of a couple dozen engineers that is both organized and sits with the program managers, developers and testers in the feature teams.  They work throughout the product cycle to ensure that our vision is compelling and based on a deep understanding of our customer environment and is balanced with the business realities and competitive pressures that are in constant flux.  Over the last two years we’ve had a team of dozens of professional researchers fielding surveys, listening to focus groups, and analyzing telemetry and product usage data leading up to the vision and during the development of Windows 7 – and we’re not done yet.  From our independently run marketing research to reading your feedback on this blog we will continue to refine our product and the way we talk about it to customers and partners alike.  That doesn’t mean that every wish goes answered!  One of the hardest jobs of planning is in turning all of this data into actionable plans for development.  There are three tough tradeoffs that we have been making recently.

 

First there is what I think of as the ‘taste test challenge.’ Over thirty years ago this meme was introduced in a famous war between two colas.  Remember New Coke?  It was the result of overemphasizing the very initial response to a product versus longer term customer satisfaction.  We face this kind of challenge all the time with Windows – how do we balance the need for the product to be approachable with the need for the product to perform throughout its lifecycle?  Do you want something that just boots as fast as it can or something that helps you get started?  Of course we can take this to either extreme and you can say we have – we went from c:\ to Microsoft Bob in only a matter of a decade.  Finding the balance between a product that is fresh and clean out of the box and continues to perform over time is a continual balance.  We have ethnographers who gather research that in some cases starts even before the point of purchase and continues for months with periodic visits to learn how initial impressions morph into usage patterns over the entire lifecycle of our products.

 

Second we’re always looking out for missing the ‘trees for the forest.’ By this I mean finding the appropriate balance between aggregate and individual user data.  A classic argument around PCs has always been that a limited subset of actions comprises a large percentage of the use case.  The resulting argument is that a limited function device would be a simpler and more satisfying experience for a large percentage of customers!  Of course this can be shown to be flawed in both the short term and the long term.  Over the long term this ‘common use case’ has changed from typing & printing to consuming and burning CDs and gaming to browsing and will continue to evolve.  Even in the short term we have studied the usage of thousands of machines (from users who opt-in of course) and know that while many of the common usage patterns are in fact common, that nearly every single machine we’ve ever studied had one or more unique applications in use that other machines didn’t share!  This long tail phenomena is very important because if we designed for the “general case” we’d end up satisfying nobody.  This tradeoff between choice and complexity is one that benefits directly from a rigorous approach to studying usage of both the collective and individual and not losing sight of either.

 

Third is all about timing.  Timing is everything.  We have an ongoing process for learning in a very dynamic market – one that is directly influenced by what we build.  The ultimate goal is to deliver the ultimate in software & hardware experiences to customers – the right products at the right time.  We’ve seen what happens if we wait too long to release software support for a new category (we should have done a better job with an earlier Bluetooth pairing standard experience) and what also happens when we ship software that the rest of the ecosystem isn’t ready for yet.  This problem has the dimension of working to evangelize technologies that we know are coming, track competing standards, watch user scenarios evolve and try to coordinate our software support at the same time.  To call it a moving target isn’t saying enough!  It does though explain why we’re constantly taking feedback, even after any given version of Windows is done.

 

These three explicit tradeoffs always make for lively conversation – just look at the comments on this blog to date!  Of course being responsive to these articulated needs is a must in a market as dynamic and challenging as ours.  At the same time we have to make the biggest tradeoff of them all – balancing what you’re asking for today with what we think you’ll be asking for tomorrow.  That’s the challenge of defining unarticulated needs.  All technology industries face this tradeoff whether you call it the need to innovate vs. fix or subscribe to the S curve notion of discontinuities.  Why would two successful auto companies, both listening to the same market input, release the first commercial Hummer and first hybrid Prius in the same year?  It wasn’t that 1998 was that confusing, it was that the short term market demands and the long term market needs weren’t obviously aligned.  Both forces were visible but readily dismissed – the need for increased off road capacity to negotiate the crowded suburban mall parking lots and the impending environmental implosion being predicted on college campuses throughout the world.  We face balancing acts like this all the time.  How do we deliver backwards compatibility and future capability one release at a time?  Will the trend towards 64 bit be driven by application scenarios or by 4GB machines selling at retail?

 

We have input on key tradeoffs.  We have a position on future trends.  That’s usually enough to get started on the next version of the product and we stay connected with customers and partners during throughout development to keep our planning consistent with our initial direction but isn’t enough to know we’re ready to ship.   Really being done has always required some post engineering feedback phase whether it’s a Community Technical Preview, Technology Adoption Program or a traditional public Beta.  The origin of Beta testing and even the current definition of the term aren’t clear.  Some products now seem to be in Beta forever!  We work to find the best possible timing for sharing the product and gathering final feedback.  If we release it too early it’s usually not in any shape to evaluate, especially with respect to performance, security, compatibility and other critical fundamentals.  If we release too late we can’t actually take any of the feedback you give us, and I can’t think of a worse recipe for customer satisfaction than to ask for feedback which gets systematically ignored.  I was just looking at another software “feedback” site where a bunch of the comments just asked the company to “please read this site!”   For Windows 7 we’re going to deliver a Beta that is good enough to experience and leaves us enough time to address areas where we need more refinement.  This blog will be an important part of the process because it will provide enough explanation and content and guidance to help you understand the remaining degrees of freedom, some of the core assumptions that went into each area and will structure our dialogue so that we can listen and respond to as much feedback as you’re willing to give.  Some of this will result in bugs that get fixed, some will result in bugs in drivers or applications that we help our partners fix.  And of course sometimes we’ll just end up with healthy debate – but even in this case we will be talking, we will respond to constructive comments, bugs and ideas and we will both be starting that conversation with more context than ever.  So please do keep your comments coming.  Please participate in the Customer Experience Improvement program.  Give us feedback at WinHEC and PDC and in the newgroups and forums – we’re listening!  

 

Thanks,

- Mike

 

Leave a Comment
  • Please add 8 and 3 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • FOR THOSE WITH LONG BOOT TIME...

    http://lifehacker.com/396904/make-vista-use-multiple-cores-to-speed-boot-time

  • This does not address feature request. And not all the bugs can be reported through that useless automated program. A lot of bugs does not crash the system. Improper result/behavior, like the Vista Snipping Tool, the erase icon on toolbar is not working, I can't report that, it didn't cause crash.

  • AGAIN ABOUT BOOT is a hoax:

    http://winhlp.com/node/150

  • Hi,

    I'm reading next and next answers (in form of next posts) from Microsoft people and with all respect I don't see anything new here in this moment.

    We could read, how many things need to be done on system startup; we can read, that our feedback is important; etc. etc.

    But we still don't have answers main answers:

    what will be done for making applications totally separated and separated from main system core ? (will be Registry part available for applications separated from main Registry available for core ? will be directories separated ? etc. etc.)

    what will be done for decreasing number of places, where startup processes (applications, services) are executed from ?

    what will be done for decreasing size of startup files/system core ?

    how DRM and non liked parts (which affect productivity and make system very slow) will be decreased in Windows 7 ?

    will be hidden data removed from filesystem ? (I think about alternative streams here)

    will be it possible to remove more system components from it ?

    If you collect feedback: please note, that without making some architecture changes you can't provide full uninstalling applications from system (including Registry parts). And you can't have for example two or more IE versions in the same system (without virtual machines or some other tricky solutions).

  • I personally believe that a lot of the problems with Vista, what trying to deliver new experiences that the Windows Team probably expected users were going to embrace. For instance, how well is Windows Meeting Space being used? Are there studies out there to show that people are using its ad-hoc capabilities? I also believe the Windows Team missed certain opportunities to reinvent the wheel to make the product more usable. Networking is an improvement and a curse, there are just too many network related explorers. Things like radio box links and changing certain dialogs like System Properties and TCP/IP Properties dialogs into actual explorer would improve the usability and productivity of Windows. Translucency and the beauty of Vista is one thing, but I believe more functionality and well thought out processes could have gone into the product to help give it that just right appeal.

  • I realize there's lots of potential proprietary information that Microsoft collects about usage and doesn't want to share for competitive reasons, but it sure would be interesting to share it publicly--maybe a top 100 list of things that people do on a couple of the different platforms--kind of like a Google Zeitgeist. If the business case can't be made to give it away for free--depending on its implementation--it might be a nice addition to the a premium MSDN subscription. Something to think about.

  • This blog is great and we thank you for that.

    Yet, I think we have read enough, at this point, about the structure of Microsft teams, that dozen of ethnographers are mapping Windows experience in the ecosystem,  that all of you are commited to meet the greatest chalenges and other nice letters of intention.

    All this is very beautiful, but we would like some more concrete, point by point answers on what will be considered (or not) and with precision, what are the good points in the material changes which we proposed in the +- 300 replies here.

    IT WAS FANTASTIC to read how you were *FINALY* talking "system performance". Please continue on this path: tell us concrete things about what you are doing and what you plan to do. (How Microsoft corp. is structured internaly is not the topic of this blog, is it?)

    Now just my 2ct about the last input:

    "balancing what you’re asking for today with what we think you’ll be asking for tomorrow."

    Please, ho, please, do not think about what we may ask in the future! Don't try to invent stuffs we didn't ask for while there are about a hundred of urgent requests here.

    (Except for new hardware integration like solid state HDD, touch screens etc of course - or was it that you were thinking about?).

    Computers will be pretty much the same in 5 years to what they are now and my 5 years old computer will still be running. Think about that in your W7 design.

    Regards,

    Fred

  • 3 little things that irritate me in Vista.

    1) First boot up and the welcome center is shown. But it's not possible to set the welcome center to -> don't show me this no more. The tick becomes visible after the second boot, but it would be nice if I could disable the welcome center immediately.

    2) Clean install of Vista and yet for some reason there are pointless folders under Program Files like "Visual Studio". Which, if I'm not mistaken, is empty anyway or had like 1 file in it...

    3) Why are there two "Windows Sidebar" folders (under both program files directories) in Vista x64? I assume that the Sidebar used in Vista x64 is only the 64-bit version, so there should be only one folder...

    1 suggestion for the future:

    Going from XP to Vista, a lot was changed in the UI. For instance explorer didn't have a menu anymore and the breadcrumb bar was invented.

    Although Vista has a "Whats new in Vista" link under Welcome Center, it fails to teach the user about these new UI changes, how to use them, and how to get the old behaviour back (eg. press the "alt" key to show the menu in explorer).

    Currently the only way to learn about these changes if someone tells you about them or you read about them in a book or some Windows review...

  • 1. Updates to Windows Movie Maker:

    NEEDS to support FLV, DivX, AVCHD, and MOV file formats.

    Should be a "Publish to YouTube" option (then you could call it "Windows Live Movie Maker"!)

    When publishing to computer, you should be able to manually select resolution and bit-rate, not just presets.

    2. Update to taskbar:

    Some people have already suggested being able to manually rearrange taskbar programs by dragging their icon on the taskbar. I would go one step further than this. Not only should you be able to manually rearrange them, but Windows should automatically group them like IE 8 beta 2 groups tabs (i.e. all Windows explorer windows should be grouped together and be the same color).

    3. Start Menu updates:

    You should be able to put your own custom folders on the right side of the start menu (i.e. instead of "Games" you could put "Videos").

    Why don't installed games (not Windows games) show up from Start Search?

    4. Explorer update:

    Why isn't "Games" available as a drop down selection along with [Your User Name], Public, Computer, Network, Control Panel, and Recycle Bin in the address bar?

    5. Replace "Windows Mail" and "Windows Photo Gallery" with comparative Windows Live products.

    6. Update to Windows Live Photo Gallery:

    Should be able to fix Raw photos, not just stitch them into panoramas.

    I'll think of more later,

    Thanks for listening,

    Theodore

  • Although I didn't intend to write anything in this post, Fredledingue's comment triggered it.

    He is absolutely right in his point: don't try to invent stuff we *might* sometime in the not so distant future *perhaps* want or need.

    Better concentrate on the urgent needs and wishes we have at the moment. Take those and you have the tomorrow.

  • @WindowsFanboy

    hey , the Game work in Start search

    pls modify your indexing option

    ;)

  • I would like to have the ability:

    1. Drop an application into the trash to uninstall it.

    2. 3d desktop/explorer to make organizing files and documents easier.

    3. 15 second boot to my desktop

  • Gesture technology would be a huge plus as well. The ability to sit at my screen and have Windows 7 look through my camera and allow me to pick up objects and move them between monitors.

  • It seems most people are happy with XP, so if you really care, dedicate someone to find out what people liked better in XP and change it back, maybe not as the default behavior, but at least provide an option to get it back.

    XP did this great, all Win2000 functionality could be brought back by options\registry tweaks.

    Bring back the old Windows Explorer

    Bring back the classic Win2000 look

    Bring back drag\drop into console windows

  • Well, nothing better than give feedback about an product in the same time it's developed. More test from comunnity will be a good thing.

    More betas released to the, much more feedback and more aceptance in the world

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