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!  



- Mike


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  • Chrome uses Safari's rendering engine, so if your page looks good in Safari, it should also look good in Chrome.

    Chrome is like a web operating system. It is the newest step in "cloud computing." It even comes with its own task manager. Why should a program other than an operating system need a task manager? It shouldn't. Yet Chrome has one, which means that it is more than a web browser. Indeed, it describes itself as such: it is a program used to run other programs ("apps").

    That means it's an operating system. It's an operating system that is currently designed to run on top of the operating system you already got: Windows. It's completely retarded.

    Except what may be the case is that Google is anticipating a future where people log into the web through terminal-like computing devices that don't have a hard disk, or not much use for one, and so they need to do most of their work "inside a web browser" -- but, as I said, this "web browser" comes with its own task manager. An operating system is a program whose primary function is to allow other applications to run properly. Perhaps in the future Google will release a super-sized version of Android, their mobile OS, and it will come with Chrome built in.

  • You see, what has happened is that the tab bar has become the taskbar.

  • I appreciate Microsoft's attitude in response to the comments on this blog and their willingness in having a genuine two way dialog for improving Windows 7. Since Windows XP was a super successful product release across the whole industry which was very well received by almost everyone (almost because it had its own weaknesses such as security and instability due to registry pile up), why not take into consideration how, where and what exactly did the MS dev ppl did different, or did wrong in Vista, what exactly was lost or removed while redesigning stuff and compare it to Windows XP? Huge parts of the Vista OS and especially UI shouldn't have been changed at all in the first place. I say this knowing about the architectural and under the hood improvements in Vista. Please develop Windows 7 with the focus most on productivity and automation. Please do something to fix what makes Windows unstable after months of use. MS is currently acting as if there is no Registry and absolutely no clutter cleanup issues, Windows Installer isn't a feasible solution since it's overhead is quite large. After RTM too, Microsoft only advertised Vista's end user features. It didn't highlight the ones for IT pros and the ones for developers are little known even today. Some little known Vista's native APIs are going unused in apps being built today.

  • As for UI consistency, the OS bundled apps are pretty consistent in comparison to ISV apps which always have their custom UI. The logo requirement should be made more stringent for apps that don't follow the native UI or don't implement clean buttons, colors and themes. Also, the Windows team should beef up the OS bundled 'accessories' to full-fledged apps.

  • Google releases Chrome browser as a mini OS


    By Christian Zibreg  

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008 14:02

    eek! I am SO stupid!!!

  • I really like that last one by Justausr,

    "Using Windows 7 should be fun"

  • I think the biggest thing the Windows 7 bunch can do is kick off stalepie. I realise it may not make the OS any better but my online life will improve no end

  • Back talking WIndows 7..

    it would be nice to have the TAB on Notepad ,with the possibility to write Link.

    Another future that we can add to the already wonderful CAPTURE Windows Vista would write text, with perhaps some future more comic type etc..

  • Just a thought...

    Maby you could use the group policy editor to create somewhat different looking standard views for the ui.

    The home versions could use somewhat simplyfied ones, while the business and enterprice versions could be using other configurations aimed at their demands.

    Those profiles could then be changed by the system administrator if someone wanted a different "default look".

    In addition to having the system administrator creating individual profiles using gpedit, there could be some defaults like "simple interface", "advaned interface" etc...

    This miht solve the problem that different users have different computer experience and thus different demands for the ui, some prefer a clean and simple  looking one while others want a more feature filled.

  • @ S.Umair - thank you for your question about DST in Pakistan.  Sorry we made it hard to know how to get this request to us!  We do know about this one in particular and we will have the Pakistan DST change in the December 2008 DST/TZ Release.  We schedule 2 DST/TZ releases a year, one in August and an Annual cumulative package in December.  These changes go through a verification process with the governments of the regions to ensure accuracy/validity prior to filing a formal request for a DST/TZ change which is why it takes some time to get the change delivered.

  • My only comment is actually listen, not to sound negative but with Vista Microsoft ignored a lot of what was asked and got downright smug with it. After seeing the Beta 2 of IE 8 it still seems like the same old Microsoft, you really need to drop the "We are Microsoft we know better"  

  • User Access Control

    Microsoft programmers way of saying "Hey we're idiots - and don't know how to secure the O/S".  Let mum and dad do it for us.

  • 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.

  • Please develop Windows 7 with the focus most on productivity and automation. Please do something to fix what makes Windows unstable after months of use. MS is currently acting as if there is no Registry and absolutely no clutter cleanup issues, Windows Installer isn't a feasible solution since it's overhead is quite large.

  • It makes me very glad to see what king of process Microsoft is going through to develop the next version of Windows. An eyes inward view is, in my opinion, always helpful when a new product is under development.

    Is it possible for us to have a list of features that Microsoft has under consideration at this time for Windows 7? I know you guys don't want to drive too much speculation, but it would be nice to have an idea what is currently under consideration. At the very least, you can be sure it will generate an awful lot of discussion about what people do and do not want of the features set provided amongst readers of this blog.

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