In my continuing efforts to understand my users' points of view, I am a member of the Connect Vista beta program. I get the same announcements that a lot of you get, such as today's Windows Anytime Upgrade chat announcement:

Dear Longhorn / Windows Vista Beta Tester, 

Windows Anytime Upgrade is a feature of the Windows Vista operating system that helps enable consumers of Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Business editions to purchase and upgrade online to a higher edition of Windows Vista in order to enjoy additional features.  Join the product team for a live chat and get all your questions answered!

Just one problem - today's chat was email'ed noting a 10am PST start time, yet the real start time was actually 11am PST. So of course, I'm logged in at 10am. At least, when I was on, Wendy (the moderator) wrote in the expert area of the chat interface, that the real start time was 11am. So now, all I have to do is wait an hour.

I'm chatting in guest chat and suddenly, the chat window refreshes and I'm tossed out - what happened? Session expired! Log back in...within 3 minutes, I'm tossed again! I'm not getting dumped by Passport, or cookies (I changed this for an earlier chat), or inactivity. At least, 3 minutes had better not be the default timeout for inactivity. All told I've logged in 5 times over the last 20 minutes and gotten tossed every time. I'm on corpnet, logged in with my Passport account, so my connection is rock-solid. WTF?

Is this how MSFT treats customers? I must say, if it is, I'm appalled. It certainly would explain why even little gestures of good faith are received so well in the community. First, Tablet PC Expert Zone gets cancelled, now my (as a customer) Vista chat experience sucks.

Mind you, this is just a rant - MSFT, even Windows for that matter, is a giant machine and the things I'm ranting about are just little cogs in it. Let's hope that for my part, I can push some small levers and start with small improvements...